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LABOR DAY

Vols Off Monday, Look Ahead To Game Two

        

KNOXVILLE - While people around the country enjoy Monday off of work, the Tennessee football team is doing the same with practice - a schedule that will be consistent throughout the season. The Vols won their season-opener, 42-16, Saturday against Montana at Neyland Stadium.

 

Like every game, it had its obstacles. One of them showed up in a different form Saturday.

 

“After watching the film, some big-picture items I was really pleased with,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “First of all, how we managed the adversity that hit us with the lightning starting out. I thought our team did a great job in the locker room, especially given the anxiety of a first game. There was so much anticipation to that moment, and then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘We can’t go.’ I was worried a little bit, but we did a good job. “

 

Not only did the Vols deal with adversity in the sky, but on the field as well.

 

“Our youth showed up a lot, because in games it’s never going to be how you plan it,” Dooley said. “They’re always going to come out and throw different things at you, and you have to have an ability to go to the sideline and make adjustments. And we really struggled at that, especially some of the newer guys. We have to do a better job with that. I also felt (the lack of) an overall commitment on each play by the players, the new faces. What I mean by that is you run these plays a certain way for four weeks, and you have confidence and you’re going fast. Then you get out in the game and you get a little bit unsure and you don’t play as fast. I saw that.

 

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray led the offense completing 17-of-24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, while orchestrating a 96-yard drive in the second quarter, the longest by the Vols since a possession covered 97 yards at Memphis in 2006.

 

The signal-caller was one of many bright spots for Tennessee regarding the administration throughout the game.

 

“The substitution and operation of the game, when I look back on it, was a real plus for us – especially given their high-tempo, no-huddle,” Dooley said. “They’re subbing a lot; we’re subbing a lot – so the defense did a really good job on that. And then I felt Tyler managed the game really well from an operational standpoint, so that was good.

 

“Plus-three turnovers; as we know, that’s the No. 1 indicator of winning and losing. And, of course, our pass game I felt like on both sides of the ball was pretty good. We gave up that one bad play – you can’t get it back. But if you did take it out, they were about four yards an attempt; we were about 121Ž2, which is a huge number.”

 

SPEAKING OF LIGHTNING...

While the Vols dealt with a lightning delay during Saturday’s game against the fast-paced Grizzlies, the Vols will welcome a quick-strike opponent in Cincinnati to Knoxville in week two (Sept. 10). The Bearcats posted a NCAA FBS-high 72 points in their season-opening win against Austin Peay.

 

“Their offense is one of those nightmare offenses, because they’ve got a great quarterback who was all-conference, they spread the field and generate numbers by doing so, and they have a fabulous running back who had over 1,000 yards and has a lot of speed,” Dooley said. “We’re going to have to do a great job of tackling in space and we’re going to have to do a great job with assignment football. This is a very good football team coming in, and we’ll see where our team is.”

 

The Vols were fortunate to have also played an up-tempo opponent in week one, but Cincinnati poses a different threat.

“There’s a little carry-over, but every spread team’s a little different,” Dooley said. “This team really has elements of everything. They do a good job because they’ve got weapons everywhere. Is there a little carry-over? Yes. But each spread team’s unique, and probably what these guys do more than a lot of spread teams is they have an ability to generate big plays down the field.

 

“They push it vertically a little bit more than just dinking it out there all the time. They do it all. It’s going to be hard.”

 

INJURY REPORT

During Monday’s media luncheon, Dooley gave an update as to where the Vols are from a medical standpoint.

 

“Injuries – Mo Couch had a slight knee sprain; he’s day-to-day. We’ll probably re-evaluate Devrin (Young) next week, so he’s still in the rehab. He can catch punts but we can’t touch him. Next week, we’ll see where he is and have a better feel for that. Herman (Lathers) update – he got his screws taken out; we’re thinking 4-6 weeks. We hope by the second half of the season he can come in and get back in it.

 

RAMPING UP THE RUN GAME

Tight end Mychal Rivera feels the Tennessee run game has just scratched the surface and that the Vols can make significant strides heading into week two against Cincinnati. The Vols netted 128 rushing yards led by Tauren Poole’s 98 versus Montana.

 

“I feel we need to improve on our physicality up front,” Rivera said. “The O-linemen and myself, tight ends, fullbacks, everybody needs to fire out and finish their blocks. That was one thing that we saw when we were evaluating film. The last two seconds of the play, if we strained just a little harder, I feel Tauren and Marlin (Lane) and those guys could gain a few more yards.”

 

Rivera feels these adjustments could be executed rather quickly.

 

“I feel there are always holes that maybe a fan or somebody (with) that perspective doesn’t see,” Rivera said. “We know, if that block would have happened, it would have been an 80-yard touchdown. I feel we were a little closer and I feel like that next game we are going to prove a lot.”

 

POPPING THE HOOD

After redshirting in 2009 and spending the 2010 campaign as an offensive lineman, sophomore Daniel Hood has made a seamless transition into a starting role on the opposite side of the ball as Tennessee’s nose tackle.

