- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, THERE WAS PLENTY FOR DEREK DOOLEY to be encouraged about during his inaugural year in Knoxville. The former Louisiana Tech coach inherited a Tennessee program in tumult, but Dooley righted the ship enough for the Volunteers to rally from a 2--6 start and win four straight with true freshman Tyler Bray at quarterback. That streak helped Tennessee earn a trip to the Music City Bowl.
Yet ask Dooley about momentum from last year and he introduces an old trope: the sophomore jinx. "That just means you go out there and flash a bunch of plays your freshman year, and you think you've got it—and then you realize you don't," Dooley says. "It's good we had a little success, but it doesn't mean we've done anything."
That last part was Dooley's message to his team throughout the off-season, a jolt of humility meant to remind the Vols how much more must be done for a team whose roster is approximately two-thirds underclassmen. The idea most applies to Bray and his second-year classmates, who include a quintet of starters on the offensive line, Bray's two new top receiving targets and a quartet of starters on defense. All showed the aforementioned flashes of ability as freshmen but now must expand upon those bursts. Another cautionary component: The Bray-led resurgence came against the late-season underbelly of Tennessee's schedule, when the Vols beat the SEC's three worst teams and one-win Memphis. "It's a big jump," Dooley says of making the transition to full-season success. "I can count on one hand how many players we have that have proven they can go 12 games in this league."
Among that number is Janzen Jackson, a two-year starter at safety who left the school in February for personal reasons. Jackson, the lone Volunteer to be named All-SEC in 2010, rejoined the team this summer. His return bolstered a secondary that will operate behind a question-riddled front seven.
Dooley says plenty of his players are capable of joining Jackson on the all-conference team, "but whether they get there or not is up to them." It's a leap he hopes at least a few can make. If they don't, Dooley might find himself writing a full dissertation on the sophomore jinx.
COACH Derek Dooley (2nd year) 6--7 (3--5 in SEC)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Jim Chaney
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Justin Wilcox