KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In the wake of Sunday’s announcement that Derek Dooley will not return to the Tennessee sidelines, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has taken on a new role this week as the team’s interim head coach.
The 28-year coaching veteran has held a lot of different titles throughout his career, but head coach has never been one. Regardless of his new designation, Chaney said he only knows one way to approach this job.
“You go to work,” Chaney said. “I have been around football a long time. I think I understand the role but until you do it you have no idea. I have no idea what a head coach does, I have never done it before. I am excited and I hope I don’t mess it up too bad. I hope I represent Coach Dooley very well on Saturday, I really do.
“I think it is hard on every human being who is involved with transition. Transition is a part of our game. We have to step up to the plate. We put on our big boy pads when you walk into a program like Tennessee and you understand those things are possibilities. When they come forward, you attack them. You try to gain something out of it. You try to, as an individual, learn from it and develop yourself as a player. That is all you can ever do. We talk constantly to our players about controlling the things they can and most of that is their attitude and their effort. If they do that we will be just fine.”
As the Vols get set to close out the season against Kentucky on Saturday (12:21 p.m. – SEC Network), Chaney’s only goal is to make sure it ends on a positive note.
“Quite honestly I have been asked and I am humbled by the fact that Dave [Hart] thought I would be a good candidate to do this,” Chaney said. “I am excited about the opportunity. As far as auditioning or something like that, I haven’t thought about that. I am trying to help some kids heal from some wounds and put a team on the field with the right attitude to go win a game. As far as me personally, that is my only goal. I have no objectives, nothing here. I am going to do as good as I can to go represent the University, the community, and this program the best I possibly can.”
Assessing Monday morning’s practice, the first that he has been solely in charge of, Chaney was pleased with what was accomplished.
“I thought the kids handled it well,” Chaney said. “They went out and ran around, we used the same format we have been doing so they weren’t lost. They knew what they were doing. I think early on in the meetings it was quiet, it was sober in the meetings but we talked a lot to the team today, hopefully get them going as the week progresses. I thought from the beginning of time from the start of meetings to the conclusion of practice they were coming around.”
Chaney had a little trick up his sleeve to help jumpstart things and get the team back to being focused on the task at hand.
“He walked in and blew a horn,” sophomore Marlin Lane said. “I was just surprised because it was early and I think everyone was still half asleep. It woke everybody up. He said ‘it is a sudden change, don’t let nothing keep us down, keep a smile on our face and just go out there and execute everything that we do.’”
Looking forward to Saturday’s season-ending showdown against Kentucky, Chaney feels that the team will be able to put aside the distractions and be prepared to play.
“I think the team is motivated,” Chaney said. “I think they are shook up a little right now but I think they will bounce back and they will come around. I hope hoping those 13 seniors will have something to say about that and we are excited about seeing them go play. We have to have a good practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. I think they are shell-shocked a little bit right now, like any team would be. I saw the growth a little bit today. Their eyes, from what they looked like earlier to the way they walked off the field was different. Time will heal, it just takes time.”
ON THE TEAM’S MINDSET
Jacques Smith: “It was a lot of mixed emotions. Everybody had already had their hearts set because of the rumors and various things like that. Other people wanted him to be here because Dooley is a great guy. He means well to the organization. He definitely put us in the right direction, it just didn’t show statistically, mainly just scoring wise. Statistically, we were in a lot of games that fans don’t see. He’s a great coach and we’re going to miss him.”
Ja’Wuan James: “Everybody feels a little more relaxed. We have been hearing about this for the past two years. It’s unfortunate that it happened, but we all have to move on.”
Antonio Richardson: “Yesterday, we didn’t have meetings. They said we weren’t having meetings and then they called a meeting at 11 a.m. and we had just got back at 3 a.m. So, we pretty much knew what it was about. Coach Dooley has done a lot for me, helping me develop as a person and as a player. I really appreciate him, but it is a business, it is what it is and we just have to move on.”
Jacques Smith: “I don’t really have an opinion on what they think. I just know what our team feels. We’re upset about the change, we definitely are. This is a business. Everyone came here to win. We deserve to win. We put in enough work, I promise you we put in enough work this summer, to not have this outcome. It happened. That just goes along with the business and we just have to bring in someone new to get those wins that we deserve.”
