Oct. 31, 2011
Head coach Derek Dooley met with the media on Monday to preview the MTSU game. He revealed that sophomore Brent Brewer suffered a torn ACL in the loss to South Carolina. Read his transcript here.
"Well just wrapping up another tough loss. It was a game where we created more opportunities than we ever have on defense and special teams and couldn't take advantage of it. It was a real positive getting two turnovers, one to the three-yard line, one to the 29. We had a punt where we recovered a fumble on the 28 and then we penetrated down to the 41 one time and had that third-and-one, fourth-and-one issue and penetrated to the 27. With all that, we got three points. We have no chance to win when you can't put points on the board. We have to improve. We have to figure out a way to score some points.
"Brent Brewer tore his ACL so he is out for the year. (It's) unfortunate, but we have to put the next guy in and go play. We are going to start Justin (Worley) again this week. Justin obviously didn't play great. He made some good throws. He did some things that we felt good about and then he made some really bad decisions and some throws that he could have thrown better. Hopefully, we will see a little improvement in his play. I think we will. I think there were a lot of nerves out there that affected him especially early on. I don't think anybody really played well around him and that was probably the disappointing part. Everybody has to do their part, play a little better around him and I think we will be fine.
"Middle Tennessee has a real good staff. I know some coaches over there that have been around a long time. They have had some bad breaks and probably could have won three more, but they certainly are more than capable of beating our tails, especially if we don't figure out a way to score some points. We have to carry on. It's a tough month we had and we have to put it aside and keep working on the things that we are showing some progress on. There are some good things and we have to find some solutions on how to score some points. Three weeks in a row now we have one touchdown. It doesn't matter who you play."
On how Justin Worley differs from Matt Simms
"We feel like in practice that he has delivered the ball very well, more consistently and more accurately. I don't want to get into comparing the two. Matt does some things better than Justin and really a lot of it's unknown what he does better. We just made the decision to go with Justin based on how we have performed as a unit when Matt has been in there."
On how much one game will help Worley
"I hope it will help. We screwed up the first play of the game and we only went over it 68 times, just to get the first play down and we messed it up. I hope it will help him. Alex (Bullard) had some problems at center this week, so you had a center playing his second game and a quarterback playing his first game. When those two guys are a little out of sorts, it makes it hard. Hopefully the will get a little better and play a little better."
On it being the right decision to start Worley
"Well I don't know what the result would have been if I didn't start him. If I knew the result was we would have won the game, then yeah it was a terrible decision. If the result was going to be the same, I don't know. If we would have gotten blown out then it was a good call. I don't know what the answer is. But I can't look back now. I guess only time will answer that question."
On Worley's demeanor after the game
"He's got a good demeanor. He's not an emotional guy, but he was disappointed in how he played. He knows he didn't play well. He will bounce back; he made some good throws out there. He got in a little groove right before the half and hit a few balls, hit the two balls to Arnett, threw a nice curl. I thought he was starting to play his way out of it and then he comes in the third quarter and makes a bad decision on the goal line and makes a bad decision on the post play, both after the turnovers. We have to do a better job of keeping it simple on him. We might have put too much on him as coaches and that is the first thing we always do is (ask) where did we screw up. We probably put too much on him when I look back on it because he gives you that confidence. He handles it in practice, but you forget what is like when you step out there for the first time."
On Tyler Bray's return time
"Tyler says he is coming back Arkansas. That's what everybody told me, but how does he know? He is sitting there in a cast. The projection all along has been maybe by the Vanderbilt game. There has been no indication to challenge that, because you just don't know. They have to go a certain amount of time, take it out and see where it is strength-wise. We have to see whether he can hold a ball or not. The key is going to be can he put pressure on the ball, then how much pain, what's the risk, how's the bone healed. It's kind of week to week, I don't know."
On the limitations in the run game with Worley
"I don't think we are anymore limited than we were with Tyler. I think we can do some more things with Matt, there is no question. You get a little nervous about putting too many run checks in, but you can run enough stuff and sometimes you just have to make it work. It's what you have to do."
