Oct. 29, 2009
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin answered with the refrain "game-time decision" when asked after Thursday's practice about a number of key positions and situations for Saturday night's contest against South Carolina.
The Vols host the Gamecocks in a 7:45 p.m. Eastern time kickoff.
All game-time decisions regarding their health.
Who's returning punts? Who covers Gamecocks receiver Alshon Jeffery? How's the field-goal protection unit stacking up? Who's kicking field goals?
Again, game-time decisions for the Vols head coach.
"We're pretty healthy for the most part," Kiffin said. "I anticipate everybody being a game-time decision or playing.
"I thought we had a very good week. I thought today was OK. I thought Tuesday and Wednesday were very good. We've still got a lot of work to do. It's a very complicated team that we are playing."
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) enters the weekend striving for the .500 mark, while 21st-ranked South Carolina (6-2, 3-2 SEC) already owns early-season SEC victories over Mississippi, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Vols are trying to bounce back from last weekend's disappointing loss to Alabama that came on the heels of an exceptional effort against Georgia.
"We have played two good games, but we're going to need to play extremely well," Kiffin said. "This is a top-25 opponent coming in that's very dangerous."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney says the key to South Carolina's defense is its physical nature.
"They present a lot of problems on the edge of your offense. You hope you can hold up in the middle of your protection so the quarterback has the ability to step up. I don't believe anybody will be able to keep those guys, with their speed, from coming around the edge.
"If we can run the ball a little bit and keep our physical play in the line of scrimmage, we might be able to slow down their pass rush and hopefully be able to throw the ball. The last couple of weeks, we've been able to get Jonathan (Crompton) on track throwing the ball and that's the key to what we're trying to get done."
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin also has noticed the physical nature of South Carolina's receivers, especially Jeffery with his 24 receptions for 443 yards and five touchdowns.
"When are we going to play somebody who doesn't have a good receiver?" Kiffin said with a laugh. "This guy's just a rookie -- he's playing like a rookie in the NFL. He's a great receiver and they are going to him a lot. (Quarterback Stephen) Garcia is getting him the football."
The Vol Network and ESPN are providing Saturday night's coverage from Neyland Stadium.
-- Senior offensive linemen Cody and Cory Sullins are this week's CAREacter Star Athletes of the Week. The twin brothers from Cottontown in Middle Tennessee have started together on the Vols offensive front for the last four games and are quite the success story on this Tennessee football squad.
Both have earned Academic All-SEC honors three times and both already have earned their undergraduate degrees. UT has 10 players on the team who have graduated and five more who have completed requirements for their degrees. Of those 15, a dozen are seeing substantial playing time.