The Vols met Sunday to put the LSU loss to bed and begin preparing for the next battle with Georgia. They took Monday off and returned to the field Tuesday afternoon.
It was evident Head Coach Derek Dooley wasn’t pleased with the way the Vols started Tuesday’s practice, but he did like how his team finished.
“It took a while to get going, but the latter part of practice was pretty good,” Dooley said. “We started hitting a little bit and I think we are back into it. Early in practice we had to get them going – it took us a while.”
Heart-breaking loss or not, Dooley stressed the importance of coming to practice with a clear mind and being ready to work.
“I told them the most important part of a process is removing all the things in their mind that prevent you from coming out here and being ready to perform well," he said.
Dooley and the team will continue their preparation on Wednesday at Haslam Field.
Kicker Daniel Lincoln missed the LSU game following a quad injury suffered the Thursday before the game. Lincoln’s injury has lingered into this week’s practice and it appears that Lincoln will not be able to kick for Saturday’s game. Field goal work will be on the shoulders of freshman Michael Palardy in Lincoln’s absence.
Offensive lineman Dallas Thomas was extremely limited during Tuesday’s practice with an ankle injury. Derek Dooley said Thomas will be day-to-day. The coaching staff has begun to think about backup plans that include JaWuan James moving to left tackle, Jarrod Shaw moving to right tackle and Zach Fulton moving into Shaw’s guard position.
Prentiss Waggner was also seen wearing a red jersey during Tuesday’s practice.
Gordon the returner
After a solid week at both punt and kickoff return, cornerback Eric Gordon has solidified himself as the man for the job, at least for this week.
“He hit the return with conviction, that was my biggest thing,” Derek Dooley said. “(You can’t be) sitting there dancing, juking, you have to go, and he went. All of a sudden, oh my goodness I am at the 40 (yard line). He is doing better, he is taking ownership in it and he wants to be good at it.”
Gordon said he is on the brink of breaking the big play on special teams. His fearless attitude is what helps him be a successful return man.
“I get more and more comfortable every week. I feel like this next week I am going to break a big one," he said.
“Growing up where I grew up, I have seen a lot of stuff, not too much can scare me now – I guess that is where it comes from.”
Short vs. Tall, Young vs. Old
Tennessee will face the big challenge of tall and experienced receivers with young and short corners. Derek Dooley said this week’s preparation will be crucial for the Volunteers to have success.
“I can’t make them older and I can’t make them taller,” Dooley said. “Great technique, trying to help them when we can help them, scheme-wise, great pattern recognition to get a jump on them and a lot of film study to try and get an edge.”
Ex-receiver turned cornerback Marsalis Teague said playing within the defense will be crucial for the Vols to contain a player like AJ Green.
“We can’t go out there and think it's us against him and nothing else matters,” Teague said. “As long as we play within our defense and play our technique we will be all right.”
Jackson a must on special teams
With depth issues on defense the Tennessee coaching staff might be nervous about letting Janzen Jackson participate on both kickoff and punt coverage, but Dooley said it's a risk the Vols will have to take.
“He is fast and disruptive," Dooley said. "That’s why he is on those two units. Rest him on defense, that’s what I say. The field position is too important. Especially with the way we are playing – we are having to grind it out.
“We are not a three-and-out defense like we want to be and we certainly aren’t a quick-strike offense. That means we need to make them go the long way.”