The Tennessee Volunteers lost their fourth consecutive game today in a heartbreaking loss to South Carolina in Columbia. Derek Dooley is getting a lot of heat for this losing streak, but he deserves one more year with the program.
Dooley took over a nasty situation at Tennessee and has done an admirable job getting the Volunteers headed back in the right direction. This has been a tough transition for the Dooley staff. The coaches are trying to finish a transition period with this team, and they are already hearing whispers of lost jobs.
For Tennessee, the best move is to keep Dooley on the sideline for at least one more year. Let the full cycle of his program rejuvenation play out. Volunteers take notice; this is why you need to keep Dooley for one more year.
Phillip Fulmer left the Tennessee program in a downward spiral. The Lane Kiffin magical mystery bus tour came through town after and really turned the program on its shell.
Enter Derek Dooley.
Dooley was a hot name on the coaching circuit when he was picked up by the Vols. He had been guiding the Louisiana Tech athletic department as athletic director, and he was the head football coach for the Bulldogs.
Tennessee offered a leap to the SEC for Dooley, and Dooley offered a rising-star coaching prospect to the Volunteers sideline.
When Dooley took over the program, there were the usual transfers that come with a coaching change, but to make matters worse, the coffers were already empty. This was a program that had to be rebuilt.
Major college programs are not built over night. They aren’t built in two seasons. It will take time for Tennessee to return to prominence, but Dooley hasn’t had his full shot just yet.
When Dooley took over the Volunteers program, the offense was among the worst in the country. Dooley was known as an offensive-minded football coach, and after three years, it has begun to show.
The Volunteers have not had an offense that averaged over 400 yards since the 2008 season. This year, the Vols are averaging 453 yards of total offense a game. There has been a 100-yard swing in two seasons.
Tyler Bray has made some bad decisions throwing the ball away at times, but the offense has not been the issue for Tennessee this season. This has been one of the more impressive offensive turnarounds in the SEC.
As the offense continues to get better, the Vols record will continue to improve. More wins are coming with Dooley as the head man.
Moral victories are never what a team is looking for, but Tennessee has a pile of them. The past few seasons have been full of almost-upsets for the Vols.
This year, Tennessee has lost four games, but the only game that they were outgunned was the Alabama game. That was expected. Alabama has routed every opponent this fall, so the Volunteers losing big didn’t raise any eyebrows.
Close games against Georgia and South Carolina have shown that this is a competitive football team. The Volunteers were just a few plays away from earning wins in those games, and they would be staring at a much different scenario for Dooley and his coaches.
Winning the big games has to happen soon, or Dooley will be let go with obvious cause, but the signs of progression in the big games over the past few seasons can’t be ignored. That alone should buy him one more season.
The Volunteers have some senior leadership at key positions this fall, but this is still a roster that is full of underclassmen. Derek Dooley has rebuilt his roster from necessity and has played a number of underclassmen over the past three years.
This year, some of the experience is paying off, but there is more to be gained for a number of key players for this Tennessee team. Tyler Bray is referred to as a veteran quarterback, but this will be his first full season guiding this offense without injury.
Tennessee has a host of sophomores and freshmen that layer the two-deep and a handful of JUCO transfers who have helped fill out this roster.
As this team grows, the wins will come, and Dooley deserves to be around to help celebrate them.
This was a tough non-conference year for the Vols. This Tennessee team faced Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State all on the road. Alabama and Florida came to Knoxville.
Next year brings games at Missouri, Kentucky and Florida, but the Vols are able to host Georgia and South Carolina in consecutive weeks, as well as Auburn and Vanderbilt.
This has not been the easiest season for the Vols to manage with the Eastern Division jumping into the conference driver’s seat this season. Tennessee has the 2013 schedule and the roster to earn some big wins.
Give Dooley one more year to fight through his first favorable SEC schedule since arriving in Knoxville.
Dooley is working on his third season with the Volunteers and his fourth recruiting cycle. As his fourth year approaches, he will be fielding a team that is full of his recruits. There is no look-back period after four seasons.
There is a lot of talent that is currently on the roster in Knoxville because of Dooley. There is a lot more that is on the way because this coaching staff is putting together a roster full of believers.
This team doesn’t look lost. They fight to the end for this coaching staff. Once Dooley gets a squad full of his players, Tennessee will be in the SEC conversation once again. It will start in year four if given the chance.
Sal Sunseri came to the Volunteers as the defensive coordinator this season with transition in mind. The Volunteers were a 4-3 team, but with Sunseri, the 3-4 has been implemented.
The Volunteers have made the difficult transition in defense and are working into their new scheme with each passing week.
Switching to the 3-4 is a difficult proposition for the Vols. The majority of the talent is built for the 4-3, but this season brought a hard change. Rarely does a major scheme change happen seamlessly.
Give the Vols defense another year to settle, and it will assist the Dooley-led Vols resurgence.