April 13, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With its final practice Friday morning at Haslam Field before the second scrimmage of spring camp, the Tennessee football team worked towards what it needs to improve upon in Saturday's trip to Neyland Stadium.
For the Vols, it's not only enhancing what they struggled with in last week's scrimmage, but mirroring what went right as well.
"I told the players they need to reflect back to (Friday) after the first scrimmage and think about the things they did well and let's build on them and then think about the things that we really emphasized that needed improving this week," head coach Derek Dooley said. "Let's go out tomorrow and try to show that we did it. All we're looking for is steady improvement and I hope we'll see that."
As the Vols have installed more throughout the duration of camp, Friday served as an "addition by subtraction" type of practice.
"What we do is we add a lot and then before the scrimmage like today, `OK guys, let's scale it down,' so they can hone in on these calls for the scrimmage," Dooley said. "We still want them to play fast. We add and then when we get to the scrimmage, we tighten it down. We add more and we tighten it down."
Tennessee's secondary - a strong point during the first scrimmage - kept the Vols' quarterbacks in check with their unique style of play.
"We need better play by the quarterback," Dooley said. "That's where it starts. If we get a few more accurate balls and the receivers pick up the route running a little bit, that's the key. They're going against a real different style of secondary than what they're used to and it's been good for us. It's a lot more aggressive. It's a lot more deny the ball, hands on them. That probably has set them back a little early."
Junior quarterback Tyler Bray acknowledged as much, but also heard his head coach's message loud and clear when looking ahead to Scrimmage Two.
"We struggled last week in the scrimmage," Bray said. "The running game prevailed. This week, we're still going to try to get the running game going, but the passing game as well."
BRAY STRESSING FUNDAMENTALSHeading into the second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray will be going back to the basics, focusing on fundamentals and footwork after not being as crisp as he would have liked in the first run-through.
Although he threw for 142 yards on 13 completions last week, Bray's accuracy wasn't at the level to which he is accustomed as he needed 32 attempts to do so, a completion percentage of just 40.6 percent.
He has his eyes set on a slightly higher goal come Saturday.
"Anything over 70 percent," Bray said. "When the accuracy gets off, it's my footwork just dropping back and being lazy. I just need to pick up my tempo and the team tempo will pick up too."
While he has worked extensively on his mechanics in practice, the scrimmage will provide him a more accurate benchmark of his progress against a defense going full speed in a game-like environment.
"(The scrimmage) is going to help," Bray said. "It's just like the game so if I get my footwork down for the game it should carry over into practice.
"It just takes a little time. I've been doing the same things since I was little so it creates a habit you have to break."
HUNTER TO SCRIMMAGE SATURDAY
For the first time in 217 days, a Vol wearing No. 11 will grace the Neyland Stadium field in action on Saturday. Junior receiver Justin Hunter will take part in the Vols' second and final scrimmage, although he will be wearing a red non-contact jersey. The rising star was off to a sensational start to his 2011 campaign before tearing his ACL at Florida on Sept. 17.
Hunter has been cleared to "do a couple of reps," and hopes to make an impact in his limited duty. It will be his first action at Neyland since the Cincinnati game on Sept. 10, when he hauled in a career-high 156 yards.
"He's doing good. He really is," Dooley said. "He's on track, but he's not 100 percent. He doesn't have his strength levels. He doesn't have his weight. I think all that, it just has to come in time."
When asked by the media what he hopes to gain out of Saturday's scrimmage, Hunter's simple response was: "touchdowns and yards."
Hunter was hopeful of being able to go full-out and not have be non-contact, but that will not be the case. He compared how he will be treated on Saturday to a flag football game, but understands why he will be treated different than if he was 100 percent.
"I think getting tagged (instead of tackled) off is like flag football," Hunter said. "I am not here to play flag football so if I get hit, I get hit, it is not like they are going to come at my legs because they know I am hurt."
Dooley is anxious to see more out of the Virginia Beach native, but knows it won't be until the start of regular-season training camp.
"Actually, I want him to push it a little more, believe it or not," Dooley said. "He has to get past that `I'm still hurt' mode. We also have to be careful. What you don't want to have happen is he never pulls the pin and it's August. Then, he's still thinking about it. At some point, you have to get over the hump that you're doing well."
Hunter says he still has limitations when it comes to making cuts.
"Basically when I try to come out of a cut it comes really slow," he said. "When I am with defenders it is hard for me to get open because they are all over me."
He is trying to put the injury behind him and hopes it is justa few more months before he is at full go.
"The trainers have told me that it might feel weird now but by the summertime it should be normal," Hunter said.
BUSY SIDELINESTennessee's practice was a little busier than usual, with `over 350' extra people roaming the Haslam Field sidelines.
The Vols are in the midst of hosting the 2012 Tennessee Football Coaching Clinic, which began Thursday and finishes Saturday.
"It's exciting because we have all these coaches here," Dooley said. "It was good to have them out there for some professional development. We have a great speaker lineup. Of course, Jon Gruden is our keynote guy. We have some excellent coaches all throughout the day. This is a fun time. It's good for the players to get out there and see all those coaches. It was a good practice today."
Gruden, who served as a graduate assistant for the Vols from 1986-87 and coached the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory, will speak to clinic attendees on Friday evening.
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.