Nov. 7, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee has obviously had issues slowing down opposing offenses this season but defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri is not about to back down from the challenge of getting them straightened out.
Instead, he is confronting the problems head on.
"You always have pride," Sunseri said. "We are not playing as good as we need to play on defense and I am responsible for it because I am the guy that is calling it. It has to get done. I am not one to turn my face or my eyes away from it, we have to get it done. We are going to keep battling until we get it done."
Although the Vols yielded over 700 yards and 48 points to Troy last weekend, Sunseri did see some signs at the end of the game that gave him hope for improvement over the final three weeks of the season.
That improvement will take a lot of hard work and commitment, but those are two qualities Sunseri is quite familiar with.
"The only thing that I am not disappointed about is that we won the game the other day, but we figured out a way to get off the field at the end of the game and give the ball to the offense," Sunseri said. "Then we played well in two-minute. In this game, people told me that I was too small to play, I was too this and all that and I worked through it and got it done. Right now, we just have to play better defense and that is the attitude that I want to take to the kids. We are going to work through it until we understand it and we do what we need to do to get better."
In Tennessee's ongoing evaluation of its entire defensive structure, one option being considered is having Sunseri move from the sidelines to the press box. While he isn't quite ready to tip his hand about whether that will happen or not, he does see positives about a potential move.
"You will have to wait until Saturday to find that out," Sunseri said. "It is what it is. [I have coached from the press box] for the last seven years. To me, I like being up there because you are away from everything. I think you get better eyes up there and can see more of what is going on. The only thing you miss is being around those kids and pushing them and all that. Coach [Dooley] has made a good decision on this and he wants to do it, so we are going to do it."
While Sunseri's placement on game day is still up for discussion, his unwavering desire to get UT's defensive issues solved is not. Regardless of the results through the first nine games, the Vols still have three more regular-season contests remaining and Sunseri plans to make the most of them.
"The season isn't over yet," Sunseri said. "I think the season right now, we are sitting here and we have a chance to go out there and get another win. We are looking at this game. It's been a learning process on both sides.
"My hat is off to the kids because they came out here today and they gave everything they could. They are trying and they play hard in the game, but we just have to quit making the mental mistakes. I am not disappointed in the kids, I am disappointed in myself. I just have to keep pushing them and keep on finding out what is going to trigger them and make them better."
DOOLEY'S DEFENSIVE STANCEIn his weekly SEC teleconference head coach Derek Dooley made it clear that he is spending the lion's share of his time on the defensive side of the ball to help address the Vols' issues.
Dooley alluded to some "significant changes," but wasn't specific as to what the adjustments were.
"I have been spending all of my time over there and more to be just another eye to make sure that our players are out there not confused and not thinking," Dooley said. "We have made some significant changes that I hope will show up a little big on game day but it is not something that you can overhaul in one week."
Playing without a win in the SEC, Dooley stressed the magnitude of the game with league newcomer Missouri.
"This is obviously an important game for us," he said. "There is a lot at stake, we are trying to get our first SEC win and we have played well in this league but haven't gotten the W. We are playing a team who is playing really well now. They had Florida on the road and their quarterback is playing a little bit better, so it is going to be a big challenge for us."
Last week's Troy game started what Dooley has termed a "second season," and that they Vols must play each week as individual seasons. He is keeping to that mantra.
"The biggest thing we have focused on is trying to be 1-0," said Dooley, who has coached the Vols to a 7-2 mark in November games. "We did it last week, that was all our focus was to be 1-0 any way we could do it. Our team has kept their focus pretty good. The reality is they know what is at stake and certainly going to the bowl game is a big deal. It is still out there and it is our opportunity to take advantage of it."
When you are running an offense that is in the top-20 in the country, you should be having fun.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney says that he is.
According to Chaney, calling plays for the 2012 Vols has been the most fun he has had at Rocky Top.
"You have enjoyment as a coach when your players are executing the production they need," Chaney said. "When they are not you don't. I was happy late Saturday because we won the ball game."
Chaney's fun was short lived, because although he stopped to enjoy the moment on game day, he went right back to work Sunday to prepare for the Vols next challenge, Missouri.
"You don't get to feel good for very long, you move on to the next ball game," Chaney said. "Enjoyment is something that maybe during retirement I will get to enjoy something. Right now it is moving on to the next obstacle which is the Missouri Tigers."
Chaney made 76 different play calls on Saturday, which resulted in 35 first downs, tying the school record. His play calls also resulted in 55 points, 718 yards of total offense, and most importantly, a win.
But as always, Chaney is modest about his abilities.
"I don't know about all the numbers," Chaney said. "Every ball game whether you win or lose there are plays that you wish you could have done again. There are always four or five calls a game that I wish I could have taken back. That doesn't change, seldom every changes. Over the period of time that I have called plays, there is good and there is bad and ugly with every ball game. That is why the end result is what really matters, we got the W."