November 14, 2012
Coaches: Doing job paid to do
Tennessee's assistant football coaches insisted Wednesday they will maintain a professional approach and do the job they're paid to perform for the final two games of this season.
Following the Vols' morning practice as they continued preparations for Saturday's game at rival Vanderbilt, coaches didn't ignore the distractions surrounding the uncertain futures of both head coach Derek Dooley and the remaining members of the UT coaching staff.
"Nothing's going to change. We work right now for the University of Tennessee," said defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, who will remain in the coaches' box this week in Nashville. "I've been here every single day at 5:30 and haven't left till 11 o'clock at night. You know what I'm saying? That's what we do."
Added first-year defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley, "It's not really that tough, because I've been brought through the coaching ranks to focus on the things that we can control and block out all the elevator music that's outside of the program. I don't really read any of that stuff and I don't really focus on what the people outside of UT are saying. All we can focus on is making sure our kids are focused and going out there to get better every day and making sure we can go close these last two out the way we need to."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who in his fourth season is the Vols' most tenured coach, praised the focus this week of the players and maintained that coaches will finish out the season doing the job they are paid to perform.
"It hink our kids have responded like they always have," Chaney said. "They have gone out and have been preparing well. That would be my only comment on that. We have practiced well all year long.
"I think for the staff, we are paid to go put a game plan together. That's where our focus is."
Both Dooley and numerous Vols players addressed the tenuous coaching situation following the first two days' practices this week. First-year safeties coach Josh Conklin, considered a rising commodity in the coaching ranks who left a comfortable situation as defensive coordinator at The Citadel to assist the Vols' defense, admitted life outside of football provides context.
"Well, I just think you try to keep everything in perspective as much as you can," said Conklin, whose Citadel defenses ranked near the top of the Southern Conference and showed dramatic national improvement in his two years in Charleston. "You understand the nature of the beast a little bit when you're here, and I think our players understand the nature of it. And you just keep pushing forward. You try stay as professional as you can. We've got a job to do, and that's to finish this season out the way that we can. I told my wife this morning, one thing that makes you keep it in perspective. She's getting ready to have our first little one here in about a month and she's going to see the doctor. Those things right there keep it in perspective as well."
Conklin, however, admitted this season in Knoxville had presented a set of circumstances he could not completely envision.
"No, I don't know if you can ever anticipate what you're going to get into. But, I think everything is a learning experience," Conklin said. "You take all your experiences and you learn from them and grow from them and you take the good and you take the bad and you move forward and it makes you a better coach in the long run, I think, as you move throughout your career."
A pair of the Vols' veteran-most assistants, John Palermo and Charlie Coiner, said they'll draw on past experiences of seasons that resulted in change.
"All you can do is go out and do the best that you can do," Palermo said. "You can't worry about what other people think. I've been blessed through my career that I haven't had to go through this very often, but I have had to go through this and all you can do is stay focused on the task at hand. Try to bring the kids closer together. There's only so many things you can control."
Coiner said he would attempt to share his past experiences with both younger coaches and players, as well as lead by example.
"I think they'll look at you, first of all, in just how you handle yourself," Coiner said of the Vols' younger coaches. "We have a good coaching staff. I'd stand up in front of any crowd and say that. I've been on a lot of coaching staffs. I've coached for 30 years, and this is a strong coaching staff with a lot of good, young coaches. I look at D.A. and I look at Conk and how hard they work and how professional they are about it.
"When I was their age, I did, I kind of wanted to look at the older guys and see how they handled it. And you stick together and you tell the team that all the time. And as a staff, this staff right here, tight-knit staff. Seven of us just came on board last year, and I credit coach Dooley and I credit Jim Chaney. I credit the guys that have been through a lot that really make it easier."
One of seven first-year coaches, Palermo said he wouldn't allow external pressures to be an issue and doubted players would either.
"To me it's not any different this week than what it was the first week or the second week or the third week," Palermo explained. "It's like one of the kids said 'Coach, you yelled at me the other day. You hurt my feelings.' Well, guess what? You hurt my feelings every time you go out there and screw up. Because I'm not going to let it go. I'm not going to just say 'It's OK' because of the situation we're in. It's not OK. You've got to go out and coach them just like you believe you should coach them."
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