KNOXVILLE - His star safety is back in school and back with the football team, but Derek Dooley is a bit hesitant.
The University of Tennessee football coach got one of his best players back last week when safety Janzen Jackson re-enrolled in school after the junior withdrew from UT in February due to personal reasons.
Jackson, who remained in Knoxville and stayed in contact with UT's coaches and his teammates, started classes last Thursday and began workouts with the team as had long been expected.
Dooley has his concerns, however.
"We are certainly better off today than we were a week ago because he's in school and he's working out with the team," Dooley said after attending the dedication for the UT Center for Athletic Field Safety late Wednesday morning.
"That's a big step. He hasn't worked out with our football team literally since the Music City Bowl [in December]. It's been a long time away from the team. It's a good step to get him back, but we also can't forget that he has been gone for a long time and it's going to be a long road back."
Jackson will have the rigid structure of class and football responsibilities to assist him in managing the mysterious personal issues that caused his withdrawal.
"The one thing that I've learned in dealing with young men 18 to 22 [years old] is no matter how good you feel about them today, it doesn't mean that they won't disappoint you tomorrow," Dooley said.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that he's going to stay the track that he's been on. I am proud of what he's been doing. Hopefully he's going to continue to build on what he's done."
More coverage in Thursday's Times Free Press. Follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter by clicking here.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...