As I drafted this article, I looked at what would qualify Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley to win the SEC Coach of the Year award. There were many things to consider, but after I examined all the data, I came back to the same conclusion. He is doing all of the same things that merits receiving such an award. So the biggest question is, why would his SEC colleagues pick him over another?
- The Vol-For-Life Program: Dooley is mentoring young men beyond football. Dooley hired former four-year letterman Andre Lott to spearhead his movement. It would improve upon the young Vols' citizenship. It would focus on education, spiritual growth, career education and character development. In doing so it eliminates many of the problems that the Vols faced without tutelage. Here is an excerpt from their day with the Knoxville police as they learned about the challenges that face law enforcement.
- Rebuilding: After Lane Kiffin's departure, Dooley was faced with the difficult task of just keeping players on the roster. Eleven confirmed players either transferred or de-committed with the staff change. Dooley even said it himself when he said it was year one for the 2011 season, as the previous year was far too tumultuous to be considered a starting point. This season, in all honesty, seems to be that as he described. The staff is in place, as are the recruits that he lobbied for.
- Staffing: This may seem a little redundant, but Dooley was left very little choice in who was to lead the Volunteer campaign. Arriving at Tennessee Dooley quickly repaired burned bridges then built new ones. Kiffin virtually left the cupboard bare and left only a few faithful assistants that decided orange was a better color than garnet. He quickly acquired DC Justin Wilcox, OL coach Harry Hiestand, QB coach Darin Hinshaw, special teams coach Eric Russell, former assistant DB/ Recruiting Coordinator Terry Joseph, strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefrey and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, all of whom have resumes that would make Lane Kiffin jealous to the core.
- Player Development: This is pretty much self explanatory. The validation will speak for itself at season end. For the now, it appears that everything is on track as the players continue to prosper. The guarantee for this is winning with players that were of a lesser quality.
- Team Development : As described above, the team was decimated by the loss of athletes graduating and de-committing. The team as a whole would need vast improvement to be construed as a team worthy of SEC caliber notoriety. It will be validated by season end.
- Adversity: It's simply doing more with less. Dooley will lead the underdog Vols to surprising victories over ranked teams.
- Management: Dooley will take a page from his mentor Nick Saban and efficiently manage his staff so he can concentrate on the season. Simply stated, he becomes a manager that can run his program without supervising every detail of the organization with its day to day operations.
- Coaching: One of the things that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik does well is knowing when to step in and grab the reigns. Dooley is smart enough to know when he is needed and will keep all of the Volunteer components in working order. Note: Staffing changes are possible this season.
- Winning: It is what he could not do last season. Adversity is one thing; incompetence is another. The simple mistakes that cost Tennessee wins last year will be overcome this season. No more clock issues, depth chart mismanaged due to player fault and poor communication, miserable game preparation and lack of experience. It is the SEC and not the WAC.
- Confidence: Derek Dooley has restored pride and integrity back to a struggling program. Winning is what awards you championships and division titles. Pride and integrity is what makes your program prestigious. Not to mention that just about everybody in the SEC loves Derek Dooley. Chalk it up to his renowned father or his southern charm; regardless, he has restored an image to the Vols that has not been seen in a decade, honor.
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