This despite the fact that he suddenly is minus one tailback.
“Bryce Brown came to me today and indicated he’s dealing with a lot of personal and family problems right now,” Dooley said. “As of right now, he’s not a part of the team. It doesn’t mean we’ve kicked him off by any means. We want Bryce here, but my focus really is on the 85 guys who are here and who have great spirit about the direction of the program.
“(He has) concerns that I believe stem from — and he told me stem from — No.1, some of the reasons why he came here, and No. 2, his experience over the first six months he has been here.”
Dooley was nonetheless encouraged by his squad’s attention to detail, despite all the changes that have occurred around the football complex over the past few months.
“The thing I’m most pleased about is organizationally, it went very well,” he said. “That’s a hard thing when it’s your first practice with all new coaches and all new players.
“It was a good start, but looking forward to the next one.”
The Vols are limited to helmets only, no pads, through their first two workouts. Tennessee practices again Saturday morning at Haslam Field.
UT also is required to have one additional day of helmets-only practice, which for the Vols takes place the Thursday before the April 17 Dish Network Orange and White Game.
Regarding Brown, Dooley said he was caught off-guard but now realizes it is a decision the Wichita, Kan., native has been struggling with for some time.
“I was a little surprised, but you can only control what you can control,” Dooley said. “He went through the entire offseason. But I also think this wasn’t something from the last three weeks; this is something that’s probably six months (in the making). He’s dealing with a lot of issues.”
Dooley said whatever Brown’s ultimate decision, the sophomore is going to remain at UT through spring semester.
The Vols as a team appear to be acclimating to their new coaching staff — new being the key word. Dooley was hired only two months ago this week, and the final assistant coach was not named until just six weeks ago. Yet Thursday’s effort was a great starting point, according to the head coach.
“It was a very workman-like day by all of them,” Dooley said. “They were having some fun out there but were focused on the job. I’ve sensed the last couple of weeks that they really started to turn a little bit and are feeling good about where we’re headed.
“Long way to go, but a good first day.”