Derek Dooley understands the tough road ahead for he and his Tennessee football team.
And it will be even harder without the services of wide receiver Justin Hunter and quarterback Tyler Bray. Hunter is out for the season with a knee injury, while Bray could be lost for some time with a broken thumb.
The odds are against the Vols, especially with games against Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas looming, but Dooley said it’s up to his players to put the past behind them and find ways to win in the present. It could take days for Dooley to discuss how he keeps his team’s spirits high, but it basically comes down to his players’ own focus.
“You can probably try and write books on topics like that,” Dooley said Wednesday. “In its simplest form we have to learn to control what we can control. As long as your focus is on what you need to do to play your best for the team, then all that stuff that happens shouldn’t affect you.
“Where it’s a problem is when you allow the external environment, the external situation start affecting how you perform every day and that’s really inexcusable.”
Tennessee showed some fight early against LSU with Bray out and Matt Simms in at quarterback, but LSU eventually wore down the Vols on both sides of the ball before walking away with the win. While Dooley understands the value of keeping his team’s spirits high, he knows that with today’s athletes it can be tough for players to keep the right mindset.
“That’s a hard thing to do as a competitor as we all know,” he said.