Nov. 17, 2010
Tennessee's modest two-game winning streak has been, according to head coach Derek Dooley, the culmination of several events.
Some players have gotten healthy; some have improved their performance -- both in the games and at practice -- while still others have simply acclimated their skills to the collegiate level.
UT's defense under coordinator Justin Wilcox is a prime example of that improvement.
The Vols as the month began ranked 93rd in scoring defense, 62nd in interceptions and 94th in turnover margin. Now, after Wilcox changed his game vantage point from the sidelines to upstairs and victories followed over Memphis by 50-14 and Mississippi by 52-14, the numbers are much better -- 68th in scoring defense, 17th in interceptions and 30th in turnover margin.
"I think it's a cumulative effect of a lot of things," Dooley said. "As time goes, a lot of the guys not as experienced get a little better. I think that (Wilcox moving upstairs) helped, but I'm not sure how much.
"(They are forcing) turnovers, which is the best thing you can do on defense, and they have kept the points down. They have played well; they've played with a lot of good energy. They are playing with a lot better gap discipline, playing a little more confident. We've still got a long way to go and we're still making a lot of mistakes, but hopefully, we can continue that defense and keep it going.
Shaw has seven starts at right guard and three more at left guard, filling in where he is needed.
"Shaw's our swing guy," Dooley said. "Let me tell you; to me, Shaw has been one of those MPV guys. Not maybe because he's out there dominating every snap, but he's played almost every position on the offensive line. And every time a guy has gone down, he's the guy who's been the sacrificial lamb because we have all these young guys we don't want to move around because they can't learn.
"He's been phenomenal, his attitude's been great, he's playing to his capacity and so I'm proud of him.
Vereen, meanwhile, who was a Freshman All-SEC selection two years ago thanks to his work on special teams, earned his first career start against Ole Miss.
"He's been playing a little better," Dooley said. "He's been active. We kind of had him on the shelf for awhile, but he stayed with it with a good attitude and got his opportunity in the game and made some plays.
Dooley said that on the injury front, defensive back Eric Gordon was held out of practice Wednesday because of the lingering effects of his concussion suffered Saturday, and offensive guard Zach Fulton (ankle) still is not 100 percent. He added that safety Janzen Jackson (ankle) and wide receiver Zach Rogers (concussion) are doing fine, as is placekicker Daniel Lincoln, who had a good kicking session Tuesday.
OTHER TV OPTIONS FOR SATURDAY
In addition to Saturday's UT-Vanderbilt game being televised by CSS, viewers also may watch the action through ESPN GamePlan or ESPN3 both inside and outside the state of Tennessee with no blackouts.
Kickoff from Nashville is set for 6:30 p.m. Central time (7:30 p.m. Eastern).