'On the same page'

'On the same page'

In his first 18 months on campus, Tennessee head man Derek Dooley and his staff have made some significant strides:

- They've healed a team psyche that was alarmingly fragile after predecessor Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal.

- They've unified a fractured fan base.

- They've upgraded a depleted roster.

- They've restored some stability to a program that endured two head coaching changes within 15 months.

So, what does Dooley consider the most significant accomplishment of his Tennessee staff's first 18 months on the job?

"I think the biggest thing was the continuity that we had when we turned the clock and ended the season," Dooley said. "We were able to really clean up how we're doing things, where we're headed and effectively communicate it to the players. That's a hard thing to do when you have nine new coaches and inherit a new team as late as we did.

"I just feel like we're all on the same page. There's not a lot of misunderstanding of how things are going to be done and what we expect. I think that's been healthy for the organization."

Games are won in the fall but championships are won in the offseason. Dooley is impressed with the enthusiasm and diligence his players are showing this summer.

"I've been pleased with how they've been working," he said. "I feel like they believe in what we're doing. I feel like they're confident we're on the right track. And I've seen improvement in their attitude, their investment in the program and their performance from Day One.

"That's all I've ever asked them to do. As long as they keep that dynamic going, I'm going to feel good because they're going to be a fun group to coach."

Although Dooley knows a lot more about his players than he did heading into his first season at the helm, he's still gaining familiarity with them as he prepares to greet and assimilate a crop of newcomers early next month. That's why he says his biggest concern heading into fall camp is "Probably the unknown.

"I don't know how all of these young guys are going to be able to do it, week in and week out. That's going to be really the tell-tale sign of what our season is this year."

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