ON COACH DOOLEY’S DEPARTURE
Jacques Smith: “It was a lot of mixed emotions. Dooley’s a great guy. He has put this program to where we need to be to be in a path for success. It just didn’t happen this year. I believe if he had another year, we could’ve made it happen, but that’s just my opinion. Some guys are going to miss him, some guys just know it’s part of the business. That’s just how it is.”
Marlin Lane: “I was just shocked, it happened so soon. I thought they would wait until after the season. Just put more on us, a lot of frustration. But at the same time we are going to fight through it.”
Ja’Wuan James: “It’s just how it is. When I first got here, two days later Coach Kiffin was gone. So it’s just another coach.”
Antonio Richardson: “You could see the emotion in his face. He did a good job of holding himself together, but you could see the emotion in his face. You could see the emotion in other people’s faces too, coaches and players. It was an emotional moment, but Coach Chaney is taking over now and he has done a really good job of telling us that adversity is going to hit you and you just have to move on. We have Kentucky this week and that is what we are focusing on right now.”
A.J. Johnson: “It’s a pretty tough process. I liked Dooley as a coach and he was a great guy too. He was one of the reasons I came to Tennessee.”
Mychal Rivera: “It was really disappointing seeing the business side and the flow-over into our team and having the AD make a decision to fire the coach. The players feel a little responsibility because we go out there and we didn’t get it done, but at the end of the day there are decisions that we can’t make. College football is such a business that there are decisions that are way bigger than the players.”
ON JIM CHANEY AS INTERIM COACH
Jacques Smith: “It was an easier pill to swallow. There wasn’t all these questions floating around on who was going to be there. Ji Chaney is the interim and at least I know him. First it was Kippy Brown and I don’t’ really know him. I know my teammates and I know these guys. This is an easier transition than before.”
Byron Moore: “He is a high energy, up-tempo kind of guy so he brings a new spirit. It’s been easy for everybody to keep their heads up. He let everybody know that we have to move forward. This is a time of change and we have to keep moving. It was business as usual. Focused on our assignments. Doing our thing, like a typical Monday.”
Marlin Lane: “I feel like it is going to be the same. We looked at both of them as the head coach throughout the two years I have been here. They coach alike and keep the same intensity going so we are going to maintain and keep it going.”
Cordarrelle Patterson: “We are going to approach it like we approached it with coach Dooley, go out there and expect to win. Work hard and do what we can do. We are going to see how things change in practice and on Saturday we will see how it is.”
Ja’Wuan James: “It wasn’t any different. We did the same stuff. We just got out there a little earlier and got finished a little earlier, but basically it’s the same thing. Just to go out there and play football. It’s the same game you have been playing since you were twelve. It’s fun. Don’t let all the distractions bother you from the game.”
ON THE DISAPPOINTING SEASON
Mychal Rivera: “It’s hard to tell. Things just didn’t go our way. We were there in a lot of games and we had a lot of big leads early on, but we gave up big leads and things. I can’t point it out. There’s not one mistake. You can put it on the coaches, you can put on the players. You just can’t put it on anybody.”
Cordarrelle Patterson: “We are really not sure. Every week it just hasn’t been going right for us. We just try to go in and work hard and every week we expect to win and it just didn’t work out how we wanted it to work out.”
Ja’Wuan James: “I’m not really sure. It’s just football. We made too many mistakes and the other team didn’t. It’s just the outcome of the game. It’s football.”
ON MONDAY’S PRACTICE
Byron Moore: “It wasn’t too difficult. It was weird not seeing Coach Dooley talk to us to start the week off. Once everybody got here, it was business as usual. We went through our meetings and got out here on the field.”
Mychal Rivera: “We were all relaxed out there and we have one goal in mind and that is to try to go out there and beat Kentucky. The whole team is focused and we are ready for this game.”
Marlin Lane: “We just kept it going like every Monday. Go out there and practice, we didn’t let the distraction distract us. We just went out there and kept going.”
DOING IT FOR THE SENIORS
Immediately after hearing that their head coach Derek Dooley was relieved of his duties Sunday, the Tennessee football team took to twitter with their thoughts.
