Aug. 23, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Tennessee wrapped up early during its "final" practice of fall camp Tuesday morning at Haslam Field.
"We had a really good, spirited practice and finished early," head coach Derek Dooley said. "(We had) good tempo and a lot of plays being made on both sides of the ball so that was always encouraging. We end it with a mock game tomorrow which is really more game administration than it is practice. I'm real pleased with how we're finishing up and I know everybody is going to be excited to get to game week."
The Vols will get together again tomorrow evening for a mock game, which will focus on all aspects of a typical game day.
"It's really more about substitution issues, getting in and out of the huddle, game administration and all those things that just drive you nuts and that really look bad from a fans' perspective, which we have to get all of those things right," Dooley said. "The pregame has to look good. How we do alerts on special teams, subbing in rabid personnel, this personnel. A lot of substitutions. We have not been on the same sideline ever since camp started. That's what people don't realize. When we scrimmage, offense gets on one side, defense on the other. It will be the first time we're all on the same sideline. It's like a game. We just need to get that work in."
Following the mock game, the Vols will break camp for a few days before regrouping for their first game week of the year, leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener vs. Montana at Neyland Stadium.
"Probably the freshmen are more fried than anybody," Dooley said. "(For) the upperclassmen, it's really not that hard. You really see it in the younger guys, but you also see them come out of it. I've seen a lot of the freshmen have some good days here. Everybody needs the recovery. I'm real big on two days off. It's about 10 times what you get in one day off. You get one day off, it feels good. But when you get two days off back-to-back, it's a real big recovery mentally and physically. We'll be ready to go."
Overall, Dooley has been satisfied with the team's progress through August.
"I don't like to give grades. I've been very pleased with the body of work of the team this camp. We asked them to come here with the right mindset every day and get better every day. I feel like for the most part we have. Now, it's time to turn our attention to an opponent and see what all of this hard work has done and where we are."
OFFENSE ON PACE
With just 11 days until kickoff, Tennessee's offense isn't necessarily ahead of where it's supposed to be. But it certainly isn't behind. According to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, it's right where it should be.
"I'm not comfortable yet, but I won't be," Chaney said. "If you asked me the day before the game, I won't be comfortable. I feel like we're probably on pace. I always like to stay in front of the pace. We're doing what we need to do."
A lot of staying on pace has to do with everyone understanding and fulfilling their individual roles, starting with sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray.
"You're talking about maturity of a unit," Chaney said. "It's just the reality of it. The quarterback needs to play well and then everybody else plays a little bit better. We need people to step up and play better. It's performance-based and I keep telling them that. Do your job. Just do your job to the best of your ability and everybody benefits from that."
While a lot goes into doing that `job' successfully, it all starts with one word on the field: performance.
"I'm worried about performance," Chaney said. "I think if young men think about performing well and doing their job to the best of their ability, all that other stuff takes care of itself. So much of it is in that innate ability of leadership. They just have it or they don't have it in my opinion a lot of times. I just worry about them playing well. If they play well, a lot of good things happen. Concentrate on performance, changing the things and controlling the things they have control over."
MORE OPTIONS DEFENSIVELY
In his second second as the Vols' defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox feels the defense has made great progress and UT has more depth for 2011. That has allowed the team to implement more of Wilcox's defense.
"We definitely have more (plays) in," said Wilcox. "You don't want to make it confusing, but gives you a little more versatility to match up coverage-wise in certain situations. Overall, I think we have improved. I don't think we are where we need to be by any means. But I definitely think we have improved as a club from the front to the linebackers to the secondary. So that's what is encouraging. You just have to continue that curve. No one is going to line up and say, `That guy is a freshman, let's take it easy on him.' It doesn't matter what grade you are when you go and play on Saturday."
The secondary is the area with perhaps the most depth, but Wilcox is still undetermined on some of the starters.
"To name a starter at our second corner spot or the nickel is still up in the air," he said. "But at the same time, all those guys, (Justin) Coleman, (Marsalis) Teague, Art Evans, those guys have all improved. Its a good thing. We will feel good about the guys that are out there. We just haven't been settled on it. There's more competition, each rep counts more in practice and you like it to be that way."
"They will play early," said Wilcox. "They have both earned it through their play and how they have prepared. Curt's a guy that we are going to use a couple of different ways and A.J. Is playing base downs right now. Those guys will have a large role."
Wilcox hasn't been able to put his entire strategy in play, but is working with the skill sets of the Vols that are here.
"Everybody's got a certain personality on what they want to do, but at the same time, we are going to try and take a square peg and jam it into a round hole," he relayed. "We want to figure out what our strengths are and cater to what our players do best. That's any coach's job."