At this point there isn’t much the Tennessee Volunteers can do to prepare for their first road test of the season. Crowd noise, practice and film study, you can do it all, but nothing compares to game day in Gainesville.
Coach Derek Dooley and his Vols took to the practice field Wednesday afternoon to continue preparations for a journey that many players on his young football team can’t imagine.
“As much as you try to teach them and train them, until they get in those environments it is hard to say how we will perform,” said the head coach. “We really haven’t been truly battle tested on the road against a good team when they are loud and ready to go. This is going to be a good test for our young guys.”
Crowd noise boomed into practice at Haslam Field in an attempt to try and shake up the Vol offense in preparation for a rowdy crowd. The head coach saw what he needed from his No. 1 offense.
“The ones did OK, but the twos could barely get a play off,” Dooley said. “You are concerned about an ability to stay calm and be focused in the mist of all that chaos. It is just impossible to simulate in practice. You just have to go do it.”
The Tennessee offensive line has jumped the gun on four plays this season in their two home games, but false starts could be a larger issue with the Florida fan base roaring.
Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand could be one of the most challenged coaches on the Tennessee staff heading into Week 3. Florida’s defense having been extremely vanilla, his line largely untested and a young group to boot.
“The guys have to be on the same page, handle what they throw at us and that is the challenge,” Hiestand said. “That is the challenge going on the road the communication, working together and sorting things outs. The number one challenge is to block the guy you are responsible for.”
Tyler Bray has only touched the ground twice in the first two contests, but Hiestand’s group will likely see a lot of packages that the Gators haven’t shown yet.
Dooley knows that his team is going to have to manage a lot of looks that they haven’t seen on film.
“We haven’t seen hardly anything from them in the two games they have played,” Dooley said. “Same thing on defense, they played vanilla defense the whole game. They aren’t going to do that against us.
“We are going to have to handle stuff that our guys are not prepared for and that Florida hasn’t shown. They haven’t shown their stuff and we are going to see it this week.”
The Gators have smashed their first two opponents and have likely barely cracked the playbook this season. Dooley’s defense will have to combat limited film with sheer disciplined.
“It is going to come down to, one, playing the defense on principle,” Dooley said. “There are going to be plays that we didn’t prepare for and you have to play the play on principle — on the principles of the scheme. And No. 2, our ability to get off blocks, get to the ball and tackle. Those two things make up for anything minimized in preparation.”
Chaney ready for challenge
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has watched Bray and the Tennessee offense rack up staggering statistics in the Vols' first two games, but there is a lot of talent waiting for the Vols this Saturday.
“I see talent at all levels of their defense,” Chaney said. “They are very good. I look around and try and find weaknesses in their physical abilities and I don’t see a lot of that.
“I see a very talented front seven. Their interior defensive line and ends are very good. They are by far going to be a very formidable foe. They come off the ball very aggressive and fast. We look forward to the challenge.”
The Gators will march out eight or nine underclassmen Saturday on the defensive side of the football depending on formation.
Martin not likely
Defensive end Ben Martin suffered a sprained ankle during last Saturday’s game with Cincinnati. Dooley hoped that Martin would be able to play in Gainesville, but it doesn’t seem likely.
“I knew it was going to be a management issue the whole season,” Dooley said of Martin’s health. “This was a little bit different. You hoped nothing else would come along, but this is an ankle sprain.
“What we were hoping was if we can get 15 or 20 snaps a game, that was kind of our goal, but we didn’t last week and I am not sure if we are going to this week. If not then we have the open date to heal and maybe he can help us in October.”
The redshirt senior was not participating in individual drills Wednesday morning.
Dallas Thomas (sprained knee) was a concern following the Cincinnati game, but Dooley said the junior offensive lineman is on track to start.
Linebacker Curt Maggitt and defensive back Prentiss Waggner were in red non-contact jerseys for Wednesday’s practice, but the head coach said it was merely a precautionary measure for his two defensive starters.
Dooley and the Vols will continue practice Wednesday morning at 9.