Some of them showed their support and love for Tennessee:
Daniel Hood @daniel_hood5855
These past 34 months have been the most beneficial in my growth as a human. All respect to Coach D for turning us, me, into men #wontforget
Tiny Richardson @Antonio_Tiny74
Hard times right now! Still riding with my boys! #VFL
Mychal Rivera @MychalRivera
I’m A #VFL And That’s What Matters
Corey Alexander @coreyralexander
The love I feel from Vol Nation right now is why I wanted to be a Tennessee Volunteer in the first place. Thank you, I love all of y’all.
While some of them took the time to ask Vol Nation to come out to Neyland for the final game of the season and show support to a deserving senior class that has been through a lot of changes during their time on Rocky Top.
Tom Smith @YungTom29
To all the True Vol fans RT if u going to show love next week for our SENIORS against KY they been thru hell and need your support #GBO
Corey Miller @CoreyMillerYFN
Do it for the seniors. End of discussion.
Patrick Ashford @_ashford13
Everyone please pack out Neyland Saturday. We need to send these seniors out the right way. They deserve it. #VFL
Justin King @kingvol38
I love my VOL brothers we in this together and if you a true fan. Show the seniors support.
The Vols continued their support for the senior class during Monday’s media session.
Last year, the current Vols ended the season with a bad taste in their mouth and their first loss to Kentucky in 26 seasons.
This year, they do not want the 2012 senior class to feel the same way and they hope to break some school records in the process.
“We fell short to Kentucky last year and we snapped the longest winning streak between the two teams,” said sophomore Marlin Lane. “We felt bad for that and the seniors, so this week we are focusing on going out there every day, stepping up in every way we can to help the seniors get a win.”
“We have a lot of motivation, especially on offense,” said junior Ja’Wuan James. “I definitely want to let the seniors go out on a good note. We lost to Kentucky last year and we want to get that back. Offensively, we are about 500 yards away from a school record. We have 6.4 yards a play and the record is 6.9. So we can reach two UT goals as an offense, but really we just want to win.”
On the defensive side of things, sophomore A.J. Johnson wants to send out one of his best friends, and mentors, Herman Lathers on the right foot.
“Every year you are going to have a group of seniors that you looked up to and who watched over you,” said Johnson. “You just want to play for them and send them out with a good win.”
Byron Moore just wants his senior brethren to be able to walk off Neyland with one more victory.
“We just know we need to send these seniors out the right way,” said Moore. “That’s all we are playing for right now, playing for these seniors. We want to be able to let them walk out of Neyland with a win one more time.”
Senior Mychal Rivera took the time to send out a special message to the Vols fans asking for their support as he runs through the T for his final time on Senior Day Saturday.
“Support the organization, support Big Orange,” said Rivera. “The players, we’re out here fighting. I’m not fighting for a coach, I’m fighting for the team and I’m fighting for the University of Tennessee. When you guys come out and support just come out and support for us.”
Antonio Richardson added to Rivera’s sentiment.
“Just come out and support us, support the Vols,” said Richardson. “Right now, we are doing this for pride. It is for the seniors and it is for Vol Nation. It is not about anybody else but the seniors, the fans and just making sure that we get a W for them.”
SOPHOMORE TB MARLIN LANE
(On his performance at Vandy)
“There is a Tennessee tradition of running backs doing well against Vanderbilt and I wanted to go out there and keep the tradition going. Just playing hard every play and every time I got a chance to touch the ball I wanted to do something with it.”
(On succeeding in the run game)
“I knew it was going to come pretty soon, I just had to keep working on it and building more confidence in myself. The hard work pays off and that is what I have been doing.”
SOPHOMORE OL ANTONIO RICHARDSON
(On his goal during his time as a Vol)
“I just want to help be a part of something special here at Tennessee and that is to win some more games.”
(On holding the team together)
“I haven’t really been hearing any talk of any guys leaving but I would most definitely try to encourage guys to stay because if you want to have a good team, you can’t have guys running in and running out. I just think that guys need to man-up. I’m going to talk to guys. If anybody is thinking about, just talk to them and say, ‘Hey we have to man-up. This is still our school. We have business to take care of next year and try to win a championship or get to a bowl game. This is what we signed up for.’”
