KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee football team is 2-4 overall and winless in three Southeastern Conference games heading into its off week.
It's a perfect time for first-year coach Derek Dooley to sit back, reassess the first half of the season and make major changes going forward.
That very well might happen, the coach said.
"You always have to start with some basic objectives that you want to get accomplished in a bye week," Dooley said. "It certainly starts with us evaluating our personnel and our players and our schemes, to see if we're coaching the right guys and where we want to head down the stretch."
With seven true freshmen playing at the same time on offense late in Saturday's loss, one consideration might be to get the young Volunteers even more playing time the rest of the way. Dooley said he would play the best player at every position and not play rookies simply for the sake of playing them.
Dooley met individually with players Monday, and the reassessment will continue behind closed doors before today's practice. Media are dismissed for the team periods, so possible changes won't be publicly visible yet.
Dooley said the Vols will have hard-nosed, "good-on-good" practices today and Wednesday. That typically means scout teams stand on the sideline while starters and No. 2s smash each other's skulls.
"We'll get after it almost like training camp. I think that's important," Dooley said. "We have so much development that we have to get. We're so far behind fundamentally. We have such little experience in so many areas that we need to go out there and block and tackle and go against each other at a fast pace, and go play.
"And I just think we need to continue that development."
But will they continue that development with more freshmen on the field? Junior Tauren Poole, the starting tailback, said that's certainly a possibility.
"The veteran guys always have to be up on top of their game," Poole said. "We know the young guys have the potential to play. Coach Dooley doesn't care who plays. He just wants guys who get the job done.
"But that's on the older guys. We have to get the job done."
Production still trumps potential at this point of the season, Dooley said.
"What's most important is trying to win each game, and that's what we're trying to do," he said. "Sometimes that means playing the freshmen, if you feel like you've got a better chance to win. But I'm not one of those guys that says, 'Let's tank the season and develop for next year.'
"I'm trying to win. I think that's my responsibility to the team, and it's our responsibility to the players and the fans."
Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz admitted the past two weeks have been "hard ... really, really hard," but he stopped way short of calling this campaign a lost cause.
"We lost another bit of confidence out there [at Georgia], I feel like," said Reveiz, one of the SEC's leading tacklers. "It was something - I don't know if it seeped over from LSU or not - but I don't feel like we went out there extremely confident. As a defense, we just didn't play to the level we did last week, and that's disappointing. I put that on myself and everyone else that is playing, too.
"We have to build ourselves back up and have two good weeks of practice in order to play a great team coming up in Alabama."
Poole said he didn't care whether the Vols started all seniors or all freshmen. He simply wants to see 11 players on the field at all times who "believe in what we're trying to do here."
"I believe in these coaches. I believe this is on us [the players]," Poole said. "We need to get everybody to where they believe in this thing, and they trust the process. That's going to be the hard thing, to get everybody - the collective team - just ready to play football.
"We didn't compete. That's just the reality of it. We just didn't compete. Now we've got to come back and compete. We're 2-4 and we're 0-3 in the SEC. And that's just not acceptable."