Sophomore WR Doesn’t Let Injury Keep Him From Improving
KNOXVILLE - Being on
crutches hasn’t prevented Tennessee sophomore wide receiver Justin
Hunter from being a part of the team or becoming a better player.
who underwent surgery in September to repair a torn ACL in his left
knee suffered at Florida, has tried to maintain a positive mindset, not
only to help himself, but his teammates as well.
just trying to coach the young guys up and tell them what they need to
do,” said Hunter, who addressed the media for the first time since his
injury. “I’m helping them read coverages and just (trying to) be like
another player out there.”
The Virginia Beach,
Va., native was ranked first in the SEC and among the top 10 nationally
in both receptions and receiving yards at the time of his injury.
But he hasn’t stopped working.
can improve with his weightlifting and his physical strength,” head
coach Derek Dooley said. “He can improve in the mental part of the
game. There’s never a time where you can’t work on something to get
better as a player.
“There’s always ways to
improve as a player. When a guy is injured, it’s what we do with every
player. How can we get you to play better when you come back? And
that’s what we’re doing with Justin.”
While Hunter could’ve been devastated by his injury, he bounced back quickly.
just had to throw it out the window because it is going to be there and
it happens to a lot of people,” Hunter said. “I just tried to forget
about it and go on to the next thing.”
Hunter is expected to return to the field for spring practice in March.
ready for him to get off the crutches,” Dooley said. “That will make me
feel better when he’s walking around, but every indication I’m getting
is that he’s recovering well. He’s staying around the team. He brings
good energy around the guys. That’s important.”
In some respects, Hunter’s already back in action.
“If I can’t play on the field, I play on the Xbox sometimes as myself to get my stats up,” Hunter said.
YOUNG AND FEARLESS
the moment he first touched the ball in a Tennessee uniform, freshman
Devrin Young has been making electric plays on special teams and
offense. The Knoxville native grew up following the Orange and White
and is honored to pull on his No. 19 jersey each and every day.
from here, I know how it is tradition-wise and fans-wise,” said Young,
who had been to numerous Vols’ games as a fan. “But to experience it,
on the team, is a little different being on the outside looking in.
you go there are questions about football. You obviously want to have
something good to say about the situation, it’s not necessarily
pressure, you just don’t want to let anybody down.”
took his first college football touch for a score against Buffalo with
a 43-yard kickoff return in his first action at Neyland Stadium.
first time being on the field, I was a little nervous,” said the
Bearden High School grad. “After the play was over, I was very happy. I
felt like I had earned a little of the team’s respect.”
has continued to pile up yards and leads the team with 457 kickoff
return yards to go along with 73 punt return yards as part of 560
all-purpose yards with the Vols.
The start to his
career at UT was slightly derailed as he suffered a broken collarbone
just days before the start of his first college training camp. But he
has recovered to make an impact
“At first, I was a
little frustrated,” Young said. “But I took it as an opportunity, just
to adjust mentally to the game, taking mental reps and catching on to
the speed. I used it as an opportunity to heal up and come back full
In addition to his exploits on special
teams, Young has been part of the offense seeing time as a tailback and
receiver. He hopes to get more action in the final four regular-season
“I just see myself being used how a small
guy gets used in an offense,” Young said. “(Using) speed and getting to
the perimeter. Coach Dooley talks about our role and you get what you
earn, so I’m just working hard and hopefully I can increase my role.”
Dooley has been trying to figure out how to use Young, who missed all of training camp and the first three games of the season.
was tricky about Devrin was I didn’t really see him do anything until
the week of the Florida game in practice,” said Dooley. “He looked what
we thought he was going to look like when we signed him that week and I
just wanted him to get two weeks of practice before we put him out in a
game. Of course, the first time he touched it, I said, ‘That’s what we
were wanting.’ He’s gotten better each week. But he’s also going to be
like this a little bit because he’s learning how to prepare.”
linebacker Herman Lathers, who has missed all of the 2011 season
recovering from an ankle injury, practiced with the team for the first
time this year.
“Herman got some good scout team
work today,” Dooley said. “I wouldn’t say he’s full-blow ready to go
but it was good to see him get his pads on and take a couple hits.
We’ll just kind of monitor him day-by-day. He’s not close to 100
percent so we don’t want to get too excited.”
Lathers won’t play Saturday against Middle Tennessee and no timetable has been set for his return.
an effort to maximize the production of its most talented defensive
lineman, Tennessee has been working senior Malik Jackson back in at his
original position of defensive end a few times a game.
“Coach Thompson decided to put me on the edge a little bit more to get some fast rushers off the edge,” Jackson said. “I’ve been
here practicing with (offensive linemen) Dallas Thomas and Ja’Wuan
James (in practice) and it’s working pretty well in the games so we’ll
just keep doing it.”
