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Vol Report: Hunter 'Scary'



Sept. 8, 2011


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Here are a few quotes from the Cincinnati perspective about Saturday's contest:

"Tennessee is a very, very good football team. They're going to present many challenges for us - it's the first road game of the season, going into an environment like Neyland with 25 individuals traveling for the first time. A lot of those things are going to be great challenges, being able to focus and the mental conditioning that we talk about. It's going to be between the lines, it's not going to be in the stands - letting their fans get into it. It's not going to be letting `Rocky Top' have a hand in what's going on. It's all those things that we talk about - mental conditioning will be at a premium come Saturday at 3:30."

"When you go in and play a team like Tennessee that has great tradition, great backing and great fan support, it adds credibility to what you're doing. We can't get ahead of ourselves. They're a very talented football team with a lot of skill players. They play with a great toughness. It's going to be a great challenge. Our players are looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to it because it's a great measuring stick for where we need to grow as a program. When you play a program like Tennessee, there is a lot of credibility behind that name."

"The biggest thing that jumps out is the overall speed of the game - not just the skill positions. It's the defensive line, it's the linebackers, it's even the offensive line. In the BIG EAST, we have some very talented football teams and players. I think there's probably more depth from the speed standpoint of when you look at an SEC team, especially an upper-tier team like Tennessee."

"It is a concern. It's why we make our practices so demanding. Probably more depth from a speed standpoint when you look at the SEC. Where it's really challenging is on special teams."

"Offensively, their quarterback is a great player, very light on his feet with a quick release. He can make plays. He's made plays with three defenders hanging around because of his release. He's able to get the ball off. Big physical line; I like their backs and talented receivers. And defensively, the back end is one of the strengths of their defensive unit. Up front, they are a typical SEC football team."

"It's a phenomenal test. They have great, tall, long, fast receivers that are really good ball catchers. Some guys are great route runners. Some guys are great make-you-miss-in space guys. They are tall, vertical guys who go get the ball. The quarterback has thrown two touchdown passes in every game he's ever started. He's got an accurate arm. He's got a live arm. He's not afraid to throw it deep."

"We've got to win some one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. But we get tested every day here (in practice). There isn't anybody who throws the ball more often, with more variety or with a stronger arm than our offense. I'd like to tell you that we win every day in practice but we don't because they're very good. We gear up every day to try to prepare for that, so I don't think in our kids' mindset they look at it any differently."

KNOXVILLE - With more than a month to spare before Halloween, Tennessee sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter is doing his best to scare people.

But he's not using a costume. He's displaying potential, instead. Hunter put on a dazzling performance in UT's season-opener against Montana with career-highs of six receptions and 146 yards, while finding the end zone once.

"I think Justin (Hunter) is maturing at a fast pace," wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett said. "I can say that his improvement from the end of last year to the present is tremendous. If he continues to improve, the sky is the limit for him. I'm very excited about what he can do and what he could be.

"The good thing about him is that he listens and he studies the game. He's going to get better and that is exciting for me. The more he lifts and the more he is around the weight room and good eating habits, he's going to get stronger and bigger. That's scary to think about."

Baggett, who has coached the likes of Randy Moss and Cris Carter, is cautiously optimistic about Hunter's future.

"I think his capacity is unlimited, I really do," Baggett said. "I hate to get too excited about young guys too early, but he is a guy that really excites me. I think he can handle a lot. He has played a lot of ball, but if you look at him he is really young. He is a sophomore, coming off a freshman season. I'm excited about the fact that we can give him more, we move him in the slot, put him outside, put him in the one-receiver set. He can do a lot of things."

The owner of UT's freshman record of seven touchdowns, Hunter's ability to play at any receiver position has made him invaluable to the offense.

"He's fast, he's long and he's really worked hard at becoming a complete wide receiver," head coach Derek Dooley said. "He blocks. We've started moving him around, putting him in the slot, putting him at Z and putting him at X. He's shown an ability to make plays at all those positions. We're going to keep trying to feature him as long as he keeps giving us production back. He has the chance to be a really good one."

Tennessee practiced at Haslam Field for the final time Thursday morning, as a Friday walkthrough is the only thing standing between the Vols and their second opponent, Cincinnati.

