KNOXVILLE — It’s amazing what a 50-0 college football victory over an overmatched opponent can do to some folks. Monday it led a sports reporter to ask Tennessee coach Derek Dooley if his Volunteers might be overconfident following last weekend’s rout of UT-Martin heading into Saturday’s game against ornery Oregon.
“Well, if they look at the film and they get overconfident, then we’ve got bigger problems,” Dooley said. “We’ve got an intelligence issue to deal with. I’d probably have to send them to the [academic focus] Thornton Center for a little work.
“If I’ve got to worry about [overconfidence] this week, we’ve got bigger issues than you guys could ever imagine.”
It’s always easier to be charming after a win than a loss, of course. The real test of Dooley’s wry wit and Southern graciousness will come after a bitter defeat. Or two. Or three.
But with each passing day, with each fresh moment in the spotlight, the youngest son of Vince and Barbara Dooley looks more and more a perfect fit for the difficult task of returning Big Orange football to glory.
Certainly, the victory over UT-Martin was no test for either these Vols’ ultimate potential or Derek Dooley’s coaching skills. As he said after clipping the Skyhawks, “Obviously, we have much better players.”
Yet it’s not just the final score from Saturday that impresses. Far from it.
Asked if he was more meticulous grading video on new starters than established veterans, Dooley replayed, “I’m pretty much the same. The expectation is 100 percent perfect execution. I don’t know any other way to say it.”
Yet he went on to detail those expectations in a way that makes it easy to understand why running back Tauren Poole — he of the 110 rushing yards against UT-Martin — said, “We really wanted to get a win for Coach Dooley. He took over a program that’s been through a lot.”
So how did Dooley explain his video grades?
“We don’t give them too much to where it’s an unreasonable standard,” the coach said. “It would have been unreasonable if we’d tried to go out there and do eight million things and expected [100 percent execution]. The standard never changes in what we expect, but we’ve got to make sure the standard is fair. You can make it unfair.”
Here’s an example of Dooley’s standards:
He doesn’t want practice video falling into the hands of players’ parents, even if that parent happens to be former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, father of UT starting quarterback Matt Simms.
So when Papa Simms asked his son for some practice footage the other day, Matt told him, “I can’t. We’re not allowed to.”
Said Dooley when told of his quarterback’s remarks, a smile spreading across the coach’s face: “Matt’s well-trained.”
Dooley was long ago trained in how to be a gentlemanly Southern football boss along the lines of his father, Georgia Tech legend Bobby Dodd and UT’s Gen. Robert Neyland.
So when he was asked Monday why he didn’t have pure freshman quarterback Tyler Bray slinging it all over the field in the fourth quarter against UT-Martin, the lead already 50, Dooley replied, “I just didn’t think it was right to throw the ball. ... I just didn’t think that was the right thing to do as a coach.”
That’s yet another example of why hiring him was completely the right thing for UT to do.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...