Over his first two seasons at Tennessee, coach Derek Dooley has battled youth and inexperience.
With 20 starters returning for the 2012 season, high turnover no longer appears to be an issue.
His coaching staff ... well that’s a different story.
This offseason, seven of Dooley’s assistant coaches left for other jobs, six joining staffs of BCS schools.
“I think more than anything it was probably a little bit of a correction that a lot of organizations have after a year or two into the system,” Dooley said on Tuesday during the SEC football coaches spring teleconference call. “I think the coaches they all left for different reasons. I’m not really here to analyze it other than it wasn’t a good fit for some. Maybe they had a different opportunity that they wanted to pursue. And I think some probably had an unwillingness to kind of work through the tough times we experienced. I think all those were contributing factors.”
With seven new faces on Dooley’s coaching staff a bumpy transition is to be expected. Dooley said that was not the case during spring practices.
“This was as seamless a transition as I could ever hope for,” he said.
Dooley said the smooth change started with his hiring of Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator.
Sunseri spent the last three years as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Alabama. He also spent seven years as the defensive line coach with the Carolina Panthers. He crossed paths with Dooley in 2000 when both were assistants for Nick Saban at LSU.
“Sal and I know each other,” Dooley said. “Our organizational structure is very similar to what he has been in. Our philosophies are very similar in how to win football games. So right away we spoke the same language. Of course when your coordinators are on the same page that really extends through the staff and the team. So I think that was the starting point is getting somebody who I didn’t have to sell what we do and how we do it to them.”
While the Tennessee players will have to become familiar with their new coaches, many on the staff already had experience working together. Both cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley and special teams/tight end coach Charlie Coiner worked with Sunseri.
“A lot of the personalities knew each other so I think that made it easier for everybody,” Dooley said. “So it has been a good spring. I think it has been healthy for our team. I think it is a way everybody could start fresh and it has been a positive thing for the program.”