By Dennis Washington
HOOVER, AL (WBRC) - Derek Dooley knows his first year as head coach of the Tennessee Vols has two challenges: winning football games and rebuilding the program's image.
"Certainly our image is not where we want it to be now," Dooley said Friday at SEC Media Days.
Dooley begins his first season as the Vols' head coach, the third coach in three years for the program. Dooley takes over after Lane Kiffin left in January to become the head coach of USC, leaving the program in turmoil.
Dooley said Friday his main mission this spring and summer has been to rebuild leadership and consistency.
"We certainly have had our bumps along the way and we'll continue to have our bumps along the way," Dooley said. "But anytime you had the transition that we've had at the head coaching level - three in three years - you're naturally going to have more attrition than you normally would have and you're naturally probably not going to have the kind of recruiting classes you can have with stability."
Dooley was asked his quick decision two weeks ago to kick sophomore safety Darren Myles Jr. from the team and indefinitely suspend defensive tackle Marlon Walls and linebacker Greg King in the wake of a bar fight. Dooley said Friday he had to act quickly and consistently.
"I did what I thought was the responsible thing to do as the head football coach," Dooley said. "I talked to every player individually. They have been incredibly honest, incredibly forthright with what they did, what happened, what they did wrong, the poor judgment they used, and the good things that happened. I've made the decisions based on that."
Dooley knows the upcoming football season will be challenging.
"We head into the season with a lot of youth and a lot of inexperience at a lot of positions," Dooley said. "But I feel really good about the young talent that we have on our team."
Tennessee begins football practice on August 4 and plays its first game on September 4 against UT Martin.
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