Tennessee Looking To Get Most Out Of Last Week Of Spring
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - As
the Tennessee football team approached the final week of spring
practice, it could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But rather
than focusing on the end, the Vols are zoned in on the process of
When taking Haslam Field as UT did Tuesday
morning, or doing off the field work at Neyland-Thompson Sports Center,
180-plus feet are all in.
"We made a real point not to stick one
foot out the door this last week," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We
have three practices and we have another game. This is a real important
week to show improvement. We had every player identify two things that
they need to improve upon the most in the last week. We keep moving
some things around to evaluate players. This is another week and it's
an important week."
The fourth and final week of spring practice
got off to a great start as the Vols' mentality was precisely where it
needed to be.
"It was a really good practice," Dooley said. "I
think the players came off that second scrimmage. We got after them
pretty good yesterday in the meetings, just about trying to make the
game a little more personal.
"I told the team it's one thing to
play hard, give effort and all of that stuff but there's a zero-sum
element to this profession. There's a winner and a loser. You have to
at that moment of truth have that mentality that you refuse to lose.
That's what has to drive you. They did a really good job today and
we'll see how they respond on a back-to-back tomorrow."
In Dooley's third spring at Tennessee, the depth he's built has made a noticeable difference.
think more guys are developing," Dooley said. "In the past when you put
the twos in, maybe there are only 30 percent of guys really developing
who can help you play. Now, having a good two-deep, you feel like
everybody out there has a chance to be a contributor. They're getting
worked and they're getting better."
WHO IS JACOB CARTER?
Vols fans look over the combined statistics from the first two
scrimmages one name that might stand out as somewhat of an unknown is
the leader in receiving yards. That man would be sophomore Jacob Carter
of Nashville. The 6-0, 190-pound product has hauled in eight catches
for 140 yards including a team-best 102 yards in last Saturday's
"Jacob is doing a good job," Dooley said of the walk-on.
"We activated him on special teams. He's playing with a lot of
toughness and he's playing with consistency. What he's doing out there
hasn't been a fluke. He works hard. He has good size. He's tough. He
has good hands. He's been able to be productive."
relationship with sophomore quarterback Justin Worley has really
enabled him to get in the mix as he plays with the second-team offense.
just got opportunities and made plays," Carter said. "Worley and I are
clicking well, but everybody has been able to make plays. When I catch
the ball, Vincent (Dallas) is blocking, Da'Rick (Rogers) is blocking -
everybody is blocking, I just happen to catch the ball on certain
plays. If they catch the ball everybody else is blocking. It just looks
good for me catching balls but everybody is doing the same."
has four catches in each scrimmage. He came out of Ensworth High
School, where he was a starting receiver and safety. Carter earned
All-Region honors as a senior.
"When you're a consistent player,
especially at wideout, you have an ability to be productive because the
quarterbacks trust you," Dooley said. "They know where you're going to
be and they know what your skill sets are."
Carter is somewhat surprised by his success, but points out the Vols are limited in numbers at wideout.
don't have too much depth right now," Carter said. "Everybody is
getting some time on the field. But it hasn't surprised me. Everybody
is getting opportunities right now so you just have to make the most of
Carter knows he still has a long way to go to earn significant playing time once the fall rolls around.
(Rogers), Da'Rick, and Justin (Hunter) are phenomenal receivers right
now," Carter said. "I do what I can. Justin [Worley] is going to give
me opportunities to make plays, I am going to try and help him out when
I can. I am just doing the best I can right now."
Dooley agreed in terms of knowing what kind of impact Carter might make in the regular-season
think it's too early to tell," Dooley said. "He's still a young player
in the program. We've had pretty good success with walk-ons. I've put a
lot of guys on at walk-on since I've been here, a ton. We've had some
being good contributors. Tyler Wolf, some of our long snappers. Nick
Guess we put on. Nick, of course, I didn't do it but he's a great
story. We had Shane (Reveiz) we put on, Joseph Ayres. We've had a lot
of guys and those walk-ons are important."
DEFENSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION
ongoing construction on the new football complex provides a fitting
backdrop for UT's spring practices, as the Vols continue to lay the
groundwork for a new defensive system.
While defensive coordinator
Sal Sunseri's system is still a work in progress, significant advances
have been made over the past few weeks.
"I think they are
progressing very well," Dooley said. "First of all, they like what
we're doing. They have a belief and confidence in the coaching that
they're getting. They're putting in a lot of work outside of football
to try to learn it.
"I'm very pleased with the commitment level
they're putting in there to get it. It's just something that's going to
take time, experience and reps. We have to do a good job as coaches
when we get to game week to make sure that we're playing fast and
As noted by Dooley, the players have been quick to buy in.
asked about the positive attributes of the new defensive framework,
sophomore linebacker A.J. Johnson pointed to the freedom it allows him
to have on the field, as well as the confusion it causes on the other
side of the ball.
"It gives us more room to play, to blitz or
drop back and make plays instead of just having to sit in one spot and
drop to one area," Johnson said. "The offense doesn't really know where
we are coming from or whether we are sliding or not. We can switch up
the protection on them and get in and out of changes so fast that it
BENEFITTING FOR REDSHIRTING
The Vols have
been among the national leaders in playing true freshmen over the last
two seasons, as 32 have seen action since Derek Dooley arrived in
Knoxville in 2010. But in the case of some players, taking a redshirt
season in their rookie college season can be a major benefit. Two of
those players are redshirt freshmen offensive lineman Mack Crowder and
Both Tennessee natives used their redshirt seasons to gain experience as well as strength and size.
freshman year, being a redshirt, it really helped," said Kerbyson, who
played at Knoxville Catholic, where he was a 4-star recruit. "In the
beginning during training camp I didn't know if I was going to or not.
