Another season, another NCAA investigation. Derek Dooley found out late Monday night that Tennessee is under the microscope once again.
And once again, he wasn’t even in the Petri dish when the potential infraction occurred, but nonetheless the head coach faced questions concerning the matter Tuesday afternoon.
“It is something that happened before I got here, by a coach that is not on our staff, involving a player that is not on our team,” Dooley said. “There is nothing really I can say about it other than that.”
Dooley will now have to convey that message to possible recruits who may be catching wind of the evolving situation surrounding Volunteer athletics.
“All we can do is make sure everyone knows this wasn’t under our watch,” Dooley said. “I am hoping the NCAA is going to stay consistent with what they have done, which is let's target the people that make these mistakes, not the programs.”
All investigations aside, the head coach was pleased with another stellar practice effort by his football team, that could be heard several blocks away as the Vols went through team work with an evident excitement level.
“Good spirited practice today — we had a lot of real good energy today and I was really pleased with it,” Dooley said. “Now we sort of have two Thursday’s to polish up the game plan. Hopefully we will come out fresh on Saturday.”
One player who has continued to improve his approach every day is quarterback Tyler Bray, who is showing all the right signs to his coaching staff.
“Starting with his approach,” Dooley said. “That was the most important thing that he had to change. He has really locked in on trying to play well and you see him asking the right questions.
“You see him communicating what he doesn’t really quite grasp to us, which helps us calling plays. I have seen improvement each week.”
Dooley specifically praised the play of Bray after losing his favorite wide receiver Justin Hunter several plays into the Vols game with Florida.
“He was in a horrible situation last week and he gritted it out,” Dooley said. “He showed a lot of grit, which is important in any player.”
The Tennessee team will continue to rely on young Vols to step up and fill important roles on the field. And now is the time for them to stop playing like rookies. With the bye week behind them, the Vols now face a brutal October slate and can no longer show their flaws.
“We have so many young ones out there running around just trying to survive,” Dooley said. “We have to get out of survival mode and start playing.”
Dooley’s squad will continue its preparations Wednesday morning at 9, which will act effectively as one of two Thursday practices.