Closing Time

Closing Time

Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers shifted their focus to the end of the game in the middle of spring practice Wednesday. Read as InsideTennessee.com brings you all the latest from Haslam field and spring practice.

Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers waltzed onto Haslam field for the second day of a three-day stretch.

Wednesday the Volunteers had to sift through a pair of gut-wrenching 2010 memories when Dooley and the staff installed four-minute offense.

"Today we installed four-minute offense, which is when you are ahead in the game and you have to eat up the clock to preserve the victory," Dooley said.

"Last year we were 2-2 in four minute. We did a great job at Vanderbilt, a great job at Kentucky and we won the games.

"We didn't get it done at the bowl game and we didn't get it done at LSU – that put our defense in a two-minute situation and we lost the game."

For any Tennessee fan it undoubtedly makes their stomach churn when taking a glimpse into last season and remembering the losses at both LSU and the Music City Bowl.

There is even more of a pit for Dooley and his players and one thing is for certain there will be plenty of work on the closing minutes.

"If we could have just executed the last two minutes of those two games we are 8-5," Dooley said. "So, it was good to get that work in – four minute and two minute.

"We are going to get a lot of it in between now and the first game. Being a good situational offense, defense and special teams is so important. It is usually the difference in four or five ball games."

Dooley says it is mainly an ability to focus and not let the situation control you. This has been one of Derek Dooley's main stresses thus far during spring ball – overcoming obstacles and playing out of hard times.

Several players that will be vital to the success of the Vols new four-minute offense will be the new receiving core. A group that will be faced with the challenge of replacing names like Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore and Luke Stocker.

One player that might be setting himself up for a role in that new receiving core is true freshman Vincent Dallas. Dallas has already established himself as a threat to replace Jones this fall.

"Very excited about Vincent Dallas – I think he is a guy that shows a lot of promise," wide receiver coach Charlie Baggett said Wednesday.

"He is a very good athlete. I think he is a guy that can play inside at the slot and take some of the load off of Da'Rick and Justin on the outside, like Gerald Jones did a year ago. Get in there and move the sticks, get some third down catches for us. He is mature beyond his years as a receiver."

Dallas will challenged by Zach Rogers and even DeAnthony Arnett, who hasn't even arrived on campus yet, but wasn't left out of Baggett's role call of possibilities for slot receivers this coming season.

Baggett's biggest concern – "the sophomore slump." With both Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter coming off stellar freshman seasons it will be important to transition from big-play to every-down receivers.

"You always worry about what they call the sophomore jinx and this being those guys second year, they have to take the full load and it's a little bit different than last year when they came in and did some clean up work," Baggett said.

Tweenin'

The Volunteer defensive line is full of what Derek Dooley calls "tweeners." Much like the recent move of tackle Marlon Walls to end it will be important for the big boys to get versatile.

"We have a lot of tweener guys on the defensive line – meaning they are not really stout enough for tackle, but when you move them out a bit they have pretty good girth," Dooley said. "We have to keep them versatile. We have a lot of options because a lot of our linemen are not the prototype defensive tackle mold, so we are going to have to use them in a lot of different roles."

Walls is a most recent example of versatility on a defensive line that also saw Malik Jackson move from end to tackle in 2010.

Surprising Speed

Justin Hunter is the track star in Tennessee's lineup at wide receiver, but it is another Vol wideout who is making waves with his speed, Matt Milton.

"He still has a long way to go, but he has some tools, he is a size-speed guy," Charlie Baggett said. "I didn't know he ran as fast as he does."

While Milton has the speed it was him playbook development that had to catch up with his feet, but the sophomore is well on his way to working himself into the lineup on the edge.

"Matt has come a long ways. His freshman year, some guys develop a little quicker, Matt was one of the guys that took a little longer to catch on, now that he has caught on, knows how to work hard, what we are looking for, he has really come a long ways."

Amped Up

With JUCO players waiting in the shadows the competition has been severely amped up in the Volunteer secondary. Spring camp will be important for anyone vying for a spot in the starting lineup.

"I think those guys know that I am in contact with those guys every other day installing also," secondary coach Terry Joseph said. "Those guys are expected to come in here June 1 and playing time is going to be at stake."

"I think everybody understands the magnitude of being here, practicing now and also it is going to get turned up even more in the summer when the other guys get here."

Derek Dooley and the Volunteers will return to Haslam for practice Thursday afternoon before scrimmaging in Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

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