Working pretty well indeed.
In the last two games alone, Jackson has posted three tackles for loss,
including his first two sacks of the year. He stopped Alabama’s A.J.
McCarron for a loss of four and dropped South Carolina quarterback
Connor Shaw seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. A disruptive
force in the Gamecock backfield all night long, Jackson also recorded a
pair of quarterback hurries last Saturday.
season, Jackson is third on the team in total tackles with 41 and leads
the squad with 6.5 tackles for loss. He is also tied for the team high
in both sacks (2.0) and quarterback hurries (5).
been pretty happy with my production so far this year,” Jackson said.
“We’ve been working on the run really hard this season, so I’ve been
happy I’ve been stout on the run. I’m a little disappointed in my pass
(defense) but I just have to realize during the season to let it go and
I cannot just think about getting sacks. I’ve just got to work and let
it come to me like it did in the Alabama game.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On the Vols’ start to November)
had a good spirited practice today. It was a good start to November. We
gave them two days off physically to recover their bodies and clear
their minds. It’s something we do after a number of weeks
back-to-back-to-back. I think it helped them. We just have to keep
doing what we’re doing, planting grass and it’ll come.”
(On having an extra day off)
would’ve done it had we been 9-0 or had we played Alabama this weekend.
It’s all based on calendar. You know right at the beginning of the
season when you’re doing it. The monotony of doing something so many
weeks in a row can take its toll. I can see it really taking its toll
earlier with our young guys.”
(On Tennessee’s quarterback situation)
planning on doing whatever we have to do to win the football game.
Justin is going to start. I hope he plays well and we expect him to
play well. If we’re not getting anything done and the situation
dictates that we have to make a change, it’s no different than any
quarterback. We have to do what we can to win the game. That’s what
(On possibly playing Byron Moore at safety)
an option. Byron has been getting most of his work at nickel and that’s
where he’s starting to play real well. Now, he has to start practicing
at safety. I’m a little nervous about putting two first-year guys back
there at safety. I don’t know what the answer is except time.”
Sophomore center Alex Bullard
(On quarterback sneaks)
whole thing about the quarterback sneak is that it is just a pride
play. It is basically whoever wants it more. On the first one we ran
(against South Carolina), they got up under us and we didn’t do a good
job of pushing them off the ball so that was our fault. The second time
we drove them out of there and got some yards. That’s all pride. It’s
not scheme, it’s not what play we are running. It’s just that you need
to get an answer so you put your hand down and you go.”
(On Marcus Jackson)
his first time out there, he did really good. He made some good blocks
and just gained some experience. He’s far along. There are very few
freshmen linemen that can go out there and compete the way he competed
on Saturday with the confidence and technique that he did. He’s just
really physical and competes hard. That’s what we want. When he blocks,
he tries to blow the person off the ball in front of him. That’s what
we need and that’s the attitude that our line has to have to be
Senior defensive lineman Malik Jackson
(On Tennessee’s defensive improvements)
just been working harder. The defense got together as a whole and made
sure we learned our stuff. We’ve been trying just to do our jobs and go
out there and play for each other and have fun.”
(On the team’s vibe at practice)
spirits are up. We’re working hard and Coach Dooley says we’ve got four
more games and it can change our whole season. We’re going to go out
and have one game seasons and try and win them.”
(On the return of Herman Lathers to the practice field)
“It’s good to see Herman back out there. We’re all glad he’s back out here working.”
(Reflecting on Herman Lathers’ injury during the summer)
wasn’t there but I was heartbroken when I heard about it because he is
such a good guy. When you get guys like that hurt in a walk-through
it’s unfortunate. It is what it is, he’s a great guy, he’s in good
spirits and he’s a team leader so it’s good to have him back.”
Sophomore wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers
(On his dropped pass from Justin Worley that potentially could have been a touchdown)
hurt dropping a ball that easy. I haven’t dropped a ball that easy
since my junior year of high school. I’ve just got to focus a little
harder. I probably just took my eye off the ball a little bit.”
(On the importance of making that catch for QB Justin Worley)
definitely got to make that play for Worley. For his confidence and
everything else. I went to him right after the play and told him I owed
him one. I’ve really got to come out here this week and focus on the
whole route, catching the whole ball and not getting too excited about
getting in the end zone. I looked up and saw the end zone and it went
right through my hands. That’s on me. I’ve got to make that play for
(On staying focused while moving out of conference play against MTSU)
you play in the SEC, October is going to be rough and that’s at every
school. You know that coming in and you see it on the schedule way back
in January. Really, you just have to keep your focus one game at a time
and that’s what we are doing right now.”