KNOXVILLE - There is no timetable, and there will be no compromise, Derek Dooley said Tuesday.
The Tennessee football coach has three open positions on his coaching staff, the most important of which is the defensive coordinator spot left vacant by Justin Wilcox's move Monday to Washington along with Vols linebackers coach Peter Sirmon.
The loss of two bright young assistants was significant for the Volunteers, but Dooley primarily looked forward when he met with the media Tuesday morning.
"Sometimes you hate losing them," he said in his first public appearance since UT's season ended in loss at Kentucky in November. "Sometimes it's good you lose them because sometimes turnover's a healthy thing. Either way it's a great chance to say, 'Hey, where can we get better through this?' That's what we're going to do."
Special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Eric Russell left in December for a similar position on Washington State's staff. With less than a month left before signing day on Feb. 1, Dooley likely would prefer to move quickly, especially on the vacant coordinator position.
He declined to reveal any kind of timetable Tuesday, but he did say there have been "a lot of conversations" regarding the opening, though the process is in its early stages.
"The quicker the better," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and say it's no big deal if we take our time. The quicker we can get somebody in the better, but what I am not going to do is compromise who we get because we have to get somebody fast. I am going to be diligent, but I am also going to recognize that time's important."
Under Wilcox, UT's young defense finished 28th nationally. With nine returning starters and former Alabama defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore arriving on campus next week, Dooley believes there's some appeal in the Vols' coordinator position. Dooley said UT's multiplicity within Wilcox's schemes the past two seasons helps widen the pool of potential candidates, but he declined to specify any requirements.
"I have some ideas, but the most important one is what can help us win the most next year," he said. "That's going to be my focus from the beginning. Certainly you want somebody who understands the challenges of the SEC because it is a challenging league, and there's a lot of different challenges here than there are in other leagues.
"Like any coaching change, we use it as an opportunity to get better, and that's what we're going to do here because as much as the good things that those guys brought, there's always areas where we can improve. We'll begin that search to try to get the right fit."
After nearly a week of negative publicity, Dooley has granted DeAnthony Arnett an unconditional release that would allow the freshman receiver to transfer closer to his sick father in Michigan.
In sticking to its policy, UT originally limited Arnett's options to schools with which the Vols don't compete on the field or in recruiting. That left Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, the three Mid-American Conference schools closest to Arnett's home in Saginaw.
After some one-on-one conversations with Arnett, however, Dooley changed his stance. Now Arnett can transfer to either Michigan or Michigan State, two of the finalists for his signature last year.
In a statement emailed to multiple media outlets including the Times Free Press, Arnett further explained his reasons for transferring, praised his brief time at UT and thanked Dooley.
"I am sure that my request to leave UT was not the best or most expected news to Coach Dooley," Arnett wrote. "However, he took the time to hear me and understand that I must keep family first at all times. For this reason his decision to release me unconditionally comes as a sign of a compassionate and empathetic coach. I will never be able to express fully my appreciations and gratitude for his decision.
"I want to ensure that all recruits, current players and fans know that the University of Tennessee is headed in the right direction. All good things take time and work. UT has always surpassed the rest and I believe in due time they will be back to the number one program in the SEC."
With UT's spring semester beginning next week, Dooley declined to discuss any potential changes to the roster until then. ... The coach briefly did update the status of Da'Rick Rogers, saying the star receiver from Calhoun, Ga., was "good" and not suspended. ... Dooley praised new athletic director Dave Hart and said Hart "100 percent believes" in the direction of the program.