Like a lot of other people who follow SEC football, I thought the higher-ups at Tennessee had lost their minds when they hired Derek Dooley last year. I know he’s Vince’s son, but he had a losing record at Louisiana Tech.
Dumb hire, I told everyone I knew.
I’ve changed my mind.
I think it was a very good (maybe even brilliant) hire based on what I’ve seen so far.
Dooley did a remarkable job in his first season with a team that lacked depth and had so many true freshmen playing key roles. He went 6-7. But that record could have easily been 8-5. Two of those losses (LSU and North Carolina) were actually wins for a few seconds before officials decided more time remained and the Vols had to swallow losses of the most painful kind.
“I tell everybody I was 8-7 in winning handshakes last season,” Dooley quipped at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
Dooley is good friends with new Florida coach Will Muschamp. The two worked together at LSU and the two families have remained close.
Dooley and Muschamp remind me of each other. They’re both smart, they both have a well-defined plan for building a program and winning, they’re both tough and disciplined. They both coached under Nick Saban.
The Tennessee players have clearly bought into a coach who many questioned when he first took the job.
“Coach Dooley is doing a phenomenal job bringing great recruits in and establishing what he wants — a program of character and integrity,” star running back Tauren Poole said. “It’s just great to have him in the program. I’m excited to see what UT is going to do. We trust him and the values he’s going to instill in the program.”
I’ve changed my mind. Hiring Dooley was a great move by Tennessee.