When it was towards the end and finally our coach told me I kind of got
a little devastated but then I realized that it was a gift to have an
extra year to play football, to have an extra year to get an education.
strength numbers are up 40 pounds on my lifts. I went from 18 reps when
I first got here to 26 with 225. So the redshirt has really helped and
it is just like a fresh new start. I am only a freshman instead of
sophomore. So it is really nice."
Crowder agreed that not being
pressed into game action in his first college season helped him in so
many areas to better understand the college game.
comprehend a lot more and really the speed of the game has slowed down
for me," said Crowder, who played at Tennessee High School in
Nashville. "I have gotten used to it a little bit more. I have gotten
used to playing with the guys up front and that's really a big part of
the offensive line, just getting a feel for everybody around you. "
Crowder (center) and Kerbyson (right guard) were listed as
second-teammers on the pre-spring organizational chart by Dooley. The
coach feels the duo and several others who joined the program in 2011
have made some progress through the first dozen practices this spring.
still a ways away," Dooley said. "Kerbyson and (Alan) Posey, probably
Tiny (Antonio Richardson) and Mack have made the biggest jumps. Kerby
and Posey still have a little work to do, but they're making progress
and they're going to be good players for us."
offensive linemen in the mix for playing time, it means more depth,
which is something the Vols have lacked on the offensive line in recent
"It's not where we need it to be, but we had zero depth
when I walked in the first spring," Dooley said. "We didn't even have
any starters, much less depth. We had one guy with three starts under
his belt. Our whole offensive line has probably had over 500 snaps."
DISH O&W GAME SET FOR APRIL 21
DISH Orange & White Game will take place on Saturday, April 21 with
a 2:30 p.m., kickoff. Admission and parking will be free for all fans.
In addition to free admission to the game, Fan Appreciation Day will
feature an autograph signing with head coach Derek Dooley, assistant
coaches and Vol players. The signing, held in recent years at Haslam
Field, will be held on the field at Neyland Stadium from 12:15-1:15 p.m.
Head Coach Derek Dooley
(On UT’s scrimmage penalties)
think some of the penalty issues are not as much on the players as they
are on some of the newness and some things we can do as coaches to
minimize them. They’re little ticky-tack stuff that I think can be
easily cleaned up. They’re not from laziness or that sort of thing.”
(On improving speed)
made some big improvements, especially on offense. We’ve made some
improvements on defense but we’re not as fast as we need to be. It’s a
fast man’s game. It’s a big boy game and a fast guy’s game. What we’ve
seen here is if you can’t get the big guys, you better at least have
speed. You have to have something, size or speed. You want both, but if
he’s a little bit size deficient, he better be able to run.”
(On Justin Coleman)
gone up and up the whole spring. When you look first off at height,
weight and speed, he has SEC measurables. He has everything you want at
the corner position from a height, weight, speed, athleticism, ball
skill (standpoint). He’s a heavy-handed guy. He’s taking coaching
better than he ever has. We’re seeing him having a really good spring.”
(On Jordan Williams)
think with Jordan it’s everything because he’s really a freshman. It’s
a freshman in a new scheme so learning what to do and how to do it. I
don’t think there’s a particular skill set that’s harder than the other
for him right now. It’s just the overwhelming task of ‘I have to learn
what to do and how to do it on every call.’”
Sophomore LB/DL Jordan Williams
(On learning the new defense)
“It’s a lot to learn, but it’s just giving us a lot of options for the season.”
(On playing as a freshman)
feel like I gained knowledge. It has slowed down a lot. I remember as a
freshman it was tough that first time around trying to learn the pace,
but now I feel like I understand it and it is slowing down a lot. Now
it is more of a mental game. I’m glad I got that little bit of
experience just so I know what to expect and what I need to prepare
Sophomore LB A.J. Johnson
(On Saturday’s scrimmage)
“We improved more than last week, but we still have plays to get better on.”
(On Herman Lathers)
just like last year. He replaced Austin Johnson. He knows the scheme
better and it’s good to have a senior on the field to play with.”
(On UT’s nickel package)
believe it’s really aggressive. We are going to have people coming from
everywhere. You never know who is coming and who is popping and who’s
Freshman OL Mack Crowder
(On his spring)
feel like it is going well. I am trying to push for a starting spot,
which is always good for the team to have a little competition, and it
is not just me, it is a lot of the second team guys. I think it is
really going to help everybody in the long run.”
(On competing for a starting spot at center)
is going well. Like I said, competition is always good for the team. It
pushes (Alex Bullard) more and it is not just me, it is Kyler Kerbyson,
Alan Posey, and everyone is pushing to make the whole team better.”
Freshman OL Kyler Kerbyson
(On moving around on the line a lot this spring)
is pretty challenging. I have never played on the left side, I was a
right tackle in high school. Now I have to switch over, switch my
stance and switch everything that is going on. It has been a hard
adjustment but I feel that I am finally getting in to it.”
(On his goals going into the summer)
am OK right now. I definitely want to get everything up. I want to get
over 400 bench. I am at 390 right now. I want to get 550 squats. I want
to get 225 up to maybe 30. I want to get all that stuff. I want to get
more conditioned. I want to get more speed. All of those things are
going to help me in training camp and in the fall.”
Sophomore TB Devrin Young
(On what is being emphasized for him this spring)
coaches are really looking to me to make big plays. I feel like as long
as I can make a play almost every other time I’m in, I feel like I’m
being pretty consistent. That’s what I’m shooting for every time, to
make some sort of play.”
(On the competition between the running backs)
“Competition is every day. Everybody is coming out hard wanting the same spot and everybody is pushing everybody.”