Derek Dooley isn’t afraid to admit his anticipation.
The new UT football coach is just as ready for spring practice as Vol fans.
“I think the big thing is everyone’s anxious to get to practice,” Dooley said in a pre-spring press conference on Wednesday. “Coaches, players, everybody’s a little anxious. We’re excited for practice to start.”
Dooley kicked off his first week of spring practice as UT’s head coach with a media luncheon in Neyland Stadium’s Stokely Family Media Center on Wednesday, laying out pre-spring team news as well as media policies for Vol coverage.
Dooley stressed that while there has been little on-field evaluation of UT’s team, he likes what he has seen from early workouts.
“We’ve had 14 good workouts with the team since signing day with our coaches out there,” he said. “Been real pleased with the work ethic, the players have been a real joy to coach and get to know in the short term.”
Hired in January to replace first-year coach Lane Kiffin, Dooley said the goal of spring practices is to strive for improvement across the roster at an early date.
“It always starts with everybody improving fundamentally at their position,” Dooley said. “Regardless of the year, that’s the beauty of spring practice, to improve fundamentally.”
UT’s roster finished the 2009 season plagued with the injury bug in many key areas. Dooley noted linebacker Nick Reveiz (knee), defensive back Art Evans (shoulder), and linebacker Savion Frazier (knee) will all be out or limited when practice begins Thursday.
Rumors swirled after UT’s coaching change regarding offensive tackle Aaron Douglas’ status on the team, and Dooley said the 2009 All-SEC Freshman selection may not be on the field for the entirety of spring.
“Aaron Douglas has got some personal business that he’s been attending to,” Dooley said. “He may not be out there for a couple of practice(s). I don’t anticipate it being anything long-term, but it is personal.”
Dooley also announced the departure of offensive lineman William Brimfield.
“Will Brimfield is no longer on our team,” Dooley said. “If your commitment level is not at a high level, (college football)’s not a fun thing to do. It was time for a parting of ways with Will.”
While last season’s spring practices opened with Kiffin’s “open depth chart” policy, Dooley plans to adopt what he called an “open slate,” while still eyeing those players who were productive on the field last year.
Dooley also announced the moving of fullback Austin Johnson to linebacker and receiver Rod Wilks to safety, but UT’s coach stressed that it is too soon to tell what other moves could be made.
“I’ve watched player tapes on all the guys that played,” Dooley said. “Beyond that, I’m going to evaluate them on the next 15 practices, training camp and how they play next fall.”
Though several holes exist in the Vols’ roster, fans will especially have their eyes on the quarterback position this spring. Senior Nick Stephens returns from backing up the departed Jonathan Crompton, while newcomers Tyler Bray and Matt Simms are expected to make a run at the Vols’ starting job.
Still, Dooley said the spring probably won’t produce UT’s definite starter under center.
“We’re going to try to give (the quarterbacks) plenty of opportunity and plenty of reps, but I can tell you this, the quarterback position will not be settled over spring. This is a body of work over time,” Dooley said.
Spring practice starts Thursday afternoon at Haslam Field.
Practice policy
All UT spring practices will be closed to the public, Dooley announced Wednesday. The closed-practice policy will continue into the fall season.