Derek Dooley gave his Tennessee Volunteers the weekend off after midweek workouts with no game last Saturday.
There was a seemingly a new energy when the team took to Haslam Field on Monday morning in their first practice in preparation for Saturday’s game with the Buffalo Bulls.
“Good energy,” Dooley said following practice. “We lifted and ran them on Friday morning, so we didn’t do any hitting. Then they had two days to relax and they were ready to go.”
It has been noted that running back Tauren Poole and the rest of the Tennessee offense have struggled having success on the ground thus far in 2011 and the Vols will get another tough test Saturday.
“They have a very physical defense,” Dooley said. “They have just been outstanding against the run and one of the reasons is they have an elite defensive end. He is as good as anyone that we have played.”
That defensive end is 6-foot-3, 248-pound sophomore Kahlil Mack who had a tremendous breakout season as a redshirt freshman last season and was named to Phil Steele’s All-Freshmen first team. He recorded team highs in both sacks (4.5) and tackles for losses (14.5) in 2010.
With the Bulls being strong against the run, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will have to make use of the young wide receiving corps of Tennessee and get players like freshmen Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett more involved.
“They still make a lot of mistakes, they still don’t play as fast as they need to every down and in time we will see,” Dooley said of his young wide receivers. “This time last year Da’Rick (Rogers) and Justin (Hunter) weren’t doing much either. We will see how they progress.”
Another player who will join the group this week is former running back Rajion Neal who is now listed at wide receiver on this week’s depth chart. Neal saw all of his Monday practice reps at wideout and looks to be slated there for the next few weeks.
“There is a little bit of you are bouncing around — running back, receiver,” Dooley said. “We needed to just commit to a position. That is kind of what we are doing and we will see if it works.”
And it’s also time for what so many Tennessee fans have been waiting for since watching an abysmal season in the return game in 2010. It’s Devrin Young time. The Knoxville native is now listed as a co-starter at both punt and kick return alongside freshman Marlin Lane.
“Devrin has shown what we signed him for,” Dooley said. “He is quick, elusive, he has good speed, he has good ball judgment and now it’s just a question of if he can take those traits and turn them into production on the field.”
It was evident following practice, after a weekend behind the desk at CBS, Dooley is glad to be back out on the practice field.
“It was good, but I am glad I am back on the grass,” Dooley said. “That is a good thing to be a guest on. They do a good job. I thought they were very professional and it was neat to see what it is like up there.”
Tennessee will continue its preparations for Buffalo on Tuesday morning at 9. There was no media luncheon today due to the bye week.
Note: Please excuse the background noise. It was very windy this afternoon.