KNOXVILLE - After an
opening two-game home schedule, Tennessee is preparing to get its first
road experience in Gainesville this Saturday when the Vols open SEC
play against the Gators. Or as head coach Derek Dooley sees it, the
Vols will get their first ‘scars.’
Dooley said. “I say it a lot. ‘How many scars do you have?’ As much as
you try to teach them and train them, until they get in those
environments, it’s hard to say how we’ll perform. What did we have last
year I guess with Tyler? We played Vandy on the road and we struggled.
We played Memphis on the road but that’s a little different environment
than The Swamp.
“We haven’t really been truly
battle-tested on the road against a good team when they’re loud and
ready to go. This is going to be a good test for our young guys. I
don’t know how we’re going to handle it.”
Vols have seen at Neyland Stadium, the crowd noise can become a hazard
to the opposing team, which is made up of a couple factors.
noise is one thing,” Dooley said. “What you’re trying to simulate with
the noise is just an ability to communicate when it’s loud. But there’s
a second component to it and that’s the anxiety level that comes with
it when you’re in the stadium.
that’s happening, when the noise is coming on offense, it’s probably a
big third-down play. Maybe second down didn’t go as good or this is a
real critical play in the game. Maybe it’s at the goal line. The margin
of error is really tough. You’re concerned about just an ability to
focus and stay calm in the midst of all that chaos. It just is
impossible to simulate in practice. You have to go do it.”
left tackle Dallas Thomas hurt his knee against Cincinnati, but the
elder offensive lineman is still expected to make his 16th consecutive
start against Florida.
Junior defensive back
Prentiss Waggner and freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt are also expected
to be full-go Saturday, but wore red practice jerseys for precautionary
Senior defensive end Ben Martin’s status, however, is uncertain.
knew it was going to be a management issue the whole season,” Dooley
said. “Certainly, this was a little bit different. You hope nothing
else would come along. It’s kind of an ankle sprain. What we were
hoping was if we could get 15 or 20 snaps a game, that was kind of our
goal. But we didn’t last week and I’m not sure if we’re going to his
week. We’ll see. If he doesn’t play, we have the open date to heal.
Maybe he can help us in October.”
FOCUSED ON THE FACILITATOR
much of the talk has been around Florida playmakers such as Chris
Rainey and Jeff Demps, the Vols have still maintained focus on the
individual that’s getting them the ball.
Florida quarterback John Brantley has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 424 yards and a touchdown this season.
think he’s playing really well,” Wilcox said. “He gets the ball to the
right people at the right time. As the coverage dictates it, he’s
throwing the ball in the right spots so he’s done a good job. He
managed the game really well for them. He can make all the throws.”
defense is getting ready for anything and everything Saturday. Facing
Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, the possibilities of what
the Vols might see are endless.
“If you go look at
Charlie’s history, if you just pulled up the first two (Florida) games
and then last year’s Kansas City Chiefs, there’s 10,000 different
plays,” Dooley said. “You do the best you can but it’s going to come
down to number one, playing the defense on principle. There’s going to
be plays that we didn’t prepare for and you have to play the play on
principle, and you have to play the play on principle, on the
principles of the scheme.
“Number two, our ability
to get off blocks and run to the ball and tackle. Those two things make
up for anything you’re going to be minimized in preparation.”
The Vols are expecting something different than what the Gators have shown so far this season.
would expect to see something new other than what we have seen the
first two games,” Wilcox said. “Who knows? Coach Weis is excellent at
what he does. If you go look at 10 games of his, you’re going to see
every play there is and every formation, shift and motion. For us, it’s
going to be more about playing on principles, getting our eyes right
and executing. That’s what is most important.”
While the Gators have played two games, their overall combined margin of victory, 80-3, hasn’t forced them to be too creative.
haven’t seen anything from them because of the two games they played,”
Dooley said. “Same thing on defense. They played vanilla defense the
whole game. They’re not going to do that against us. We’re going to
have to be able to handle stuff that our guys are not prepared for and
that Florida hasn’t shown. It’s a new staff and they played two games
where it was over at halftime. They haven’t shown their stuff. We’re
going to see it this week.”
CHANEY’S OUTLOOK ON FLORIDA D
Vols have shown a prolific offense through two games this season,
piling up 485 yards per game. Tennessee will receive its stiffest test
of the season on Saturday at Florida. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney
spoke with the media Wednesday about the Gators and his thoughts on the
UT’s offensive game plan.