On Worley struggling to get in a rhythm
"It was not getting in a rhythm. The calls weren't really coming in late, but it's his first time getting signals, then you have to process it, then you look at your wristband and you have to spit it out. There were a couple of times where he got the wrong signal and he looked back again (to ask) if that was it. Then there were times where he just didn't call the play correctly and so they are trying to figure it out. Its just part of the process, that administration part."
On Worley being disappointed to come out of the game
"I think he was disappointed. I told him he is OK; you are going to be back in there. I just felt like he just threw two picks. I'm trying to win the game you know and I didn't want him to go out there and throw another one."
On moving Prentiss Waggner back to safety due to Brewer's injury
"Yeah, we really don't have many options. We have to move Prentiss back and put some corners in. They have to go play better. Brian Randolph will go play where Brent (Brewer) was playing."
On how comfortable Randolph is playing strong safety
"I don't know, he hasn't done it. We are going to have to try and make it simple for him."
On the defense making plays
"It's what we want. We wanted Prentiss at corner all year. We finally got him there and we finally got Randolph ready. We move (Waggner) to corner and he gets a pick, he's playing good so we have to move him back now."
On the offense and defense getting along through the team's struggles
"I don't think any coach has not been in one situation where just one side of the ball is struggling and the other is playing well. We aren't exactly lighting it up on defense either so we have plenty to look at. That one drive we gave up in the third quarter we didn't get the ball. Unless you are in the top five in the country in total defense it's hard to sit there and assign blame, but it's human nature. I don't think there is any question that it is human nature, but you look at when teams are struggling to score points at every level. Look at the NFL, when your team is struggling to score managing that psyche is difficult, but good defenses and good teams, it doesn't affect them. It doesn't affect them at all and that is what I expect our players to be like. Embrace the challenge of going out there and stopping somebody."
On getting Devrin Young more touches
"We probably need to get him more. There have been a couple of things, one is that he got hit in the Bama game pretty hard, so we were nervous this week about using him too much. He went a couple days in the green shirt, but we need to get him the ball more, we do. It's just really a combination of us getting more confidence in him every week and then he kind of got set back. When he gets hit and he comes back hobbling you really get nervous, because where do we go on a return game and that has been a real bright spot for us. We hit two kickoff returns that gave us good field position. We didn't get a chance to hit a punt return because of the punts, but he has been a good weapon for us and we need to get him the ball. We need to use him effectively, but not get him hurt."
On what the defense missed with Curt Maggitt out
"Well, you miss a lot of disruption and a lot of production. That is what he does. Even when he is not producing he is disruptive. It hurt us out there a little bit, but the next guy has to be ready to step up. We expect him to be back this week."
On Maurice Couch
"He played his best game and got player of the week this week on defense. I'm proud of Mo. He's starting to come on. He's a hard to block guy and we need about three more Mo Couch's inside. He's doing a good job progressing. A lot of these guys, these first year guys, especially on defense. You look at Izauea (Lanier), Mo, Brian (Randolph), A.J. (Johnson), Curt (Maggitt). Who else do we have in the first year of the program? And Byron Moore is starting to come on. They are starting to show progress and that is what we need from them. They have to keep playing better and we have to try and get five more next year and then you get five more after that and then here we go."
On junior college players coming in and playing right away
"It's hard. There are a few that can do it right away, but most of them it takes at least a half a season. One of the reasons we were so excited about Mo, Izauea, and Byron is that they are here three years. After this they still have two more (years) and that was one of the reasons we went after them so hard is the three years of eligibility."
On correcting bad habits for junior college players
"Well high school guys have them too. We spend a lot of time with all our players on bad habits in all areas of life."
