Tennessee’s Derek Dooley looked like one relieved head football coach after Tuesday’s workout at Haslam Field.
Dooley and the Vols learned earlier in the day that freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter was approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse to return to practice and is eligible to play right away.
“It was a huge relief,” Dooley said of the news. “There were a lot of nervous coaches. We were confident all along that he was going to be cleared; it was just a question of when.”
Back on Aug 14, Hunter caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in a Saturday night scrimmage to suddenly become one of the most talked about playmakers on offense. Within a week, however, the Virginia Beach, Va., native was forced to the sidelines as the NCAA studied his eligibility.
“We had no control over the situation,” Dooley said. “That’s always a lesson that you can’t worry about things you can’t control. So make the best of it. He was a little bit hurt in the foot, so we took it as an opportunity to triple the treatment. You saw the boot on him. You just find how you can turn this into a positive, and that’s what he did. He handled it great.”
Dooley said he expects the wideout to be ready to go by Saturday’s kickoff against UT Martin. It’s just a matter of how much the freshman lost during his two weeks out of action.
“Usually on your first day back you are a ball of energy,” Dooley said. “Then all of a sudden, you realize, ‘Am I still in good shape?’ I hope it won’t be too big of a setback but we will see. He’ll be ready for Saturday; I don’t know how much.”
DOOLEY EXPECTS SKYHAWKS’ BEST SHOT
Saturday’s 2010 season kickoff against UT Martin is Tennessee’s first game against a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, since 1983. In fact, the Vols are the last remaining SEC member since conference expansion in 1992 to play an FCS member.
But Dooley warns Big Orange fans not to read too much into that divisional label.
“They have very good coaching and they know how to win. They’ve won a conference championship and they’ve been to the NCAA playoffs in the last couple of years, so they are a well-coached football team. You see that.
“You see some really good players. (Linebacker) Josh Bey is a great example; we would love to have him here. And you see a lot of things schematically, because they are well-coached, that causes you a lot of problems on film.”
The Skyhawks lost 37-20 at Auburn two years ago in a game that was tied midway through the third quarter.
“I’m guessing Auburn wasn’t ready to play that day, and that’s what can happen against a well-coached team if you are not ready.”