published Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Wiedmer: Vols' hopes rest in win over Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley looks during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against the Alabama, Saturday, Oct, 22 2011 in Tuscaloosa Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If you're a Tennessee football fan these days, you presumably vent because you care.

Some of you vent to attack second-year coach Derek Dooley now that the Vols are 0-5 in the Southeastern Conference with three league games to play. Some of you vent because you believe 21 games -- albeit 12 of them losses -- is not nearly enough time to judge a coach's worth.

Especially not when he's the third coach this year's seniors have played for in four years.

So the more cautious and realistic among you believe and write -- as one reader did Sunday:

"Us realistic fans understand that if you take away the top two offensive players and top two defensive players from ANY team, you're going to have trouble winning games. Especially when one of the players is your ONLY decent QB on the roster. Dooley will win at least nine games next season when [Tyler] Bray, [Justin] Hunter and [Herman] Lathers return and stop this negative propaganda."

On the other hand, not every member of the Big Orange Nation is so understanding and forgiving. Thus have more than a few Volniacs penned angry and frustrated notes to mirror this Sunday offering:

"So Dooley -- who is 26-32 as a college head coach is all of a sudden going to win 9 or 10 games next year? That is not realistic. After almost 60 games as a college head coach you are what your record is. Dooley will always be a .500 or worse coach. The numbers don't lie."

And that's pretty much the way the arguments have run since the first league loss of the year at Florida, though those not enamored with Dooley have multiplied in recent weeks, especially after the 37-6 loss to Alabama and last Saturday's 14 -3 defeat against South Carolina, which also was without its starting quarterback from the start of the season (Stephen Garcia) and its best overall player (Marcus Lattimore).

But do the haters have a point? Is Dooley actually rebuilding this program in a way that should both improve and sustain it through the massive changes the NCAA intends to adopt for all its major college athletic departments?

Or is he merely recycling the same mediocrity that has plagued Big Orange football for most of the past 12 seasons?

Answers come hard when the data is inconclusive. Even the staunchest Dooley supporter would have to admit that last week's decision to start true freshman quarterback Justin Worley over senior Matt Simms may have cost the Vols a winnable outing against the Gamecocks.

Moreover, for a man who preaches patience at every turn, Dooley has seemed increasingly impatient with his players. Or perhaps he's sprouting rabbit ears where the talk shows, tweets and talking heads are concerned.

Neither is in character for a man who truly believes -- as Dooley says he does -- in the process over the result.

Then again, for various reasons -- replacing Phillip Fulmer with Lane Kiffin, an unusually high number of injuries to key players, a schedule that featured LSU and Alabama last season and LSU, Arkansas and Alabama this season, a late start in recruiting in 2010, two losses that should have been wins before officiating errors took them away last year -- Dooley has yet to catch a break, except for his huge break in getting the UT job because former athletic director Mike Hamilton decided to hire a largely unproven coach to replace the similarly unproven Kiffin.

All of which brings us to the final month of this season and the realization that the most important game of the year probably becomes Vanderbilt on Nov. 19 in Knoxville.

Any Volniac could reasonably argue that when the relative success of the entire Big Orange season rides on beating Vanderbilt, the program has sunk to dangerous lows.

And that may prove true in the future. But for now, it is what it is, which means that any UT bowl hope probably hinges on edging the Commodores, who also lost to both South Carolina and Georgia but looked somewhat better in each of those defeats than the Vols.

Asked a couple of weeks ago what helped former Nick Saban assistants such as himself and Florida head coach Will Muschamp move up the coaching ladder, Dooley recalled his rigorous days as a Saban aide and replied, "Darwinism. Survival of the fittest."

In the SEC pecking order of the past 28 seasons, Tennessee has vanquished Vandy 27 times, the lone exception a 2005 defeat that cemented the Vols' first losing record since 1988.

Given all that's happened to the Big Orange program the past four seasons, it is folly to think UT should be anywhere near the fittest program in the SEC East. But if Dooley wants to avoid being eaten by the wolves this time next year, he must avoid losing to the likes of Vanderbilt this season and beyond.

about Mark Wiedmer...

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 ...

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ldurham said...

Here we go again, the TFP is is full apologist mode, attacking the "haters." You know, those people who can actually read and analyze football games, stats, and won-loss records. The ones who keep reading the "if they only had Tyler Bray" sob stories, and must remind the Orange faithful that you did have Tyler Bray against one quality SEC opponent. His first and only game against a good team. He put up 6 points in 3 quarters, took a hit, and hasn't played a down ever since.

If the Vols can miraculously win 3 more games against 3 more cupcake opponents (MTSU, Vandy and Kentucky) they will be worthy of a bowl! MTSU will give 'em a game, Vandy's 50-50, and of course Kentucky rolls over for everybody. Wow: a team with wins only over the likes of Buffalo, MTSU, Cincinnati, Montana and these other bottom-dwellers would qualify for a bowl. Any Vols fan who takes pride in that should be embarrassed.

And next year, the might Vols don't have to play mean ol' LSU, instead taking on Georgia State, Akron and Troy, along with the usual SEC biggest losers who clog up UT's November schedule.

This is what you expect from the team with the best athletic facilities in the nation? No I'm not a hater. I'm a laugher.

I hope the Vols finish 6-6, get into a decent bowl, and have to face a quality opponent for the entire nation to see. And then they will lose. Sort of like last year, and the year before that....

November 2, 2011 at 7:35 a.m.
volpreacher said...

ldurham, You mean the Cincinatti team that is ranked 23rd in the nation and their only loss was to the UT team that wasn't depeleted with injuries. Go Vols.

November 2, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Cincy is a real powerhouse ! the teams Cincinnati have BEATEN are a combined 17-26........ so volpreacher i wouldn't brag about a win over Cincy

November 2, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.
Winner said...

Good job, homo...I mean jomo and idurham, you have successfully pointed out that UT isn't a good football team. Tell me, again, who that good team is that Tyler Bray played? I know it's not Florida or Georgia. You must mean Cinci...nope that can't be it either. Bray is the real deal, you can say whatever you want about the rest of the program, but there is no denying his talent.

November 2, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
jomo11 said...

enjoy Bray for one more year, with this injury , sources say is concerned and will make himself eligible for the draft after next year. . . .Then you will have Justin Worley....WOW another great talent.....lol

November 2, 2011 at 3:58 p.m.
volsmd said...

Take a look at this article on why we are in the shape we are in and then, if you are truly a Tennessee fan, and not either a "fair-weather fan" or a fan of an opposing team posing as a Tennessee fan to stir up discord among the fan base, I believe you will have a better understanding of our current problems. http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2011/10/31/2526091/whats-wrong-with-tennessee-football-has-nothing-to-do-with-derek

November 3, 2011 at 10:05 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

Thanks volsmd for sharing that article...which is right on...

I posted a comment the other day about Dereck Dooley and the people on here who were calling for his head...and you are right...I called them "fair weather" fans too...

IT'S NOT HIS FAULT!

WE cannot recruit 5/4 star players because THEY WANT TO PLAY FOR THE ALABAMA/FLORIDA/LSU TEAMS/COACHES!!! They DON'T want to play for Tennessee because they see only problems and NO glory at this point. So we are left with the 3/2 star players IF THAT.

So this is what Dooley is facing and it's a problem...and it's a big one for sure...but I have faith in him and I truly believe he can make Tennessee great again....IN TIME!

Now, if Peyton would only come home to UT....we wouldn't be able to house all the players that would flock to UT...and solve Dooley's problems with 5/4 star recruiting.

November 3, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.
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