Tennessee Volunteers Football: Grading Derek Dooley's Tenure as Head Coach
I know it has only been two years since the Tennessee Volunteers hired Derek Dooley to coach the suddenly struggling football team, but it is a do-or-die season for him in 2012.
Dooley has had the opportunity in his short tenure to make his mark in different ways, and I've graded those methods.
For reference, Florida fired Ron Zook after two 8-5 seasons and a final 7-4 season. With records of 6-7 and 5-7, Dooley is definitely on the hot-seat this fall. I know he came into a bad situation, but that was then.
This is now.
Here's how the coach of our Vols grades out...
Not only that, but these players are full of quality young men that are staying with the program for more than just a year, which was a problem under Lane Kiffin and the latter part of Phillip Fulmer's tenure.
Remember, too, that Dooley was hired less than a month before National Signing Day in 2010, so he had to save what turned out to be a No. 9-ranked class. He managed to keep players like Tyler Bray while adding Da'Rick Rogers and James Stone.
Dooley has yet to crack the top 10 all on his own, but that's not his goal. To know that the Vols are landing solid recruiting classes while also filling the locker room with high-quality people is worth it.
Developing Talent: B
While Phillip Fulmer routinely brought in top-10 and top-five recruiting classes, he lost his touch in developing those players into key contributors for the Volunteers.
For instance, would you rather have Kenny O'Neal and Chris Donald from the 2007 class (Fulmer) or AJ Johnson and Brian Randolph from the 2011 class (Dooley)?
Before you answer, know that O'Neal and Donald were 5-star recruits that everyone was after, while Johnson and Randolph were 4 and 3-star recruits that only regional schools wanted.
Also before you answer, note that O'Neal had two receptions as a wide receiver for the Vols. Donald appeared in just two games on special teams. Both transferred before their junior year.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Randolph both earned All-SEC Freshman honors last year. They did more as freshman than the two 5-stars did in their entire Big Orange careers.
I rest my case.
(Dooley doesn't earn full marks on this because the talent has yet to deliver wins.)
Derek Dooley developed the Vols For Life program to help Tennessee's football players—both the stars and the practice squad guys—prepare for life beyond football.
The program is headed by former Volunteer standout Andre Lott and is based around educating players on character building, life skills (personal finance, etc.), career development and spiritual growth.
Not only is it a great program by itself, but former, current and prospective players have named it as one of the top selling points for the Tennessee Volunteers program under Dooley.
If you have a Twitter account and follow any players, you're bound to see a "#VFL" in a tweet somewhere.
Dooley has yet to get into any major NCAA trouble, which shouldn't be overlooked after what happened to Ohio State, USC and Bobby Petrino at Arkansas.
Coaches have to be ambassadors for the school in today's climate. Dooley has been a terrific one.
Preparation for the Future: B-
When Lane Kiffin took over as head coach, he complained that there were no players left in the cupboard.
When Derek Dooley took over as head coach, he said nothing and started working.
I'm more convinced than ever that even if Coach Dooley doesn't make it to the 2013 season because of a bad 2012, the next coach will have a locker room full of talent and character.
With the high-level recruiting, good player development and terrific personal development as discussed in the previous three slides, Dooley is setting up the Vols for success in the future.
Fans of the Big Orange can already see the stream of quarterbacks coming in. There are numerous defensive backs and linebackers ready to play, and the offensive line is as deep as it has been in years.
The results have not yet kicked in, but you can rest assured that the future of the Vols isn't as bleak as it was just a couple years ago.
On-Field Performance: D
Finally and most importantly, a coach is graded on his on-field performance. What do I mean by that? Let me be clear.
I mean winning.
Derek Dooley is 11-14 as the coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, collecting back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the 1910 and 1911 squads.
His Vols were the first to lose to Kentucky since 1984. It was also a game that, if won, would've led Tennessee to another bowl game appearance. It was also waged against one of the worst Kentucky teams in recent memory.
He has yet to beat South Carolina, Georgia, Florida or Alabama.
He has yet to win a bowl.
While I love the aforementioned contributions Coach Dooley has made to Tennessee (as represented in the high grades), nothing matters more than wins.
He has 12 games starting August 31st to turn this "D" into at least a "C". If he can do that, the rest will fall into place.