Nine games into Tennessee’s 2011 season and Derek Dooley’s Volunteers are still winless in the Southeastern Conference and this week’s game isn’t getting any easier.
The Vols will fly to No. 8 Arkansas to square off with Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks, but Dooley’s team is off to a great start in the preparations for another dangerous opponent.
“It was one of our best practices of the year from an energy standpoint, competitive spirit, passing licks, so I think our guys are getting a little more confident and I hope it pays off on Saturday,” Dooley said Tuesday.
Saturday will mark the first time that Tennessee true-freshman quarterback Justin Worley will make a start road as a college quarterback. With the highly ranked Razorbacks gunning for position in the SEC west there is no doubt the atmosphere will be extremely hostile.
“We have to manage the crowd well, manage the offense and it’s not going to be the same as playing the last two games at home,” Worley said. “We are just going to have to fight through the crowd.”
Worley, who threw his first touchdown as a Vol last week against MTSU, admitted that the atmosphere against South Carolina affected him in his first start, but now he is focused on making sure that doesn’t happen again.
“Just staying calm,” Worley said. “The first game I was a little jittery coming in, forced some throws, went through some reads to fast and committed on something that I shouldn’t have. I think a little bit of it was the adrenaline flowing through me and you can’t make every throw so I missed a couple of big ones and we have corrected it on film.
I think I just tried to stay calm this last game, get the ball to our playmakers and we came out on top.”
Worley came out in his second start against MTSU you and fired for 291 yards and one touchdown against the Blue raiders. That lone touchdown went to sophomore wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers who said the two are still getting their timing down.
“That is just going to come with repetitions,” Rogers said. “The more we throw with each other, the more deep balls we throw to each other the more he will get my timing, the way I run and my speed.”
Following the touchdown, Rogers did receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting an MTSU defender, something Dooley said won’t happen again.
“He wasn’t the only one at fault,” Dooley said. “Half the team was looking at the video board laughing and I am going off on the sideline. It’s a different generation, but those kinds of acts are never tolerated or encouraged so we won’t have any more of those.”
Rogers said he wasn’t trying to get a penalty, but just trying to get the team excited after getting into the end zone for the first time in a long time.
“I got in trouble,” Rogers said. “I didn’t really want to get a penalty. I just wanted to do something to get the team going. It has been a long time since we have been in the end zone and I though I could get us going with a little something.”
While Rogers and Worley are working on their timing, almost every fan of the Orange and White was hoping starting sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray could make his return at Arkansas, but that looks extremely unlikely even after his cast was removed Monday afternoon.
“He doesn’t have his range of motion,” Dooley said. “It is about what we thought it would be. He is on track. He is sore. He needs to get his range of motion back and his strength back. That is what he is working on right now.”
Dooley and the Volunteers will continue their preparations for No. 8 Arkansas Wednesday morning at 9.