Sept. 27, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Adapting from high school to college is tough for any student-athlete. Luckily for Tennessee, it has a freshman linebacker that rolls with the punches.
"The one thing he does is he plays with incredible energy," head coach Derek Dooley said of Curt Maggitt. "He plays with incredible toughness, effort, spirit and he's a big guy. When you add all that up, you can get by with making mistakes.
"Good defenses make mistakes and mental errors all the time. But when you have 11 guys who can run, can hit and they're all flying to the football, it makes up for it. And that's what he does."
Staying mentally focused on the field has been a strong suit for Maggitt, who met with the media for the first time following Tuesday morning's practice at Haslam Field. But it's his ability to carry himself off the field that's made the transition seamless.
"It's been a great experience so far," Maggitt said. "It's been a lot different. I'm learning a lot. The toughest part has been adjusting from high school to college, just waking up every morning and having that mindset to be ready every day to get better and be the best you can be every day."
"Every day," is no exaggeration. That's what it takes to be successful as a student-athlete.
"College ball is seven days a week, every day, all day," Maggitt said. "If you are not getting treatment or in film you are doing classwork or getting a nap or getting a meal. You probably have 45 minutes a day to get a little break time, watch a little TV.
A transition to his overall schedule hasn't been the only switch for Maggitt. The West Palm Beach, Fla., native is primarily playing linebacker at Tennessee, after playing defensive end at Dwyer High School.
Regardless of what position he's playing, he's taking his time at UT in stride.
"I like playing both," said Maggitt, who also sees some plays at defensive end. "Playing defensive end, you get an adrenaline rush when you see the quarterback with the ball in his hand. Playing linebacker has its positives and cons. Playing defensive end and pass rushing, it depends on you beating a tackle one-on-one or beating that running back. I am enjoying my role on the team."
BRAY SHOWING GRIT
Entering the fifth week of his sophomore season, Tyler Bray has taken obvious steps forward in his development as both a quarterback and a team leader. With an already young cast surrounding him on offense and the season-ending injury to wide receiver Justin Hunter, Bray's continued improvement has becoming increasingly important for the Vols.
"Starting with his approach, that's the most important thing that he had to change," Dooley said. "He's really locked in trying to play well. You see him asking the right questions. You see him communicating what he doesn't quite grasp to us, which helps us in calling plays. I've seen improvement each week. He was in a horrible situation last (game), and he gritted it out. He showed a lot of grit, which I think is so important in any player."
The grit Dooley talks about comes from Bray continuing to pop up after being sacked three times and hurried nine others by the Florida defense, as well as providing steady leadership in the huddle after Hunter went down in the first quarter.
"His beating wasn't any worse than the beatings he took the last six games of last season," Dooley said. "In fact, it was less of a beating physically. The environment was an environment he's never been in. Of course, what happened in the first quarter changed a lot of what he had been practicing. That's where the grit came in. He sucked it up and put a great drive together right before the half, but he also made a couple bad mistakes. He has to learn from it."
As Bray continues to lead the Orange and White this season, he will have to do so without one of his top playmakers. That doesn't mean he is planning on going downfield any less often though.
"The confidence will still be there, but the accuracy of the ball will probably have to be a little different without having that 6-4 guy who can jump out of the complex," Bray said. "We still have the same deep concepts we had with Justin. The game plan is going to stay the same. We just might not throw it deep as much."
Helping lift Bray's confidence is the trust he has in the remaining receiving corp.
"The receivers have taken over great," Bray said. "Da'Rick and Zach Rogers have shown great leadership at wide receiver and are just doing their job. (At tight end, Mychal Rivera) is a big, wide body. Him and Cameron (Clear) are bigger tight ends and (Brendan) Downs is a little faster. They are big bodies, big targets and have great hands. I always know where he is going to be. Just like all of the receivers, I know where they are going to be when they make their cuts."
A new target that will come into play more often now is freshman DeAnthony Arnett who posted a breakout performance at Florida, snagging eight catches, the most by a Tennessee rookie since Kelley Washington had 11 against LSU in the 2001 SEC Championship Game.
"We ran a lot of short routes to him that Florida was kind of giving us," Bray said. "Just getting him in the ball game and getting him used to SEC play will help out a lot."
OFFENSIVE LINE PRIDE
A tight-knit group, the Tennessee offensive line often breaks practice by simultaneously saying "O-L-P," which stands for "O-Line Pride." The acronym was hurt when the Vols rushed for -9 yards at Florida, but the members of the front five have been their own worst critics.
"I think those guys are hard on themselves," Dooley said. "I think they hurt more than everybody thinks they do when they don't perform well because it's important to them. As long as I see that it's important to them and it bothers them when they don't perform, they'll be fine. They'll fight their way out of it."
They aren't panicking just yet.
"I am not in desperation but deep down inside we want to get it right," offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James said. "It is one thing we wanted to work on all summer and we have to go out here and get it fixed as the season goes on."
RIVERA SEIZING OPPORTUNITY
Opportunity is best defined as the ability to advance or progress. Potentially no member of the team understands this word better than junior tight end Mychal Rivera.
With the exit of former Vol tight end Luke Stocker to the NFL, Rivera has been handed the keys to a position that has produced top NFL prospects for decades in Big Orange country.
"An opportunity like this is what I've been waiting for my whole life," Rivera said. "It's time for me to show up and make plays." After the loss of standout wide receiver Justin Hunter at Florida, that opportunity got a little bigger.
"We've got a lot of guys who can fill in and do their role," Rivera said. "Personally, I know I need to step up and help fill that void."
SEC TOGETHER WE CAN FOOD DRIVE
This is the final weekend for the annual SEC Together We CAN Food Drive! Every fall, the 12 SEC schools and the surrounding communities collect canned food to help fight hunger. Saturday, Oct. 1, from 9 a.m.-Noon, there will be collection bins at three or four locations throughout the Vol Village where UT fans can make donations. UT student-athletes will be collecting and happy to sign autographs and take pictures. All of the food donated goes to the Second Harvest Food Bank here in Knoxville. The first 500 donors will receive a coupon for a free appetizer with the purchase of any entrée at the Texas Roadhouse during Vol Calls with Dooley on Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m.
$10 STUDENT TICKETS FOR BUFFALO GAME
The University of Tennessee announced today that its Athletic Department and Admissions Office have partnered on a unique promotion. The Vols host the Buffalo Bulls at Neyland Stadium this Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and because of Fall Break, many UT students will not be in town to attend the game. As a result, UTAD and the Admissions Office are offering $10 student tickets to all 18-and-under students.
"This is an opportunity to reach an audience that we hope will comprise the next generation of University of Tennessee students and introduce them to one of our great Tennessee traditions, which is a fall Saturday in Neyland Stadium," said Connie Harmon, senior associate director for undergraduate admissions at UT.
The Admissions Office is communicating directly with local schools and will provide them with a convenient method to order tickets online. Students can then utilize the new digital ticketing technology installed at Neyland Stadium this season that allows purchasers to print their tickets at home. Adults will be able to purchase guest tickets at the normal rate of $40.
"We have the best student fans in the nation, and the Buffalo game presents an opportunity to reach out to potential future UT students and introduce them to the one-of-a-kind experience offered at a Tennessee football game," said Tennessee senior associate athletic director Chris Fuller. "We are grateful to the Admissions Office and Student Affairs Office for working with us to make this happen."
For more information, students can also contact the UT Ticket Office at 1-800-332-VOLS or (865) 656-1200.