Aug. 15, 2011
KNOXVILLE - While it wasn't Shakespeare, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is using his own analogy to motivate his interior defensive linemen to place opposing quarterbacks at the bottom of a well. Not literally, of course.
"We're not getting much at tackle," Dooley said following Monday's practice at Haslam Field. "That's an area of concern. They don't have to have sacks, but tackles can push the pocket. When they're not pushing the pocket, I make the analogy `Have you ever tried to throw out of a well?' Nobody has, obviously. Nobody has been at the bottom of a well. If you're standing at the bottom of a well and you try to throw a ball out, it's hard because there's no room to follow-through. You're sitting there and there's a wall there.
"That's what two good tackles that can push the guards back into the lap of the quarterback and he's then he's throwing out of a well so he short-arms it. We're getting the pressure at the end, but then he can step up and make a throw so that doesn't do you any good. We need better push out of the inside. And it hurts not having Malik (Jackson). We have our best defensive lineman out. When you have a thin roster as it is, that's going to hurt you."
A second team All-SEC pick in 2010, Jackson sprained his right knee during the first week of camp. His absence has created opportunity for others, but he is still missed.
"Corey (Miller) is playing better. Mo (Maurice Couch) is getting a little better. Dan (Daniel Hood) is kind of a steady hand. Dan is more of a first-down run-stopper. We just don't have a lot of guys in there. We need Malik back."
With classes beginning at the University of Tennessee on Wednesday and just under three weeks before the season opener against Montana, Dooley is trying to make sure the Vols avoid any external disruptions.
"We need a lot of practice," Dooley said. "We got one today so I think the big thing I want their focus on is we have three practices here before school starts. We had a one-a-day today and a two-a-day tomorrow. We identified about two or three things to every player on the team on what they need to improve on these next three days. We're trying to keep their focus on that. There are a lot of distractions. You can start feeling it in the air with school getting here, girls are in town and class is starting so we're trying to eliminate all of that in their minds and just stay focused on football."
That focus was solely on football Saturday evening during UT's second scrimmage of preseason camp, but the room for improvement still exists.
"I thought we made a lot of improvements in areas," Dooley said. "We ran the ball better. We had a little better command. We didn't give up big plays on defense. We got good pressure on the quarterback. Both sides made a lot of improvements in a lot of areas, but we're a long way to go from being a good football team. We need a ton of practice. A lot of the mistakes that were made are not repeated mistakes. They're just things that we're going to have to learn over time. We need experience. We need practice. That's where we are. We feel good about the guys we have. We just have to develop them, coach them and get them to play well."
True sophomore Corey Miller is getting a shot at increased playing time while his mentor senior Malik Jackson recovers from an injury. Miller feels he has made solid strides at defensive tackle, but knows he has a lot more to learn.
"I came in with a goal to work on the natural fundamentals," said Miller, who made two starts and played all 13 games a year ago. "I made that my goal, so that's what I wanted work on, I felt like I have gotten a little better at it. It's all about work, muscle memory, get it right and continue getting it right. Practice makes perfect."
With Jackson sidelined, Miller has seen a significant amount of action, but is ready to yield to the preseason All-SEC selection when the time is right.
"Malik Jackson has been my mentor the whole entire time," said Miller. "He has been teaching me. When Malik gets back, he's going to play. When he needs a break, I want to make it where we don't miss a beat."
UNDER THE RADAR ROGERS
With most of the attention on the sophomore wide receiver combo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers, junior Zach Rogers' strong fall camp has gone a little unnoticed. That doesn't bother him much though.
"I just kind of like to go under the radar," Rogers said. "It's not really a big deal for me to get talked about that much. I just come out here every day and try to work and improve on something. I think I've done pretty well so far, but there is always room for improvement and that's what I come out here every day and try to do."
Rogers, who has caught 17 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown in 24 career games, provides the Vols with a versatile option that the coaches can plug in wherever they need him in order to create the match-ups with the defense they are looking for on any particular play.
"We have Justin (Hunter) and Da'Rick (Rogers) and those are our primary receivers, obviously. If there is any way I can help, I'm here. I'm a guy that can be versatile and I can go in wherever they need me. It's been slot primarily this fall camp. That's what I played last year with `G' (Gerald Jones) and `D-Mo' (Denarius Moore). If G would move to slot, I would go outside. We have the same kind of thing now. If they want Da'Rick in the slot or Justin in the slot, I will slide out and play outside. Just whatever this offense needs."
Although he is entering just his third year with the program, Rogers is the elder statesman of the wide receiver corps with 24 career contests, twice as many as any other receiver on the UT roster.
"I'm only a junior. I have a little bit of experience, but I've learned from G, D-Mo, my brother (Austin) and Q (Quintin Hancock) and all those guys that I've played with how to be a leader out here. You can't let the heat or whatever phase you and you have to come out here with the same mindset every day. That's what I'm trying to teach these young guys. Hopefully, they will learn something from me."
While Rogers is usually the one dishing out advice to other wide receivers on the practice field this fall, he knows exactly who to call when he needs a little help, his brother, Austin, who was a four-year letterwinner for the Vols from 2005-08.
"(I talk to him) every now and then. He's busy with his job so I don't want to bother him too much, but whenever I need advice I know he is only a phone call away. He's been through it all before, so he has all the right answers."
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