(On dealing with the distraction of a coaching change)
“I wouldn’t say it is difficult. I would say that your mind is kind of everywhere. Who is it going to be? Who is it going to be? Whoever it is, I know that they will bring in somebody good. I’m not worried about it, I know the administration will do a good job of bringing somebody in.”
SOPHOMORE LB A.J. JOHNSON
(On what a win to end the year would mean)
“It’s pretty big to come out here and try to get this win this week and then just bust our tail this offseason and have a lot of change in the players.”
SENIOR TE MYCHAL RIVERA
(On the offensive performance at Vanderbilt)
“The offense just wasn’t clicking and we made some really bad decisions. Turnovers and things like that didn’t help us. A lot of the guys just weren’t giving effort out there and things just weren’t clicking. They weren’t going right.”
(On their goal this Saturday)
“Last year at Kentucky we didn’t have another game after that where we could come back and show what we are really about. This time we have another game after that.”
(On what kind of coach UT should look for)
“A coach that can show great leadership to mentor the players and a coach that is worried about the players’ well-being and not just their physical ability on the field.”
(On dealing with the speculation in recent weeks)
“It was a big distraction, just the negativity. I’m a really positive guy and I know a lot of people on the team are positive people and when you have so much negativity swirling around it is hard to stay focused.”
JUNIOR WR CORDARRELLE PATTERSON
(On the loss at Vanderbilt)
“Not really. I wasn’t thinking about it. We lost a game, I was just trying to put it behind me, get on the bus and get back home safe.”
(On his taunting penalties)
“He just sat down and told me that you can’t be doing things like that and you need to watch what you do. Just to try to fix that. In the second one, I don’t say that was a taunting penalty. When I went to make a move I looked back and saw the ref had thrown a flag so I was trying to see what the flag was for.”
JUNIOR LB JACQUES SMITH
(On what he is telling younger teammates)
“Just stay focused. I’ve been through this before. It’s part of the business. It’s college football and this is the ugly side of it. Tennessee has seen this side too many times.”
(On not knowing who will be the coach next year)
“I think it’s very difficult. It definitely changes everything for them. They made a four-year plan to make a decision to come to a university. To not know where the operations of the university is going, I feel like that is a huge impact on their lives. It has had a huge impact on mine. Luckily, we had the 3-4 defense and Coach Sal and it was a great break for me in the end. Still, we’re going through another one. There’s just one more year left for me and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
(On having change)
“I’m not tired of change, I’m just tired of losing. We just need to come together and win.”
(On being from Tennessee and what it means)
“It’s definitely hard. I wouldn’t think in a million years that I would be on the team in 25 years to have the first loss against Kentucky last year and break this streak against Vandy this year, to lost to someone like Missouri, just a newcomer in the SEC. They’re a great, talented team, but just by the name of the game, we’re supposed to beat them. We’re a sound team and everyone knows it, but it happened that way. It’s nothing that we can take back now and we just have to look forward.”
(On the loss to Vanderbilt)
“The loss Saturday was definitely surprising. We didn’t think that any of that was going to happen. After the half, I thought we were going to blow them out of the water and come out and stomp it. Things didn’t go the way we wanted to. We obviously knew it wasn’t going to be a great moment for Dooley after the game. We were expecting it and it happened. Coach Chaney is someone we can trust and he’s bringing a lot of faith and confidence to the team. He’s putting us forward in the right direction to get the win this weekend. Everybody is focused and ready to play and get a win for the Big Orange because everyone definitely needs a win.”
JUNIOR OL JA’WUAN JAMES
(On the team)
“A lot of people are saying we gave up but I’ve never thought that. We’ve done a lot since that loss to Kentucky last year. We went to Milligan and worked hard all offseason. All people see are those 12 Saturdays. They haven’t been the outcomes we wanted, but we definitely worked hard enough to go out there and play our best.”
(On offensive line coach Sam Pittman)
“We will go talk to Dave Hart or whoever we need to talk to in order to keep him as our offensive line coach. He has worked out great with us. We felt like we really clicked with this one and we would really like him to stay. Other than that, we just have to try and adapt to the new head coach. We have a mature group of guys so I feel like we all will be able to adapt.
(On his thoughts on the next coach)
“As long as we keep Coach Pittman, I’m fine. We can have any head coach out there. I feel like Coach Pittman has done a great job with the offensive line and our offensive line will help this offense.”