(On Byron Moore)
"We never told him a weight he needs to play at. He has a lot of development to do physically with his strength levels and his explosive power, but he was heavy and it affected his speed. He's not a naturally explosive hitter, so consequently he was not performing very well. I'll tell you he's had a great attitude. One of the reasons I like being so involved in special teams is you can evaluate and that is when guys start showing signs that they are getting a little settled in. It's a great way to get them out there and get their feet wet into a game. Byron started showing up on special teams, playing a little more aggressive, playing faster and playing more confident. Well, once I saw that we got him back out there on defense. It usually translates. Same thing with Izauea (Lanier). You can really start spotting them on teams."
On Marcus Jackson
"Marcus did some good things. He got beat a couple of times by their good guy. But you know, we pass protect well; that's the one thing we do. Unfortunately, we can't throw and catch, so it doesn't do any good. And he did pretty well for a freshman out there going against a really good d-line. He hung in there. He wasn't worse than anybody else."
On how Rod Wilks can help in the secondary
"At safety. His (success), too, depends on the game. He's obviously a little better when it's a jam-it-in-there, physical game. He played a good bit last week. He's doing well. He plays good on special teams and does some good things."
On the differences between strong and free safety, and Randolph's ability to change positions
"It's all how you put your game plan in. Were they dramatically different with Brent (Brewer)? Yeah, because we never really had him in the deep middle. He was always kind of the down guy. We make mix it up a little bit now with Brian to make it easier. It just depends on how you shape it for the week and who you're playing. That's probably the biggest thing.
On the significance of being more competitive against SEC East teams this year
"That's a tough question. We have been. I feel like we've improved in a lot of areas, but the last three weeks we took a step backward because we can't throw and catch. We really have. It's just hard to say. I see a lot of improvement in the program. I do. It's very difficult when you're 0-5 in the SEC to feel good. It's hard. It hurts. The players hurt, I hurt, you can't sleep at night trying to figure solutions. But you've got to keep your perspective on where you are and where you need to go. And that's not an easy thing to do, especially in today's climate. But if you don't keep your wits about you, it will put you in your grave."
On whether Saturday's problems were more the throw or the catch
"It was both. There's not much juice outside doing stuff. We had some opportunities to make some plays and didn't do it. We've just got to play better everywhere. We're not getting much. What's been hard is we don't have that vertical push guy, so it hamstrings the other guys a little bit. It doesn't stretch them out and now they're not as good as they would have been. Hey, look what got us going last year - it was pushing that ball down the field to a fast guy. When you do that, things tend to open up. And when you don't have that, things start suffocating."
On evaluating the route-running
"I think we could do a lot better when we get challenged. The route-running's fine until some guys get on us and we have to get open. That's what matters. It's when you're contested. That's why I couldn't play today. I was really good when I played. They played Cover 3 and Cover 2, and you could wiggle around, find a little open area, catch it and fall down. And they said, `He's a pretty good little receiver.' Well, when you get challenged, what happens? Whether it's man or a match zone and they're on you and you've got to separate, you've got to get open and create a throwing lane for the quarterback. And we can do better than that. We're not doing as well as we need to. We get stuck on guys sometimes."
On running more trap plays against South Carolina
"That's our No. 1 play this year. We've run that more than anything. It's been our most successful play. We felt we could run it between the tackles a little better than we did. We've got to block them better and we've got to run better. Yards after contact - we're about at zero. We've got to get a little better than that. That was a real difference in the two running games (Saturday night). We had a lot of times on defense, especially on that long drive, where we were hitting them behind the line of scrimmage and they galloped for four. When we get hit, we've got to try to get those two or three extra yards, and we're not having much success at that right now."
On if last year's team was better at yards-after-contact
"I don't think so over the course of the season. I don't think it's much different. Some games we're really good at it and some games we're not. It's just been an inconsistent thing.
On the punting game and using both Matt Darr and Michael Palardy
"Matt's got a lot of ability, and we're still trying to get him defined, who he is as a punter. Mike had a great game against Alabama and had a great first kick, but he's had some inconsistencies punting the ball as well. So there's no real clear better guy, and because of that I want to keep developing Matt. We're trying to find somebody to develop some consistency."
