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Dooley becoming more involved on defense... again?

2012 NPT PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER
Tennessee freshman defensive back LaDarrell McNeil attempts to tackle Troy quarterback Deon Anthony on Saturday afternoon.
Published: 3:05 PM, 11/08/2012 Last updated: 3:15 PM, 11/08/2012
 

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

KNOXVILLE-Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley jumped into full Phillip Fulmer mode on Monday.

Much like the former Vols coach would become hands-on with the offense late in a struggling season, Dooley announced he'd do the same with Tennessee's defense. Fulmer almost annually made this move every November - trying to save face in public as the schedule turned to its softest portion of the season.

That announcement came on the heels of the Vols' record-setting performance of allowing 721 yards in a 55-48 win over Troy last Saturday and in preparation for a three-game SEC slate against menial teams to close the 2012 campaign in an attempt to finish 7-5.

Like a political campaign full of desperation towards the end of a long and winding road, Dooley's intention to jump in and save the defense at the eleventh hour is likely a longshot.

Tennessee, under first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, has given up 35 points or more in six of nine games this year. Saturday's escape against Troy was the fifth straight game that they had surrendered 35 or more.

"First of all and maybe I should have done this earlier, but I'm coming out of the offensive room and
putting my attention on defense," Dooley offered. "Just sitting in trying to help create solutions. We are going to do some things different schematically to help take some of the pressure off some of our players to give them a better chance and to reduce some of the space that gets created."

Making the decision to become more involved with the Tennessee defense comes almost a week after Dooley said such a move was not plausible.

It's also another political-type decision. Dooley has jumped the fence and waffled over the decision over the past month. He decided to jump into the defense, but only nine days after he said that wasn't going to happen.

A former receiver for Virginia and a coach who has spent his entire career on the offensive side of the ball, was leaning not to make such a move in the aftermath of the Vols 38-35 loss to South Carolina on October 27.

"I will give some big-picture, philosophical opinions, but I am not going to tell then what call to run," Dooley said after the loss in Columbia. "I mean, I spend all my hours on offense and special teams.
"I don't know anybody that can do all three (aspects)," Dooley said. "I want to meet him if he can. Superman."

So even if Dooley does decide to don his Big Orange cape to try and rescue the plight Sunseri has propelled this team to, it still does not add up. After all, like a candidate on the trail - perhaps he forgot an earlier promise. When Tennessee was mired with consecutive losses to Georgia and Mississippi State, back when the Vols had only given up 25 points four times, Dooley promised to get more involved only two days after the critical loss to the Bulldogs in Starkville.

"I do (intend to get hands-on) given what the results have been," Dooley said in his weekly press briefing on October 15. "I'm not going to go micromanage what we do and how we do it, but I'm certainly going to have a bigger say in it because ultimately it's my responsibility.

"I can't just say it's not mine, (because) it is, I'm the head coach," Dooley said. "I think it's fair to say [more involved] and I was during the open date. We are all in it together. It's not that I'm telling someone what to do. I'm giving someone a little outside eye to help solve problems."

Dooley's involvement may lend a helping hand and give a glimpse at some issues facing the Tennessee defense as the team enters it's final three games. But as a campaign enters it's final days, it normally takes a bigger game changer than that to change the course of the race.

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