Minutes before hopping on a bus to scurry off for a week of isolation, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley provided the first history lesson.
As he spoke to reporters on Thursday, Dooley wore a gray T-shirt that read “Milligan Football: Undefeated Since 1950.” Milligan, a small Christian school near Johnson City, disbanded its football program in 1950.
“They haven’t lost a game since then,” Dooley said with a wry smile. “Maybe that will bring us a little karma.”
Unfortunately, Dooley delivered some bad news before the team left for Milligan, where the Vols will spend part of preseason camp practicing through next Wednesday.
Promising freshman linebacker Kenny Bynum tore the meniscus in a knee and will be out “for a while.” Dooley said Bynum was reviewing surgery options. The injury adds to an already thin linebacker corps. Redshirt freshman Christian Harris tore his ACL in the spring and most likely won’t be back for another two months.
“That is a real concern on our football team and it has been,” Dooley said.
The Vols hope to stay away from injury – and out of the news – while at Milligan.
The off-campus “training camp” was planned to allow the football staff to move their offices into a new football training center. But Dooley also hopes taking his team to a secluded area can keep them out of trouble.
Two years ago, three football players were involved in a bar brawl and this summer Tyler Bray has made headlines for the wrong reasons.
Last month, the quarterback reportedly threw beer bottles off his apartment balcony and onto parked cars. On Wednesday, he reached an agreement in court regarding boating charges that stemmed from a Jet Ski incident on July 4. Bray was allegedly “hot dogging” with another Jet Ski, causing it to flip into the water.
“Is there a positive? That’s the whole point,” Dooley said of relocating to Milligan. “That’s what I’ve been talking about for six months, why we want to do this, kind of limit ourselves from the distractions and simulate what used to be very common as it relates to team chemistry and getting to know each other and building leadership and togetherness – just creating time where we are away from all that stuff.”
Milligan is so remote that most of the team hadn’t heard of the private school located nearly two hours away from Knoxville.
“I know it’s out there in the boonies,” linebacker Jacques Smith said. “This gives our team an opportunity to grow closer. This summer we’ve grown as a strong unit. I feel like it is an even closer step that we can take to become a really great team. We’re going to go there and focus in on everything we need to do to get better.”