“I see talent at all
levels of their defense,” said the 26-year assistant coach. “From their
D-line, the linebackers, the secondary. They are very good. I look
around and try to find weaknesses in their physical abilities and I
don’t see a lot of that. It will be quite a challenge for us.”
area that has been emphasized in the public this week is the Vols’
height advantage when it comes to UT’s receivers vs. Florida’s
“I don’t think much about that,” Chaney
said. “Some people do, but I don’t. I’m into running what we do as well
as we possibly can. I don’t necessarily think because he’s short or
he’s heavy — maybe because I have always been one of those short, heavy
guys — I don’t put too much into that.”
In terms of the Gators’ front seven, Chaney is impressed.
see a very, very talented front seven,” he said. “Their interior
defensive line and ends are very, very good. They will be a very
formidable foe, no doubt about that. They come off the ball, they are
aggressive and fast. I look forward to the challenge, but they are
super talented up front.”
VOLS PASSING EARLY SAT TEST
the early season success on offense, Chaney has had the ability to
continue to add to the Vols’ offensive play book. With that, the team
has continued to grow. But it’s not without some headaches.
fun to call plays when the plays work,” he said. “It really doesn’t
matter who those 11 guys are out there. No matter where I have been
calling plays, it’s always good when they work.
am comfortable with who we are playing on offense. Calling plays is
like taking the SAT Test every Saturday. You walk out there with a
headache, regardless of who you have playing on the field.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On Florida’s Chris Rainey)
a problem on defense because if you can’t catch him when they flip him
the ball. He’s a problem in the return game for the same reason, you
can’t catch him. He’s a punt block guy so he’s a problem there. He
always shows up as a difference maker in the game and those guys scare
you to death because even when you do it pretty good they’re just so
fast and have that playmaking skill that sometimes there’s nothing you
can do about it but watch them.”
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox
(On going on the road for the first time)
something new. The difference for us is when we’re out there now, it’s
going to be a little quieter. The communication should be better. When
you’re at home on third downs, it’s loud, which is great.”
(On Florida’s offense)
have good speed everywhere. It’s Florida, you are always going to
have that. Especially the two backs are extremely fast – they get
on the edges pretty quick. Even when we have people have them leveraged
outside in they will run around the leverage players on the
defense. It’s something we have been working on all week.”
(On trying to prepare for Florida’s speed)
hard to do. You show them the video so they get an understanding of it.
You do some with our scout team as best you can to simulate some of
that speed but until you play them, it’s hard to simulate unless you
have somebody that fast.”
(On sophomore defensive end Jacques Smith)
has some great qualities. We are trying to find different ways to use
him and get him isolated in the pass game so he can do his thing.
The key there is to give us enough options and not slow things down.”
(On how to pursue the ball against the Gators)
think the term “breakdown” is a vastly overused. If you breakdown
in space, if you have ten yards between you and that running back and
you break down you are just going to look bad. You have to be
aggressive to the ball carrier and you have to play great fundamentals.
And the key is to we have to make some great open field one-on-one
tackles but we also have to hunt the football. If one guy does
miss, which you aren’t going to get through one game without missing a
tackle, even though we want that is probably not realistic. So we have
to ten more guys hunting the football.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney
(On building a running game for the Vols)
feel their defensive line is a very strong part of their defense. Any
type of run game you can do will help you solidify the line of
scrimmage. We go into every game with the hopes of being able to do
that. It’s important for us to be able to run the ball efficiently in
this ball game.”
(On the offense’s confidence)
think we walked off the field from the Cincinnati game feeling pretty
good about who we were in some aspects of our offense, (but)
questioning some other things. When you have young kids, doubt can fly
in and out of their heads very quickly, as can confidence. You try to
continue to have a little bit of swagger when you are doing the things
you do well and you try to continue on the ones you are not.”
(On going on the road for the first time)
on the road with a youthful team with communication and crowd noise is
always an issue. We try to work on it. It’s difficult to simulate.
Quite honestly, my history is you do a good enough job of that in
practice. You crank those speakers louder than any place you will ever
stand in your life. Hopefully, it pays off for us and that’s our
intention and we will go play.”
(On heading to The Swamp)
of them (Vols veterans) have been there before and had to deal with it.
We will have a few plays we will wonder what’s going on. Everybody does
the first time on the road. I wish I could say we wouldn’t, but we will
and I will try not to jump out of the press box.”