On if Palardy's multiple kicking duties wear him down
"I get worried about that, I do. But he didn't have a lot of kicks - we don't have to worry about kickoffs so much. That's the advantage of not scoring, you know. You've only got to cover one kick. If you cover two, you're kind of fired up because you're not shut out. Kickoff guys are fired up about not scoring; they don't have to run down. We don't have to talk about how bad Palardy's kickoffs are. But he's kicked them good in the game. He's put them right where we want them and the coverage unit's been good. We tackled them on about the 23. We had two of them, right? I'm trying to remember the other one. Oh, yeah (onside). We only had one deep kick. I wish I could have put the practice clip in there; it was perfect. I think he got a little adrenalin rush - kicked it in the third row. It was bad. But you know what? When you make a call like that, you know one guy's got to execute the kick or you look like an idiot. He might have been mad at me about something, so he made me look like an idiot. I'm going to be nicer to him. He hit me, I think. It wasn't even close.
On confidence in Palardy as a field goal kicker
"I need about six timeouts a half; I'm going to petition the commissioner. But we go out there and they give us one of those high school deals and we jump. Then you move it back 5 (yards). Well all of a sudden, now he is out of his routine. So then we're about to line up again and (Chip) Rhome says we are not in tackle over-range so he goes, `Hang on a second,' and he pulls the tackle over. And I am sitting there on the sideline, `This isn't going to be good.' Mike has to learn how to manage all of that time when you get out of your routine as a kicker, and that is part of growing up and I told him that. You get a penalty or they call a time out - just managing that kind of down time. You have to start over in your mind, get in your pre-shot routine and then go stroke it. I think that probably affected him. I have a lot of confidence in Mike. As far as distance, he kicked that 52-yarder in the Alabama game. I don't know if I'd try him much further than that. It just depends on the game, the situation, the field, the elements - there are so many things that go into it. And what the down and distance is, how our defense is playing - there are a lot of things that go into it. That is why I call that the gray area, the gray zone. You can sky punt it, you can go for it, you can kick a field goal, fake a field goal, fake a punt - there are a lot of options there and you hope you get it right."
"Just what I see on film. Of course, they run spread, fast pace, which we have to do a good job with that. It's hard to prepare for. Defensively, I think they are extremely athletic, fast to the football and aggressive. They've have had some bad breaks. They've had three teams - should have beaten Purdue. A couple other teams they had beaten and they did get the breaks right down the stretch. I know this: they are good enough to beat us, every bit. If we don't figure out a way to score some points, we will be in next week not feeling too good either."
On in-state schools playing with more passion against Tennessee
"I do, I do. We did at La. Tech. All these guys, they want to come prove it and it's a great opportunity. Look, I think it is great for the state. I do; I'm for these games. What's the risk? Yeah, they can go out there and pluck you. It doesn't look good. But it's good for the state, it keeps a lot of money in the state, it's a great opportunity for those guys to come take advantage of how we're playing. So we better strap it on."
On the October teams being as good as advertised
"What most of you see in those teams, that's what they are. They are all capable of being anybody in the country, and you need to play very well against them. You've got to find a way to run the ball and score points against them. When you don't - just looking at when those teams play each other. Georgia ran the ball well, Florida didn't. Georgia won the game. Of course, Alabama and LSU - they run it, stop the run. If you can't run the ball well, you've got to be really good throwing that football and pushing it down the field. There are a lot of good teams in this league; that's what makes this league special. So you got to get a deep, talented football team to be able to compete with them. You've got to do a great job of coaching and you've got to do a great job of developing your program so you have a good, veteran group that is shaping the young guys. We're just a long way from being there.
On handicapping LSU vs. Alabama
"Are you asking me to set the line? Good gosh. I'm worried about Middle, man. I've got enough problems. It doesn't matter what I think about them, it's what I said after the game: It only matters who plays the best for 3½ hours. And they may play again anyway. It wouldn't surprise me.
"All right, guys."