Jim Chaney looks to lead Vols in final week

This week has been anything but normal for the Tennessee Vols.

On Sunday, head coach Derek Dooley was fired following the Vols' 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt. After a couple of days of moping around, the Vols have to prepare for their season finale against Kentucky.

Dooley, who was fired after going 15-21 (4-19 in SEC play) in this three years, decided not to coach Tennessee in its final game because he thought he'd be too much of a distraction for players. Instead, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney takes over.

His task, along with the rest of Tennessee's coaches, has been to make sure this team is prepared for the weekend as players deal with the loss of their head coach.

Chaney said there were players -- some more than others -- who were really down at the beginning of the week, but once they hit the practice field, the attitudes started to turn around.

"As soon as they go out and get on the football field, things change," Chaney said. "When you're out there, you're working so hard and your mind is going quickly with what you've got to be doing. There are no thoughts of negativity or anything like that."

Chaney said players are more focused now than they were Monday, and he hopes players are aware that this will be the final game for some of the older guys on the team.

For the seniors, they've been through some very tough times in Knoxville, but Saturday's game with Kentucky provides the older Vols with a chance to end their careers with a win, which last year's seniors didn't get.

"I know they want to leave here victorious, and we're expecting them to lead the way," Chaney said of Tennessee's senior class.

A lot is being asked from the vets, but the youngsters on this team have to step up as well, as they say goodbye to the old guys.

"Our team has remained pretty close throughout the season and I look for all the underclassmen to play their high ends off for these seniors," Chaney added.

Like Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, who will be coaching in his final game with the Wildcats this Saturday, Dooley could have stayed for one last game. But he didn't want to be a distraction, and he didn't want his players to focus on him and not the game.

This wasn't a way for him to quit, Chaney said, it was a way for him to turn all of the attention to the players and their final moment.

"Derek was awesome at communicating with them," Chaney said. "Derek did this out of respect for them, and wanted them to have an opportunity to go out on the field and have that be their main focus of attention and give them a chance to win the football game. I hope they go out represent those wishes well."