published Monday, November 28th, 2011

Questions abound as Vols offseason begins

KNOXVILLE -- The rain that fell nearly all Sunday in Knoxville seemed appropriate.

For the Tennessee football program, the weather was especially fitting for the first day of an offseason that began much earlier than anyone associated with the Volunteers would have liked. The loss Saturday at Kentucky ended UT's bowl hopes and signaled rock bottom for a program that lost once by 42 points and twice by 31. How the Vols, who lost seven SEC games for the first time in the program's long, rich history, respond from the disappointment of the program's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1910-11 starts with the players and coaches, though it goes beyond that.

"It's really disappointing," said Derek Dooley, who is 11-14 and 4-12 in the Southeastern Conference in his two seasons at UT. "It's something that shouldn't happen at Tennessee, and hopefully it's something that won't happen again for a long time."

That's going to take a full offseason of development in a number of areas, from physicality to handling adversity to finding leadership. Dooley spoke after Saturday's loss of starting a climb from the low point, and it starts with the core group of sophomores who will be juniors next season and the handful of freshmen that contributed in key roles. The first immediate steps in that process, though, likely won't fully begin today, at least for the players.

"We'll give them a week off, have a team meeting and start reshaping a new football team," Dooley said. "There's a lot that goes into it."

For the coaching staff, it does start with this week. The staff will hit the recruiting trail looking to close down a class than can help on the field next season and continue to build the foundation for its 2012 recruiting class, which has been a season-long focal point. The Vols are still building up their roster and their depth.

As for the current team, the early offseason goals are simple to identify.

"We've got to get better, bigger, faster, stronger," said freshman safety Brian Randolph, who made a team-high 12 tackles in the loss to the Wildcats. "We've just got to work hard, keep our heads up, don't let it affect us. We've got to go into the offseason with a mindset to work hard."

Some of the necessary improvements go deeper than physical abilities, though. Defensive lineman Malik Jackson, one of just four senior starters, said the Vols must grow up.

"Dooley's going to do big things," said the always honest Jackson. "He's been building this team really good, and I have no doubt they're going to come out here ready to play, especially after this season. I just feel like they need to grow up and sit back and see where the seniors were coming from and go out there and play for something bigger than themselves. Everything, off the field, practice, everybody coming out and practice harder.

"Not just say, 'Oh, I'm here,' but actually go out there and be happy they're there. At the end of the day, that's what we're here for. A lot of guys don't really understand that this is what we're here for. They come out there and think it's another day. It can be taken from you so fast. They just need to learn to grow up on and off the field and just as people."

Dooley will be the Vols' coach next season, and UT would owe him a $5 million buyout if it fired him before February 15, 2013, though the negativity surrounding the program that some of the players referenced during the four-game losing streak in October will be louder after Saturday's embarrassing loss culminated a bad season.

Sophomore Rajion Neal, who moved from tailback to receiver this season and caught four passes for 125 yards and UT's lone touchdown on Saturday, said after the Vols' 42-7 loss at Arkansas that "it could get real bad around here" if the Vols dropped either of the last two games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Now that it's happened that way, the Vols must deal with it.

"It's hard," Neal said Saturday. "It's definitely something that really hurts, because it's nothing that we wanted to do. We didn't want to send our seniors out in this fashion. It hurt a lot, [and] we feel like we let a bunch of guys down -- this team, and definitely the Vol Nation.

"You've got to stay around your family, your friends. You've got to stay around your coahces and definitely stay as positive as you can and kind of shy away and stay out of the way and not [in] the eye of everything."

Dooley said Saturday that going to a bowl might have made the Vols feel better about themselves and their season, almost as if he's hoping the loss will show his team how bad a loss feels and provide motivation for the future.

"I told them you don't always get what you want in life, and it's going to be a great lesson," he said. "If you don't want to feel this way again, we've got to go work and build a new football team, and that's all you can do."

about Patrick Brown...

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 ...

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chet123 said...

Tennessee must change its systems of during things....this was once a proud football program...now Tennessee fans settle for mediocracy or less....a win over VANDY and KENTUCKY is satifaction......

November 28, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
chet123 said...

Tennessee football program is in denial......tyler bray will not be the answer....he is only one man.....beside isnt it time Tennessee get a quarterback who can move...Tennessee was one of the first college football program in the NAtion to have a mobile quarterback with Condredge Holloway.....what happen to the vols....why are they going backward....tennessee is its own worse enemy........

HINT HINT....The Word is out with High School recruits that Tennessee is not open to black Quarterbacks.......THANKS TO FAT PHIL

November 28, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
Salsa said...

Phat Phil had Taj Boyd all locked up as a QB recruit until Kiffin came along and ran him off.

November 28, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
chet123 said...

SALSA....FAT PHIL HAD 16YEARS...16YEARS....16LONG YEARS SALSA.....IF YOU LOOK AT VIGINIA TECH..WHICH IS A SMALLER FOOTBALL PROGRAM THAN TENNESSEE...THEY ARE IN THE TOP 10 ALLMOST EVERY YEAR...THIS IS BECAUSE FRANK BEAMER IS A FAIR MAN.THIS HAVE MADE HIM ONE OF THE TOP COACHES IN THE COUNTRY..THEY ARE OPEN TO BLACK QUARTERBACKS....LOOK WHAT CAM NEWTON DID FOR AUBURN PROGRAM IN ONE YEAR..JUST ONE YEAR SALSA...BUT AUBURN FAN ARE MORE OPEN THAN TENNESSEE FAN.....LISTEN SALSA, I'M NOT SAYING TO GET A BLACK QUARTERBACK BECAUSE HE IS BLACK....NO WAY MAN!!! NO WAY!!!...BUT I'M SAYING TENNESSE IS NOT EVEN RECRUITING BLACK QUARTERBACK...THEY HAVE CLOSED THE DOOR.....JOHNNY MAJOR WAS A FAIR MAN....SO WAS BILL BATTLE....TENNESSEE WAS ALWAYS A BRIGHT STAR IN THE SOUTH..THEY ARE THE PIONEER TO FAIRNESS..BUT FAT PHIL CHANGED THE CULTURE........TENNESSEE NEED TO HAVE A CLOSE LOOK AT ITSELF.....

