KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- It's quiet now on the Tennessee campus. The students who took to the streets to scream about football coach
In the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center, site of so much drama in the past 18 months, reality has set in. The firing of
"It's just another year for most of us; especially for me," senior receiver
Dooley and his staff will earn everyone's respect if they can salvage a winning season from the mess they inherited. While Tennessee's defense is thin, it features some talented young players such as safety
When Dooley arrived, the situation wasn't so dire. The Vols had lost tailback
But Brown didn't come out for spring practice, and while he remains on Tennessee's campus to finish the spring semester, it's a safe bet he'll wind up playing somewhere else in the fall. The smart money is on Kansas State, where his older brother
The transfer tilt-a-whirl hadn't stopped spinning after Douglas departed, though. Last week, senior quarterback
With the exception of Stephens, there probably isn't much Dooley could have done about the transfers. "I didn't think that I would lose a starter. That part probably surprised me," Dooley said. "But when you see what the issues were and why they came here and the problems they were having, it's not because of me being here. It's something that's been brewing for a long time."
While it would be easy to blame Kiffin for all of Tennessee's issues, it would also be unfair. Even when he expected to coach the Vols in 2010, Kiffin insinuated this season would be tough. His departure certainly created additional problems, but other struggles took root back in 2005, when Fulmer's staff's recruiting began to slip. That 2005 class included some excellent players -- defensive tackle
Maybe Tennessee wouldn't be in these straits had athletic director
No one will have a greater effect on Tennessee's immediate future than offensive line coach
With no experienced centers, the Vols had trouble even getting the snap to the quarterback. But Hiestand and Dooley think they've found their center in junior
At quarterback, offensive coordinator
Simms understands, though. He was recruited to Louisville by
That's precisely what Gerald Jones' mother told him before he moved to Knoxville. He wasn't sure what she meant at first, but he understands now. So do the rest of the Vols. And even if it takes Dooley and his coaches time to earn the players' trust, Dooley can take some comfort in the fact that the turmoil of the past 18 months has forged a bond among the players who were its victims. No matter who coaches them or how many snaps they've played before this season, Tennessee players will fight for one another. For now, that's going to have to be enough.
"Coach Dooley could leave next year," Jones said. "You never know. But when we're between the lines, we're playing for the person next to us."