CONTAINING COLLAROS
Tennessee's defensive coaches are all well aware of Cincinnati senior quarterback Zach Collaros and his dual-threat ability. Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph even went as far as to make a comparison to a future NFL Hall of Famer.

"The guy (Zach Collaros) does a great job of extending the plays and we got to do a great job of matching them up in coverage," Joseph said. "Scramble drills are something that we are really stressing this week in practice because the guy extends plays a ton.

"He's a kind of Brett Favre type of guy."

While the secondary will have its hands full with the Bearcat signal-caller, everything starts upfront.

"The big thing with this kid is when you rush him you can't take your eyes off of him," defensive line coach Lance Thompson said. "You have to have your eyes on him and you have to be in front of him. You can't be high and be by the quarterback because he kills people. He's a very good player and he causes you a lot of issues with his feet and his arm."

FBI
While Tennessee's goals are high for 2011, the Vols are playing with 14 starters that are either freshmen or sophomores. UT is searching for advancement in its FBI.

"We got some good help inside out, but we are trying to teach them football," Thompson said. "We get guys to have what we call FBI, be smart guys playing with football intelligence, but like I said it's a good start."

The first game of the season is an important indicator of where the team is at. Like all units, the offensive line is using it as a learning experience.

"The first game is really important that they learn from it," offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. "I don't think we played like we're capable but that's why you practice and it's why you compete. We've got to keep busting out butts through practice and move forward."

OL FOCUSED ON C'S
Tennessee rushed for 128 yards against Montana, but the offensive line is focused on two things heading into game two: communication and consistency.

"It's critical for the success of the unit to play well together," Hiestand said. "That the unit understands what the other guys are doing, and that they can count on each other with positive communication and getting things done the right way. We're inconsistent with that. We have to build our consistency."

The Vols' front five will look to avoid cluttered communication as they look to win the battle in the trenches against a Cincinnati defense that allowed 127 yards rushing in the Bearcats' season-opening win against Austin Peay.

"They all have to see the same thing and take responsibility for what the fronts are doing, and what the defenders are doing," Hiestand said. "It's a combination of sometimes focusing to much on one thing and then something else happens."

QUOTABLE
Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett
(On Tennessee's young receivers' playing time)
"I was telling the young guys that I would like to see them play more, but they are in the same situation that Da'Rick (Rogers) and Justin (Hunter) were in a year ago. We slowly brought them along and got their feet wet, then at the end of the year they had a little bit more playing time. I think it is going to be a very similar situation as a year ago with Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett and some of the other young guys that are trying to get playing time."

(On having a balanced offense)
"The one thing that helps when you have two good receivers outside is to be able to have a running game. It's hard for the defense to concentrate on all three - two receivers and then a running back. What we are hoping is that our running game comes along and our passing game continues to improve. Just from experience, over the years when I've had two good receivers and we have a good running game or a good running back, it's hard on the defense. That's what we are hoping is going to happen here."

Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw
(On sophomore Tyler Bray)
"Coach Chaney and I always talk to (Tyler Bray) about one play at a time. You can't worry about that kind of stuff (pressure). You are a quarterback. You are a quarterback in the SEC. In that process, you just take one play at a time, you don't worry about anything else but what you have to do. Get the ball to the playmakers, go execute the offense and go do your job. If you think like that, there won't be any pressure being put on you and you won't think about outside things because you have to take clutter and all that kind of stuff, wash it away and take it outside your mind."

Defensive line coach Lance Thompson
(On defensive lineman Maurice Couch)
"Mo (Couch) did some really good things, especially for a first time out on this kind of stage and I was really pleased. He's a force."

(On Cincinnati's offense)
"These guys have three talented players, their quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. They are big time. This is a good football team and we are going to have our work cut out for us."

Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph
(On taking advantage of defensive scoring opportunities)
"We feel if we can score on defense our chance of winning goes up tremendously, so we do it in practice and we reward them. We make a big deal out of it."

(On defensive back Byron Moore)
"I think right now, especially with Byron (Moore), it's about getting snaps as he continues to develop. He allows us to do a lot of different things at the nickel position. He can maybe open up some options as far as the corner, because Prentiss can always go over there."

 

 

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