Derek Dooley’s football squad took to Haslam Field and his team seems to be getting younger and younger.
With injuries to Denarius Moore (unspecified), Gerald Jones (hand), Cody Pope (stinger), JerQuari Schofield (foot), just to name a few, players have been forced into starting roles quicker than anticipated.
“Hot, hot, hot today,” Dooley said. “We had a lot of new faces out there that got a little more reps than they are used to, so they had to push through it, but it was a good practice.”
The good news for Dooley is one of his highly touted players, Janzen Jackson, is now playing at a much higher level after returning from a hamstring injury.
“He didn’t play that well that Oregon game, the tempo really got him, but he played better (against Florida),” Dooley said. “He still has a lot of things he needs to work on, he functioned well, but now we need to get him to make some impact plays.”
Impact plays are something Dooley's squad will need in order to hang with a tough SEC schedule and turnover is something the head coach is stressing.
“We need some turnovers – turnovers are so big to me,” Dooley said. “We are trying to get about three a game, that is what we are going for.”
James a Bright Spot
With a dwindling offensive line Derek Dooley may have found a bright spot on an otherwise thin offensive line.
Freshman Ja’Wuan James enrolled early to UT and has since shown exactly what Derek Dooley wants from an offensive lineman.
“He is very bright,” Dooley said. “I think what is special about Ja’Wuan is his demeanor is steady.
“I have never seen him get excited and I have never seen him get down. If he is doing it he is hiding it well. That kind of approach is what I love because that is how I am.”
Oku Must Not Be Timid
With Tennessee averaging just over 18 yards per kickoff return David Oku has been the center of the kickoff discussion.
“What is good is he acknowledges it,” Derek Dooley said. “I think his biggest thing is just committing to the return, trusting that the blocks are going to get made and hitting the hole with conviction.”
Dooley said Oku’s troubles are mostly mental, but the young sophomore must come to practice and work mentally each day.
“I think it is very much mental, but it is something you can work on in practice," he said. You have to train your mind.
“There is a courage factor – those guys are running fast and you are running fast and either you are going to slip by them or there is going to be a collision. That is not for the timid.”
Not the End of Joseph Ayers
Derek Dooley said Saturday’s game won’t be the end of Vols fans seeing a glimpse of walk-on defensive tackle Joseph Ayers.
“He is kind of in the mix in there and we will keep evaluating,” Derek Dooley said. “That wasn’t a one-week deal. We are just trying to have the best chance to win.”
Ayers is one of several defensive tackles that have seen action since the season-ending injury of Marlon Walls.
The Volunteers will return to practice Wednesday afternoon at Haslam Field.