Oct. 29, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After leaving Tuscaloosa, Ala. with a sour taste, Team 117 started preparation for the University of Missouri on Tuesday evening.
"I thought we had a great start to the week," said head coach Butch Jones. "I thought our players came out and I liked the way they attacked the day. Now moving forward we're going to have to follow that up with another great practice."
Saturday's matchup against Missouri will be the fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent. The Tigers welcome Tennessee into Columbia, Mo. as the #10 team in the country.
It is the second time in school history and the first time since 2005 that a Volunteer team has played four ranked opponents on the road, all consecutively. The Vols have traveled to #2 Oregon, #19 Florida and #1 Alabama in their first three road appearances.
"Our players have a lot of pride in their performance and I know that our players were extremely disappointed in their performance at Alabama," said Jones. "It doesn't get any easier with a great opponent in Missouri."
Tennessee looks to knock off their second top 15 opponent of the season after having previously defeated South Carolina. Missouri is coming off an overtime loss to the Gamecocks.
"Coach Pinkel has done a tremendous job and I've said it," said Jones. "He's built that program over time and they're tough and they're physical and they've got great team speed and it makes it exceptionally challenging.
"Now you throw in a young quarterback and the speed of the game is going to be fast. That's why we have to do a great job of mixing things up, mixing tempos up, different personnel groupings and making the quarterback a factor in the running game as well."
Behind the center for Tennessee will be freshmen Joshua Dobbs who is making his first career start for the Volunteers. Junior Justin Worley went through surgery Tuesday to repair an injury to his thumb and will be out indefinitely.
Jones also had big news revolving around Team 117's Academic Progress Rating (APR).
"I'm really, really proud to tell you that we've been informed by the NCAA that we have made the APR and that we will have no APR issues moving forward and this is an issue since day one when we walked in here as a coaching staff that our opponents have used against us in the recruitment process and we were informed by the NCAA that we made that," said Jones.
STEPPING UP... ALREADY
If anyone had anything to fear about freshman Joshua Dobbs being too young or inexperienced to start on the road in an SEC game, rest assured.
According to senior offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James, Dobbs is locked in.
So much so that he is already taking charge in the meeting rooms.
"Dobbs came to us as an offensive line in our meeting and just talked to us and told us that he believed in us and that he feels comfortable going out there and playing behind the best O-Line in the country," said James. "I like how he is confident and how he approached today."
Dobbs didn't knock and wait for an answer on the door. He came in and asked offensive line coach Don Mahoney if he could wait for a second because he wanted to address the team.
"I was surprised, that takes a lot of confidence and belief in us for him to do that," said James. "That takes a lot of guts and I like that about him."
Dobbs' confidence also exudes on the field, a lot of which starts with knowing the playbook.
"The freshmen have been here for five or six months," said James. "For him to know the playbook like he does and all of his progressions and to be able to stand there confident in the huddle and telling us the plays, going through his reads and everything like that, it is a lot for an 18-year old."
"I remember having to play as a freshman and he is more locked in than a lot of us," said James. "That shows in the game, his preparation. He played well, he didn't look frightened, or scared or anything."
PASS RUSH POINT OF EMPHASIS
Coming off a sackless performance against the No. 1 Crimson Tide, the emphasis of the Vols' defensive line is clear this week. Get after the quarterback.
Through eight games, the Mizzou offensive line has been a major bright spot for the No. 10 Tigers, ranking second in the SEC with an average of 224.5 yards per game on the ground.
While the line excels in the run game, the Tigers are allowing 2.13 sacks per contest - 10th in the league - and the Vols' defensive front plans on exploiting that weakness.
"A as a defensive line we know it's very important to get after the quarterback because it changes the game completely," said senior defensive end Jacques Smith. "It's a big play. We're working on the little details to make us better pass rushers and that's one point of emphasis for us this week."
In the middle, senior nose guard Daniel Hood and linemates have gone back to the basics after a disappointing performance.
"It's really back to basic work - working our hands, grabbing our pressure points, getting more vertical and getting up-field in our takeoffs," said Hood.
Prior to Alabama, Hood believes his group made strides in the pass rush against quality opponents such as Georgia and South Carolina.
"I thought we made a lot of progress [against Georgia and South Carolina,] said Hood. "There are still a lot of things to improve on, but each week we're starting to get a little bit better and starting to understand what Coach (Steve) Stripling wants as a defensive line."
With 18 on the campaign, the UT defense has had success forcing turnovers, and Hood believes that starts up front
"We've got to help our guys in the back," said Hood. If we can get up there and put pressure on [the quarterback,] he'll throw it up to them. It's a big emphasis, especially coming off last week where it seemed like we gave the quarterback forever to throw."
ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER CHALLENGE
While the Volunteers' post- practice on Tuesday was centered around the offensive side of the football, the defensive players are working just as hard with their snap and clear mentality moving into this week's game against Missouri.
The Vols will face a Tigers team that has quickly made a name for themselves in their second year in the Southeastern Conference.
Each game, the Missouri offense shows a new way they can be explosive, whether it's passing or running the ball.
"It is just Missouri," said defensive back Justin Coleman. "That is what they do, they throw the ball and try and see if the DBs are going to compete with them."
For the first time since their addition to the SEC, Team 117 will travel to Columbia, Mo., and the Volunteers plan to create a new sense of momentum on the road.
"It is not simple, but something that we have to do is practice it- practice it over and over, try and create that energy by basically focusing and playing with each other," Coleman said.
Although sidelined with an injury against Alabama, Coleman knows that Brian Randolph will be 100 percent for Saturday.
"Brian is a huge part of our defense, he knows everything about it" Coleman said. "He takes control, he leads, and if someone doesn't know what they are supposed to do he is going to help them a little bit. But we really value Brian back there and he helps us a lot."
"They are very competitive," said Coleman. "They want to score, they want to make you look bad."
THE BIG THREEThis week the focus for the offensive line is The Big Three.
Protecting. Having your Back. Effort.
With a new starting quarterback behind the offensive line, they know they have to step their game up that much more.
"Protect, that is our job to protect," said senior Ja'Wuan James. "Our quarterbacks, our running backs, anybody. We want him to feel comfortable and for him to play to the best of his ability, we have to make sure he is confident in what he is doing. You want to protect a little harder, you don't want him to be hit, you don't want to shake him up."
"We just want to make sure we protect him well," continued fellow senior offensive lineman Zach Fulton. "He's a young guy back there, so we want to make sure we give him as much time as possible."
The Vols O Line has a tough test coming at them in the Missouri defensive line.
But they are used to it. It's the SEC.
"We have a lot of respect for them because they're just great, high motor guys," said Fulton. "They're relentless in everything that they do. We have a lot of respect for them."
"We played them last year and they were pretty good last year," continued James. "They are playing inspired football right now. Coach Jones said it. They are all playing well together."
The offensive line, which has let up eight sacks this season through eight games, fourth in the SEC, have been playing well together, but there is always room for improvement.
"We want to try and get all five lights on at the same time," said James. "Sometimes we have four guys and one guy not doing the right thing. Three guys, two guys. We want all five and that is when we can play to the best of our ability."
James doesn't need any extra motivation to get up for an SEC game. It is all about being the best.
"Personally, you want to stay up for any game," said James. "I don't want anyone to go out there and embarrass me. You want to go out there and embarrass other people."
"So if you come sleeping one day, that is your fault. We take that approach every week."