November 28, 2011 at 5:24 p.m.
jhncpps1 said...

Aren't we forgetting something...TEE MARTIN ANYONE???? The Whole national championship thing that Phil Fulmer won?? I don't see any of you as football coaches...its all about the system that the coach runs...Tennessee has a more pro-style offensive system...you look for pro-style qb's that fit your system...Are you gonna say the same thing about alabama?? who was the last black qb they had? Andrew Zow in the late 90's early 2000's...about the same time as Martin...And those QB's that Fulmer had while he was coach were pretty darn good don't you think?? Shuler, Manning, Martin, Clausen, Ainge...its not like we were playing with awful quarterbacks

November 28, 2011 at 11:15 p.m.
VolAtUGA11 said...

Jerry Colquitt, Tee Martin, James Banks, Brent Schaeffer, CJ Leak. Yep, that danged Fulmer sure didn't want black HS QBs going to UT. Add to that Chris Leak and Taj Boyd, who Fulmer also didn't try to recruit and chet123 sounds like he has a point! And when using the phrase, "word is out," it usually refers to a period of time 3 years or greater (which coincidentally is how long Fulmer's not had anything to do with UT recruiting).

November 30, 2011 at 12:45 p.m.
Volsdad1210 said...

First off it's Tajh Boyd.. and secondly i forgot that every team in the SEC who wins ball games has a mobile quarterback. Bray might not be mobile but neither is Tyler Wilson or A.J. McCarron. They still win ball games because they do the job they are asked to do. Instead of pointing fingers at Tyler Bray.. It should be pointed at the offensive coordinator. How do you let your QB march you down field then go wildcat... This coaching staff is absolutely pieced together with nobody's. Their accomplishments are minimal and now you can ad a 5-7 record to them.

November 30, 2011 at 2:28 p.m.
chet123 said...

JHNCPPS....YOU SOUNDS LIKE A FAIR MAN....but you loose your credibily when you say Phil Fulmer won the National Title.....there are 3 games tennessee should have lost....three games....i watch everygame that year....the first game tennessee should have lost is the syracuse game..after a roughing the punter by Syracuse....Tee Martin picked-up first downs on broken plays and scrambling to get the go-ahead TOUCH-DOWN

GAME#2 we should have lost was with florida.....Phil Fulmer had no scheme...i must give John Chavis credit for keeping us in the game...but it was Tee Martin Passing and running that set Tennessee in position for a field goal victory

Game# Arkansas had Tennessee beat...Phil Fulmer didnt have a answer to Arkansas....Arkansa was ahead with the clock running out and they had the ball....instead of playing it safe they got greedy and fumble the ball....Tee martin with time running out made no mistakes but moved the ball down feild for the TD...tennessee narrowly beat Arkansas....and tennessee go undefeated into the sec champ. to face fl st. Tee martin big play to pearless price..

Phil did not call one play that was a factor(randy sanders was in cullcliff place)..Tee Martin was cool as a cucumber...let the truth be told....but Phil Fulmer goes on to steal credit....

November 30, 2011 at 8:19 p.m.
chet123 said...

JHNCPPS..you said Tennesse play a Prostyle type QB....i say to you..If Tennessee is determined to play that type offense then tennessee better get 5stars offensive guard...because if they dont you will have the same results as the past 7years....QB getting sacked interception..injuries

There an old saying....INSANITY IS DOING THE SAME THING EXPECTING DIFFERNCE RESULTS, JHNCPPS!

Tennessee got to take a close look at itself...or this program is headed for doom and Dooley will not be the Answer.....Dooley have not resume....Tennesse must also stop going with celebrity name people(Dooley father was great..that does not factor in that he will be).....stop the nepotism...if not...they will be a losing program

November 30, 2011 at 8:30 p.m.
chet123 said...

VOLSDAD1210....You are open minded.....sorry for my conduct but some of these nuckle-head on here claim they love tennessee but they dont...they either love The coach regardless how he scew up...or a certain QB...but what they dont realize is that the Tennessee Program is #1....not the coach......ALABAMA got it right...they ran all the mediocre coach away until they got a winner!....i am a Tennessee Vols fan first and foremost...but Phil Fulmer brought in a nepotism culture before he left....Phil was humble in the beginning....but i think his head got big...and he couldnt handle success...

You mention A.J.McCarron....remember McCarron have 5 and 4 stars guards protecting him....and arkansas also have big Guards...but Tyler wilson still take a pounding.....remember LSU you kicked that butt badly....and LSU had a mobile QB that help to spead the field.....but basically you and i are on the same page.....i just want the best players.....it doesnt have to be a black quarterback....beleive me.....i want a winner...but lately it look like Tennesse have close the door on potential great black quarterbacks who could aleast beat florida...MY goodness Tennessee play like they are scare of GATORs....I know Phil was....We need fighters like the Major boys....fighter like Andy Kelley(who is from JUST ACROSS BORDER OF RHEA COUNTY)....and a great defense like chattanooga Reggie White....maybe next season they will change some things VOLDAD....take care of yourself....GO VOLS!

November 30, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.
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