Upbeat coach


Posted Sep 15, 2010


Tennessee is coming off a 48-13 loss and preparing to face the No. 10 team in the country. Based on Derek Dooley's mood at Wednesday's practice, you would've thought the Vols were coming off a 63-0 win and preparing to face The Sisters of the Poor.

The head man wasn't just upbeat. He was downright bubbly, routinely joking with reporters and even mimicking "Voice of the Vols" Bob Kesling at one point.

The coach started seriously enough, noting that Tennessee drove into Oregon territory on its first three possessions last Saturday night but wound up settling for two field goals and a failed fourth-down try. Those six points could've been 17 with a little better execution in the red zone.

The failure to capitalize on those early opportunities clearly discouraged Tennessee's offense and encouraged Oregon's defense. Or, as Dooley put it: "You can frustrate an offense when you're keeping 'em out of the end zone ... or 'the checkerboard,' as Kesling puts it."

Grinning smugly, Dooley then had some more fun with the Vol announcer's signature line.

"Into the checkerboard," the coach chirped, doing a pretty fair impersonation of Kesling's delivery. "That's pretty good stuff. Into the checkerboard. We need to get 'into the checkerboard' on Saturday."

With No. 1 kickoff man Michael Palardy slowed by a groin pull, Dooley was asked who'll handle the job Saturday vs. Florida if backup Chad Cunningham gets hurt.

"We've got some issues," Dooley deadpanned. "Maybe we'll see if one of you guys (reporters) can kick."

Then, turning to Beth Rucker of the Associated Press, the coach quipped, "Can you kick, Beth? Any Powder Puff Football?"

Minutes later, referencing a couple of missed tackles by safety Janzen Jackson in the Game 2 loss to Oregon, Dooley flashed his sense of humor again.

"I saw his mom the other day, and she told him before the game 'Quit leaving your feet,'" the coach said. "She was right, so he's got good coaching at home. I don't think it's an NCAA violation - extra coach to visit your mom.

"But I'm sure I'll get a letter tomorrow reprimanding me."

PRACTICE NOTES: First-team center Cody Pope, who suffered a concussion vs. Oregon, suited up for the first time this week on Wednesday but did not practice.... Sophomore Zach Rogers, who started Game 2 at wide receiver, practiced in a red jersey. "He's just dinged up," Dooley explained. "We put him in red so nobody hits him." Asked if Palardy will be available for Saturday's game, Dooley replied "He may be, but he's not practicing."


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