Nov. 23, 2010
Tennessee continued its preparations indoors Tuesday at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex for its final regular season game Saturday against Kentucky.
The Vols, who have won 25 straight contests against the Wildcats, have a lot to stay focused on.
"I told them the most important thing right now is what they do when they leave this building on how they recover," head coach Derek Dooley said. "And then when they get up, the most important thing is putting together another good day's work. I hope they're keeping their focus on that."
Although the Vols have won their last three games, Kentucky presents an experienced team that poses a lot of dangerous options.
"The thing about Kentucky is you see veterans in a lot of guys who are playing well," Dooley said. "That's why they're scoring so many points. That's why they're already bowl-eligible. They have a lot of weapons."
The Tennessee secondary, which ranks third in the SEC and 12th nationally with 16 interceptions, will have its hands full with UK senior quarterback Mike Hartline.
"He's had a lot of snaps a little bit like the guy at South Carolina (Stephen Garcia)," Dooley said. "Whether he's played great or not prior to this season, it doesn't matter. He has a lot of experience. He knows what those coverages look like."
Freshman offensive guard Zach Fulton is still recovering from an ankle injury that held him out Nov. 13 against Mississippi but Dooley said he's making progress. Fulton has started three games at right guard for Tennessee and has seen action in nine games this season. But it's his build that has Dooley excited for what he can bring to the table in the future.
"He has really good stature," Dooley said. "He's a big guy and he can bend. He has a lot of lower body power so he has a lot of great physical attributes. He's a little bit more physically developed than a lot of the younger, freshmen linemen. I think that's helped him."
BRAY ADJUSTING TO DIFFERENT LOOKS
Quarterback Tyler Bray's explosive performances in his first two career starts made it easy to forget that he's still a young, developing freshman. Bray garnered SEC Freshman of the Week honors in consecutive weeks for his work against Memphis and Mississippi and didn't turn the ball over in either contest.
Against Vanderbilt, Bray completed 16-of-27 attempts for 232 yards and two touchdowns but also threw a pair of interceptions, all a part of the learning curve for the Kingsburg, Calif. native.
"I think it's a process," Dooley said. "He's not going to watch that film and say, `I have it now.' He has to go back out there and go play a team that uses cover ages that look different this week. What Tyler is learning is that it's not the coverage; it's how they play the coverage. There's a lot of ways teams play cover two. A lot of ways the safety plays and a lot of ways the corner plays. That's when you get good as a quarterback. You're not really recognizing the coverage as much as how they're playing the coverage."
Between Bray's first throw at South Carolina, an interception returned for a score, to his first interception against the Commodores, the standout freshman went 58-of-96 for 980 yards and 12 TDs (QB rating: 187.42).
FUGATE STEPPING IN
For freshman fullback Channing Fugate, it wasn't a matter of if, but rather when. The Jackson, Ky. native has started three games for UT, including his first career start at South Carolina.
"I expected him to be our fullback at some point," Dooley said. "I knew he was going to be a good, solid fullback but you never know how they're going to respond when you throw them out there. He responded like we hoped."