The 2012 Tennessee Volunteers sit at 3-3 midway through the 2012 season and at this point I think it's fair to ask ourselves what this football team represents. The team that looked so promising early on in the season has gone 0-3 in conference play and the schedule doesn't really get any easier. The unranked Vols play at home Saturday for the proverbial "Third Weekend in October" Game versus consensus #1 ranked Alabama. The slaughter very well could be on as Bama must see blood in the water.
I really question at this point what this team is all about. At times this team has looked very electric and exciting. At other times it has looked like a team on the brink of implosion. I have blogged extensively on my view of individual and group play and I think it's time to take a good hard look at the coaching staff.
Third year coach Darek Dooley has yet to defeat a ranked opponent and his win percentage is subpar to say the least. There is no doubt he walked into a royal mess and had a dearth of talent in which to operate. There is also no doubt he had a challenge to face in changing a culture that needed a serious attitude adjustment. In that regard he has succeeded in my opinion and I certainly do think the program is once again pointed in the right direction.
I have been one of Dooley's staunchest defenders and I still think it was the right decision. I also still think Dooley needs 1 if not 2 more years to reorganize the program and make sure the directional changes aren't superficial and that the program is indeed on the upswing. Stability is not overrated and the Volunteer football program has been in dire need of stability, not only in regard to recruiting but in terms of the players and their college careers and possible professional careers.
Let's face it a revolving door in coaches can kill a player's chances of success and can really make or break a career unless the player is an incredible talent capable of surviving multiple coaches and different schemes. Do the Volunteers have such a player? At this point it is really hard to tell. The defensive players do not appear to be adjusting very well to the change from a 4/3 base defense to a 3/4 base defense. The offense is continuing to struggle at times.While the run game has improved Tyler Bray has regressed.
It's fair at this point to ask whether these struggles are really all the player's fault. The change in defense may ultimately work out but the transition has been brutal at times and comes at a time when this team needs to win. The fanbase is calling for the coaches head and is just plain tired of losing. How the "powers that be" feel about the situation remains to be seen but clearly they must want the win percentage to improve sooner rather than later.
Ultimately the question boils down to whether Dooley is a good coach. I think the jury is still out if you will pardon the lawyer joke. The coaching staff in general makes head scratching mistakes like not being able to count players or get in the right scheme at crucial points. That this is still an issue is concerning. We also seem to have a remarkable inability to capitalize on opportune situations.
For the record I like this coaching staff and I think first year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri could make the new defensive scheme successful. Yet I still question the change and we make no effort to try and adjust to make the transition easier for the players. I also like Jim Chaney but like the defense his offense seems to have regressed. Regression is not a sign of a good coaching staff. Nor is undisciplined play and we have amazing moments of lack of discipline.
Ultimately what the fans think or want will not matter. What exactly do the money people think? This writer certainly doesn't know. I doubt they are happy with losing either but do they think Dooley is the right guy? How much time are they willing to give Dooley and company to prove themselves? Only time will tell.