Former Tennessee Vols head coach Derek Dooley certainly had a way with words during his time on Rocky Top.

From referencing Erwin Rommel, to giving a discourse on shower etiquette, Dooley always had something interesting to say.

Sometimes, however, Dooley caught a lot of flack for things he said.

One instance was when said his first year at Tennessee was really “year 0”.

From the Times Free Press:

“I kind of feel like this is year one and last year was year zero,” Dooley said at a news conference Monday. “It was such a unique situation that we walked into last season, it didn’t feel like your first year. I feel like right now, this is year one.”

That didn’t go over all that well with fans.

But I think Dooley was on to something. When a coach takes over a struggling program, the first year is essentially teaching players how to do things the right way. The focus isn’t so much on winning as it is on instilling a new culture.

Year two is when a coach can really start building a team’s identity (especially a first year head coach).

Year three is the first year that any reasonable expectations should be placed on a coach that took over at a program that needed to be completely rebuilt.

I’d even suggest that the third year for a coach in this situation is really “year one”.

The third year is the first year that a coach is settled in, a culture is in place and the roster is built of at least (in most cases) 50 percent players that the coach signed.

And that’s why I think we’re seeing a much more comfortable and pleased Jeremy Pruitt as he starts his third spring with the Vols.

On Tuesday, after UT’s first spring practice, Pruitt didn’t sound like a coach taking over a fledgling program. He sounded like a coach that knows what to expect from his team.

Pruitt: “You can tell that it’s the third year in the system. You can tell that we’ve got a lot of guys returning. There weren’t a whole lot of mistakes, so that’s good to see and we can really coach fundamentals.”

The Vols are still a long way from competing for championships. But I think we’re going to see a UT team in 2020 that is a lot more competitive than what we’ve seen in recent years.

Even if the final record doesn’t vastly improve in 2020, I still expect Tennessee to take a major step forward. Maybe that just means playing Georgia and Alabama to the wire in the fourth quarter. Maybe it means upsetting Florida.

I’m not exactly sure what it means, but there’s no doubt the Vols are on an upward trajectory. And I think this year will be first time in a long that we’re going to see Tennessee look like one of the better teams in the SEC.

Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

 

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