KNOXVILLE - The Tennessee football team suited up in full pads for the first time this preseason while installing third-and-1 and goal line situations Saturday afternoon. After beginning the session at Haslam Field, rain forced the Vols to wrap up their opening week of fall camp inside Neyland-Thompson Sports Center.
"We weren't as good as we needed to be on third-and-1 (last season)," head coach Derek Dooley said. "I think we were about 70 percent on third-and-1 last year on offense and we really need to be 100. A lot of things go to that and that's kind of where we are."
One thing that has been as good as it needs to be thus far in camp is the team's physicality.
"We've hit pretty good the last two days, but it was great," Dooley said. "The whole day was pretty physical. The pads were popping. The team is doing a good job. I'm looking for things to criticize but I've been pleased with them."
JANZEN AT NICKEL
Junior defensive back Janzen Jackson, who earned All-SEC second team honors while playing safety as a sophomore in 2010, is getting a look at the nickelback position this fall.
"He's so disruptive," Dooley said. "He has a lot of gambler in him. A guy who gambles when he's way in the back, if he misses, it's like putting all of your money on black 22 and it's over. If you move him up a little bit, you're kind of spreading out your bets because you have guys behind him. If he misses, they can make the tackle. It allows him to be a little more aggressive in reading the quarterback and taking some chances without really killing us.
"He's an active, fast-twitch, instinctive guy. I think it can disrupt the quarterback a little bit more by moving him down, but what you lose is that range in the backend. He's kind of been our save-our-ship guy in the back so we have to make sure we get a guy back there."
UNDERCLASSMEN BACKS GARNER PRAISE
Sophomore tailback Rajion Neal used his speed to find the field as a freshman in 2010. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 14.3 yards per reception last season, the Vols plan to find even more situations to use Neal in.
"He's a fast guy," Dooley said. "I think he's one of the fastest on the team. He made a lot of plays for us in space last year at running back. We're going to try to create ways to get him in space and get the ball to him to where his speed can help him a little bit more. We're kind of playing around with him as a specialty guy. We still have him in the backfield but putting him out wide to see what he can do and where he might help us."
This season, it's freshman tailback Marlin Lane who has an opportunity to use his skill-set to find the field as a rookie. So far, he's impressed.
"I've seen a lot of good things from Marlin," Dooley said. "You can tell he has very good elusiveness. He's an instinctive guy and he's tough. He loves football and has a great passion for the game. I've been real pleased with him. We'll see how he sustains. We'll see what his durability is as camp goes on. He's shown everything we hoped he would show in the first few days."
LET'S GET PHYSICAL
Coming off a sensational freshman season in which he started all 13 games and earned All-SEC Freshman Team honors, Ja'Wuan James has worked on his craft during the off-season to be in better shape.
"My mentality (on being physical), how I approach every block, every play, whether its a pass or a run, I'm just going to play physical," James said. "I'm going to let them (the defense) know I'm there all four quarters."
After a year where Tennessee started four freshmen offensive linemen at times, the Vols have a young, but veteran O-Line for 2011. Along with James, fellow sophomores James Stone, JerQuari Schofield and Zach Fulton all started at times in their first college action.
"All of us across the board feel more confidence," said James. "We aren't going out there not knowing what's happening any more. Our freshmen year is over, we got to go out there all those games (and gain experience). Now it's just playing hard and keep going at it every day in training camp."
SAPP GIVES VOLS A HYBRID OPTION
After playing in 11 games as a true freshman and posting a solid spring at safety, sophomore Dontavis Sapp is getting some work with the linebackers early in camp. At 6-2, 219, Sapp's big frame provides the coaching staff with some versatility among the front seven and secondary.
"The coaches have me working a majority of the time as a linebacker, but I can still play safety if they need me to," Sapp said. "The way we play, I'm already in the box and with my big body I'm already in the action. I think (moving to linebacker) will help me a lot with coverage. Most of the time, (linebackers) cover the `slugs' of the offense, so I think my coverage will be great against those guys."
"(Sapp) looks pretty good in there," Dooley said. "He's instinctive, he's big and he gives us another body in there. It's good because he can sub in at safety, so he's got a little hybrid in him."
Football single game tickets go on sale Monday, August 8 at 8:30 am via UTTix.com or by calling the Ticket Office at 865/656-1200.
Aug. 6, 2011