Hoke wants fo­cus on Ten­nessee se­niors not him

Starkville Daily News - - SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL - By STEVE ME­GARGEE As­so­ci­ated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ten­nessee in­terim coach Brady Hoke isn’t wor­ry­ing about his own fu­ture. His fo­cus is on the Vol­un­teers’ se­niors.

Hoke, who has re­joined the head coach­ing ranks for at least a cou­ple of weeks, said Mon­day that his his ma­jor con­cern is mak­ing sure those up­per­class­men get the best pos­si­ble fin­ish to a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son.

“These last two games are about one thing, and that’s the se­niors on this foot­ball team,” Hoke said Mon­day. “They have been part of 29 wins, and they’ve laid the foun­da­tion for this pro­gram that was badly needed. They’re the ones we play for.”

Ten­nessee ath­letic di­rec­tor John Cur­rie named Hoke the Vol­un­teers’ in­terim coach Sun­day af­ter fir­ing Butch Jones , who had a 34-27 record in five sea­sons. Hoke joined Jones’ staff this year as a de­fen­sive line coach and went 78-70 in 12 sea­sons as a head coach at Ball State (2003-08), San Diego State (2009-10) and Michi­gan (2011-14).

Cur­rie had other op­tions within Jones’ staff. Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Larry Scott went 4-2 as Mi­ami’s in­terim head coach in 2015 . Quar­ter­backs coach Mike Canales was a two-time in­terim head coach at North Texas. De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bob Shoop was a head coach at Columbia from 2003-05.

But it was Hoke who had the most head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Brady Hoke is a three-time con­fer­ence coach of the year in three dif­fer­ent con­fer­ences, has won at the high­est level and was a very ap­pro­pri­ate choice,” Cur­rie said.

Hoke’s mis­sion is to help Ten­nessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC) earn the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence vic­tory that has eluded the Vols all sea­son. The Vols have never had a win­less sea­son in SEC play since the league formed in 1933.

Ten­nessee hosts No. 21 LSU (7-3, 4-2) on Sat­ur­day and Van­der­bilt (4-6, 0-6) on Nov. 25.

“We lost a good man,” said Hoke, who con­sid­ers Jones a long­time friend . “That was the first thing that you deal with from an emo­tional level, a re­spect level, a friend­ship level. Then you’ve got to move for­ward be­cause if we don’t move for­ward with our com­pet­i­tive­ness and our en­ergy as coaches, then you won’t get that from the play­ers.

“These next two weeks are all about coach­ing our hearts out and coach­ing for our se­niors on this foot­ball team be­cause for many of them, this will be the last foot­ball they’ll ever play in their lives.”

Hoke said he would “tweak some things,” but he wouldn’t go into de­tail on what he would change. Ten­nessee closed all prac­tices to the me­dia this week. Un­der Jones this sea­son, the me­dia could watch about 20 min­utes of Ten­nessee’s Tues­day prac­tice ses­sions.

Michi­gan fired Hoke af­ter a 5-7 sea­son in 2014 . Hoke has a chance these next two weeks to show­case his abil­ity to lead a pro­gram, though he said Mon­day he hadn’t really thought much about the pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing a head coach again.

“We’ve got to stay - and I have to stay - in the present be­cause of what we want to ac­com­plish for these se­niors,” Hoke said. “To me, that’s what this is all about, fin­ish­ing out for them in a pos­i­tive man­ner.”

Ten­nessee only needs to look at the op­po­site side­line for an ex­am­ple at how a team can get a boost from an in­terim head coach. LSU’s Ed Org­eron has pro­duced two suc­cess­ful stints in that role.

Org­eron went 6-2 as South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s in­terim head coach in 2013 af­ter the fir­ing of Lane Kif­fin.

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