Dooley relishes extra practice for young Vols
For Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, a bowl game means an
opportunity to put the Volunteers through another training camp
Dooley gave his players over two weeks off practice to give
their bodies a chance to heal from the grind of the regular season.
Starting Thursday, he’ll put the Vols through a sort of mini-camp,
drilling the young players on fundamentals and conditioning them to
face North Carolina in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.
”It’s an opportunity to continue to develop and coach your
football team to get better,” Dooley said Wednesday. ”It’s going
to be physical. It’s going to hurt.”
Tennessee (6-6) has had little depth this season because of
attrition from back-to-back coaching turnovers and injuries. The
Vols had 16 true freshmen make it to the playing field this season,
ranking them behind only Air Force and Florida for most freshmen
They had their share of growing pains during what was already a
tough schedule with opponents like Oregon, Florida, LSU and
Alabama, but started practicing well and winning in the final month
of the season, putting together a four-game win streak to earn
their bowl bid.
And unlike the spring and fall camps, Dooley and his staff won’t
have to spend so much time figuring out who the players are and
what they can contribute to the team.
”You get 15 extra practices. That’s pretty much a whole other
spring practice session. If you look at it that way it’s huge,
especially with the youth on our football team and them playing as
much as they have, this is huge for them and their development,”
senior tight end Luke Stocker said.
The Vols spend their time off from practicing working out,
lifting weights and throwing the ball around – much like they do
during their summer break from football practice.
Dooley said he’ll spend the first four practices this month
completely focused on coaching fundamentals and conditioning the
players. Starting Monday, the team will begin preparing for the Tar
Heels like a normal game week but will take a break on Christmas
Eve and Christmas Day before traveling to Nashville.
”It’s a good opportunity for us to continue to coach and
develop all these freshmen who’ve contributed so well this year but
who need so much more development, so we’re happy about that,” he
Tennessee will be without junior cornerback Art Evans, who will
continue to serve his indefinite suspension for a violation of team
rules, and junior defensive back Stephaun Raines, who was dismissed
from the team after the end of the regular season for a violation
of team rules.
Sophomore safety Janzen Jackson will miss an undetermined number
of practices before the Music City Bowl as he spends time at home
in Lake Charles, La., dealing with what Dooley described as ”very,
very personal and family issues.” Jackson is expected to return in
time to face North Carolina.
Dooley said North Carolina (7-5) appears on film to be as
talented a team as Tennessee has seen all season and credited the
Tar Heels for playing well despite the ongoing NCAA investigation
into their program and resulting suspensions.
North Carolina ”went through a lot of adversity that affected
their results but has done a great job of overcoming it, so give
their coaching staff credit for the job they’ve done this year and
keeping them focused through a lot of distraction,” Dooley