Oct. 31, 2011
KNOXVILLE - Tennessee sophomore safety Brent Brewer will miss the remainder of the 2011 season after tearing his left ACL against South Carolina, head coach Derek Dooley announced Monday at UT's weekly media luncheon.
"(It's) unfortunate, but we have to put the next guy in and go play," Dooley said.
Brewer had started the last 14 games at strong safety for the Vols, dating back to last season's contest at South Carolina. The Tyrone, Ga., native has recorded 53 tackles at Tennessee, including 23 stops this season and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Brewer's absence forces freshman Brian Randolph to slide over from free safety, while junior Prentiss Waggner will shift to the back-end from corner. Either junior Marsalis Teague or freshman Justin Coleman will start at right cornerback.
"We wanted Prentiss at corner all year," Dooley said. "We finally got him there and we finally got Randolph ready. We move (Waggner) to corner, he gets a pick and he's playing good, so we have to move him back now."
Waggner is no stranger to the orange and white checkerboards.
Of his six career interceptions, three (all in 2010) have been returned for touchdowns - a figure that set the UT record for most INTs converted into scores in a single season.
Waggner almost found the end zone for the fourth time in his career Saturday against South Carolina, but was stopped two yards shy after his first INT of the season.
"When we watched the film, it would have been better if I had kept going straight," Waggner said. "Their quarterback was around the thirty-yard line and all of the DBs made jokes that I was scared to be caught by the quarterback. I probably should have stayed going straight."
While Waggner did avoided the quarterback on the return, he did just the opposite in coverage.
"It was third-and-long and we were in a hard cover two," Waggner said of his interception play. "I knew I could play aggressively by baiting their quarterback to throw to the flat. I was able to jump the ball and make a play on it."
The Clinton, La., native leads the Vols with six passes defended this season.
STICKING WITH WORLEY
Freshman quarterback Justin Worley will make his second consecutive start under center Saturday against Middle Tennessee. Starting against South Carolina, Worley completed 10-of-26 passes for 105 yards.
"He made some good throws," Dooley said. "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."
Just the 14th true freshman QB to start a game this season for an FBS team, Worley has stayed level-headed.
"He's got a good demeanor," Dooley said. "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. 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 where did we screw up? We probably put too much on him because he gives you that confidence. He handles it in practice, but you forget what it's like when you step out there the first time."
Tennessee's target date for sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray's return is Nov. 19 against Vanderbilt. Although he has different ideas, there are questions surrounding his comeback.
"Tyler says he is coming back (for) Arkansas," Dooley said. "That's what everybody told me. 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, whether he can hold a ball or not. The key is going to be can he put pressure on the ball? How much pain (is there)? What's the risk? How's the bone healed? It's kind of week-to-week."
COUCH COMING ON
With regular starter Daniel Hood a little banged up after two physical weeks on the inside against the nation's top two teams, Tennessee turned to junior college transfer Maurice Couch to start at the nose tackle position Saturday against South Carolina.
In his first start for the Vols, the sophomore from Orlando, Fla., by way of Garden City Community College did not disappoint, posting a career-best six tackles, including a game-high 1.5 tackles-for-loss.
"He played his best game and got player of the week this week on defense," Dooley said. "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 disruptive force on the inside over the past two weeks, the 6-2, 305-pound lineman had five tackles against No. 2 Alabama as well. His last two games alone account for over half of his season tackle total of 21, which ranks 10th on the team.
Couch's progress is a good sign after his UT career got off to a slower start than he would have liked.
"It was really tough at first," Couch said. "I thought I would come in and really adjust very quickly but it was really difficult to make the adjustments. I wasn't too comfortable with everything until our first game. The physicality, the tempo, everything is just fast and hard."
Fast forward to the present day, however, and Couch is quickly becoming an integral part of a Tennessee defense that feels it is starting to turn a corner.
"It felt really good to get my first start," Couch said. "I made a few plays on defense and it was a great feeling, but in the end it was tough that we lost."