KNOXVILLE — Derek Dooley has a new boss, and Tennessee's second-year football coach won't have to do much explaining.
Dave Hart, hired Monday as the university's athletic director, has more than 15 years of experience with high-level college football from his days as Florida State's athletic director and Alabama's executive athletic director.
Having an AD who understands what a winning program requires -- the Seminoles and Crimson Tide both won national titles during Hart's stints -- is certainly a positive in Dooley's eyes as he continues to build his program at UT.
"I'm really excited about kind of starting a new direction from a leadership standpoint in our athletics department," Dooley said after Tuesday morning's practice. "The thing I obviously love about Dave is that he's been around big-time college football. He knows what a football program needs, the support that we need, and that is going to be very appreciated when he brings it to us."
Dooley and Hart have had previous conversations, but the two planned to meet Tuesday afternoon. Hart worked with Nick Saban at Alabama, and Dooley coached with Saban for seven seasons at LSU and with the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
"Nick had nothing but good things to say about him, and that's good enough for me," Dooley said. "Certainly every coach wants their boss to have a real good understanding of their sport, because it's challenging if they don't. I think it's fair to say I'm not going to have to educate him on football. He knows it, so we can get right to the heart of it and that'll be good."
The box score reads zero in the interception total, but two of Tyler Bray's passes intended for tight end Mychal Rivera ended up in the hands of Montana defenders in the Vols' season-opening win. Fortunately for UT and its sophomore quarterback, both were nullified for pass-interference penalties.
Rivera was knocked to the turf on Bray's third-quarter pickoff, but Dooley called the flag on Montana's second-quarter end-zone interception a "gift" after the game.
"The first one was definitely a bad decision," Bray confessed Tuesday. "I should have just checked the ball down. Third-and-, I should have just checked it down to [tailback] Tauren [Poole] to make a play, or to Marlin [Lane] -- whoever's in there -- and let [Michael] Palardy kick the field goal. The second one, if [Montana] wouldn't have grabbed him, he would have caught the ball."
Bray admitted Tuesday to some game-management issues Saturday.
"I still kind of struggled at some things," he said. "Just mental mistakes -- trying to go too fast and just overthought it and kind of slipped on a couple plays."
Corey Miller was active against Montana, and the sophomore defensive tackle, who's Malik Jackson's backup but is entrenched in UT's rotation, needs to play well against Cincinnati on Saturday. The Vols hope Miller's quickness and pass-rushing ability can be disruptive to the Bearcats' spread offense.
"This is a big game for him," Dooley said. "It's a loose game, and all those games when he gets in there at tackle, that's when we need him because he can run, he's fast, he's quick and they're not going to be sitting there running those two-back, two-tight-end runs at him. We need some production out of him this week."
Backup safety Rod Wilks was UT's special-teams player of the game against Montana for his three tackles in kickoff coverage. The fourth-year junior, who's bounced around from linebacker to receiver to safety in his UT career, fits the description of one of Dooley's "core" guys on special teams.
"Rod's gone through some tough times here," Dooley said. "He was a high-profile recruit, and he was probably disappointed that he wasn't playing. To his credit, we kept grinding on him and told him how valuable he was to our team, but this is what we need from him. Once he looked in the mirror and made a commitment to do it, he's shown he can be a big factor for us.
"It goes back to the maturity level. Those guys who've been around, they handle things and it shows up on the field."
Jackson missed Tuesday's practice with a virus, Dooley said. Though the coach added that Jackson, the Vols' best defensive lineman, was throwing up Tuesday morning, he didn't have much pity.
"His tummy was hurting and his mommy wasn't here to give him a hug. You can quote me on that," Dooley sternly quipped. "I've never seen a great defensive lineman whose tummy hurts and he didn't practice."
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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