April 10, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - One of the main focal points heading into Tennessee's 2012 spring was to improve the running game.
The results so far have been favorable for the Vols, evidenced by their performance on the ground during last Friday's scrimmage.
The Vols carried the ball 52 times for a total of 258 yards, an average of five yards per carry.
"It's good to have that kind of production," head coach Derek Dooley said after UT's Tuesday morning practice at Haslam Field. "I say we're not day trading but we're moving guys around because we're trying to evaluate them. Rajion is having a really good spring. He just needs to keep going. He's playing a lot faster and he's playing with a lot more physicality. His numbers reflected that."
With 15 carries for 100 yards in UT's first scrimmage, Rajion Neal led the Vols in both categories, averaging 6.7 yards per touch.
"My big thing is that I want to keep competing, and show the coaches and the team that I am dependable," Neal said. "I want to be back in the backfield and help out as much as I can. Whenever my time is called, I'm ready and I try to take full advantage of it."
Also taking full advantage of his opportunities is sophomore Devrin Young, who used his shiftiness and explosive ability to lead Tennessee with 7.5 yards per carry on Friday.
"He's really blossomed a little bit at the running back position," Dooley said. "We're obviously going to use him more there. He can just do some things that a lot of guys can't. He has a lot of quickness, instincts, a burst and he can really make some big plays for you."
Marlin Lane, who was Tennessee's second-leading rusher in 2011 as a freshman, knows it's a crowded and talented backfield, but is focused on how it will further better the Vols.
"Every day we come out here, compete and we help each other," Lane said. "We're together on it, but at the same time we are competing for a starting position. It's a lot of talent and every running back has different abilities to do different things."
Tennessee's number one emphasis with the running game has been "really hitting and playing fast," according to Dooley. It's that aggressive style that has yielded positive results from the Vols' diverse backfield.
"I think it's just something they have to form a habit of trusting what's going on up front, hitting the hole and playing with physicality," Dooley said.
SENTIMORE HAPPY TO BE BACK IN SEC
It's not often that a college player can see action for two teams in the same league. But that is the case for Vols junior transfer Darrington Sentimore. After beginning his career at the University of Alabama, the defensive lineman transferred to Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi before joining the Vols this spring. Sentimore has two seasons left to play with the Orange and White is looking to make the most of his second opportunity in the SEC.
"I had to get back in the SEC," Sentimore said. "It was very important for me to get back in the SEC. There is great talent here in the SEC. A lot of good things go on in the SEC."
Sentimore saw action in 11 games as a redshirt freshman with the Crimson Tide in 2010 before heading to the JUCO route.
"I just want to win," Sentimore said. "I competed when I was over there (at Alabama), I compete here. Every day I get on the field I compete. I will compete even harder when we play Alabama."
Dooley has been happy with Sentimore's progress and has even run him with the first-team defense during spring practice.
"He's been good," Dooley said. "He's still working on his consistency like most of the guys on defense. Stamina is going to be an issue with him, like most D-linemen, big, heavy guys when they go a lot of snaps getting tired. He has knowledge of the system which I think has helped."
A major benefit for Sentimore is that he is the only member of the Vols to have previously played on a defense that new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri was a part of. Sunseri was the linebackers coach at Alabama during both of Sentimore's seasons in Tuscaloosa. That has made the transition for the transfer more smooth than that for many returning Vols, who are playing for Sunseri for the first time.
"It is not a lot different," Sentimore said. "It is pretty much the same stuff. Coach Sal is a lot harder than he was at Alabama. I know what to do already and I know what he expects on the field."
Sentimore feels the move to a multiple defense including emphasis on the 3-4 versus the 4-3 run by the Vols for the past few seasons can be a positive.
"There is a lot of pro-stuff that we do," Sentimore said. "There are a lot of little lanes that we have to learn, that if you were in a regular defense you wouldn't have to learn. I already know all of them; it is a lot harder for the other guys to learn it. But I think they are adjusting well.
"We did good as a team in the scrimmage on Friday. I think we are doing good as a team. He is disciplines his guys well. I know we are going to win a championship over here with him as our defensive coordinator."
READY TO ROCK AND ROLLLinebacker Greg King has battled a number of injuries that have limited his effectiveness throughout his Tennessee career, but the redshirt junior says he is back to 100 percent and is finally "ready to rock and roll."
He backed up those words last Friday, leading the squad with seven tackles in the first spring scrimmage.
"Greg has had a good spring," UT head coach Derek Dooley said. "Greg was a guy who really nobody talked about until this spring. I think the move to the 3-4 really gave him a chance. He's a big, thick body. He can hold point in there. He's playing good for us.
"Greg's biggest issue is I don't know if he's practiced more than a week at a time since I've been here in two years. He has size. He has explosive power when he tackles. He has a good attitude. We just have to keep him on the field. I'm going to reserve judgment until we go through a spring without him getting hurt."
King agrees that it has not been the easiest couple of years, but says he is ready to make an impact on the field this season.
"The (injuries) kept coming back-to-back," King said. "You keep trying to get healthy and then you have another one that comes right after it. It was frustrating. I was practicing, no excuses, but sometimes your body doesn't tend to give as much so you breakdown. I was like a rusty chain on a bike, but I feel good now."
One thing that he feels will help him accomplish that goal is simply being able to participate in practice.
"I got a lot of mental reps, but there isn't anything like being out there physically," King said. "You see everything that is going on. Mental (reps) are a great way to learn, but you also have to have the physical reps."
DISH O&W GAME SET FOR APRIL 21The DISH Orange & White Game will take place on Saturday, April 21 with a 2:30 p.m., kickoff. Admission and parking will be free for all fans. In addition to free admission to the game, Fan Appreciation Day will feature an autograph signing with head coach Derek Dooley, assistant coaches and Vol players. The signing, held in recent years at Haslam Field, will be held on the field at Neyland Stadium from 12:15-1:15 p.m.