It all seemed so promising.
Derek Dooley, the young coach with the quick smile and engaging wit, came into his third season at Tennessee with all the tools in place. After a year where injuries and inexperience left the Vols licking their wounds and wondering how so much talent could lose so many games, this season began with boundless optimism.
The receiving corps was second-to-none and they had a pocket-passing quarterback in Tyler Bray who could get the ball to them anywhere on the field. The defense was a year older and wiser, as well as being bigger and stronger.
There was the eye-popping new athletic facility, a virtual Taj Mahal with cascading waterfalls, state-of-the-art technology, and workout areas that rival the U.S. Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.
And there was Dooley himself, a youthful 44-year-old former wide receiver at Virginia who became a lawyer before following his legendary father into the family business of coaching. He was blessed with hi...