 

While switching from offense to defense is usually a difficult move, Hood has had no such issues.

 

“For me it felt more natural playing defense,” Hood said. “I’d like to say that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it seemed like it was the easiest. Everything seemed to come more natural. Learning the defense seemed a lot easier than it was learning the offense. Learning your steps, the techniques and all those things, to me, that was 10 times easier than doing what I was doing with the offensive line.

 

UT’s starter at nose tackle, Hood was one of nine defensive linemen to rotate in against Montana last Saturday. Although he finished with just 0.5 a tackle, Hood showed how he won the starting spot with his consistency and ability to disrupt the running game.

 

“Dan played about how he has been practicing all year, which is good,” Dooley said. “He’s just steady. He plays with good gap discipline and plugs those holes in the middle. He’s doing a good job for us.”

 

According to Hood, the Montana game is a good starting point for the defensive line, but also shows how much they have left to improve on.

 

“We showed some promise, but we made a lot of mistakes too,” Hood said. “It’s good to get a base starting point to find out where we need to improve. Now we have an idea what our deficiencies are and how to get better from that.”

 

BUTTERFLIES AND JITTERS

As if Tennessee hadn’t waited long enough to play its first game of the season, the weather delay allowed the butterflies to float around for an extra 93 minutes Saturday.

 

“I think the biggest thing is you always get those first-game jitters and butterflies,” senior linebacker Austin Johnson said of the most difficult part of a season-opener. “We just need to be more relaxed, calm and collected for the next game and not get too hyped up.”

 

Johnson recorded his first career start at middle linebacker against the Grizzlies, and is looking forward to at least 11 more opportunities to do so.

 

“I embrace it. It’s been a great three years so far. Coming in here my final year, finally getting a starting role and being the leader of the defense, I really like it. Just getting that first game under my belt felt good. I can’t wait to keep progressing through the season.”

 

Also starting their first career games were to the right and left of Johnson in freshman linebackers Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson.

“Curt and A.J. did a great job,” the elder Johnson said. “I was never really worried about them. They’ve always been really calm and collected. They’re mature guys. They don’t act like freshmen and that’s something we need for this team. I though they went out and executed with great poise. The sky is the limit for those two and I can’t wait to keep watching them.”

 

QUOTABLE

Junior tight end Mychal Rivera

(On not catching a ball vs. Montana)

“My main job is to focus on my task at hand each play: run block, (run) my route, just to try to win the game for the team.”

 

(On Cincinnati)

“They are real big, they are physical. They are another winning program that’s going to come in here and we just have to be ready for them.”

 

Junior defensive back Prentiss Waggner

(On Art Evans’ interception return for a touchdown)

“It charged us up a lot. When Art (Evans) made that play, I ran as fast as I could to the end zone to try to beat him to the end zone. It was big for me to see him make that play. Art’s been through a lot. He’s been like a big brother to me on the team, so it was a big plus for me and for the team.”

(On playing against a spread offense)

“The hardest part about playing a spread offense is that you are sort of out-leveraged. The ball is always on the perimeter so you have to play sound technique ball and you have to be on the same page because if one guy chooses one direction and you both get outside or inside leverage, it could be a big pop.”

 

(On the play of the defensive backs in the Montana game)

“We had a lot of significant improvement from last year. The main thing that stood out to me was our perimeter tackling. This week is going to be that much more of a challenge for us, being that Cincinnati has a few more athletes on its team. We’re looking forward to a big week of practice and working on that perimeter tackling this week also.”

 

Senior defensive end Ben Martin

(On going from playing Montana to Cincinnati)

“There’s a lot of overlap but they’re a different team, different athletes. They bring a lot of different things to the table.”

 

Sophomore fullback Channing Fugate

(On his performance)

“We had a couple good plays. One of them I should’ve turned to the outside instead of the inside, but those are things you learn off of film and we have to get better from it.”

 

(On Tennessee’s running game)

“When we went back and watched it on film, there were a lot of missed opportunities with everybody; Me getting a block, receivers blocking on the outside, just the whole team. There were little things on each play where we could’ve been more successful.”

 

Senior linebacker Austin Johnson

(On the difference between Montana and Cincinnati)

“They throw a lot more. They’re a lot more athletic. They know the offense really well due to a lot of guys being there and coming back. They’re an older team so that’s probably the biggest difference.”

 

(On the defensive line vs. Montana)

“I think they played great. They really got themselves lined up. They had big ears out there and were listening to what was being said. They didn’t panic or anything. I thought they did a great job and handled the tempo well. Being big guys, they never seemed to be too tired so I was extremely impressed with them.”

 

(On Cincinnati dual-threat quarterback Zach Collaros)

“Anytime you see a quarterback like that it’s a big challenge because if they can run the ball you have to be worried about that. You have to always have somebody there which takes somebody out of the passing responsibility. He’s a great player. We just have to make sure we have a good week of practice and we get good looks from the scouts.”

 





 

 

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