KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- Tennessee rallied from a tough film session to produce one of its best practices of the fall.
“We had a great practice today,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “There was good spirit, good energy, guys were making plays and we had a good tempo. So it was a real good way to come back after a scrimmage and we got after it pretty good. We made some progress today.”
Dooley said review of Saturday’s situational scrimmage pretty much mirrored what he saw the first time.
“It was pretty consistent with the initial reaction. Our youth and inexperience really shows in critical situations. The whole scrimmage was a critical situation and, consequently, the whole scrimmage was not as good as it needed to be -- especially on offense. The defense did a really good job.”
But rather than dwell on any weekend shortcomings, the Vols instead produced a quality bounce-back performance during Monday’s two-hour workout at Haslam Field.
“We’re trying to do a lot to see what we can do,” Dooley said. “Today, we really tightened it down and that’s probably one reason practice was so good. There wasn’t a lot of thinking -- they could play.
“A lot of it’s on coaching, but we do it on purpose because we want to push them to see what they could do.”
Dooley offered the example of the team’s offensive line inexperience, especially at center. Junior Cody Pope has held on to the starting role there throughout fall camp, but it’s still a relatively new position for the Julian, Calif., native.
“We don’t have a natural snapper in the shotgun, so when the snaps aren’t consistent coming back it affects the whole rhythm of the play.”
SECONDARY IMPROVING BY ‘LIGHT YEARS’
UT’s defensive backfield welcomed the return of Janzen Jackson to scrimmage play Saturday. But Dooley says there is more to this year’s secondary than just the sophomore from Lake Charles, La.
“They have made a lot of progress. It’s good to have Janzen back, and that makes a difference. Marsalis Teague has been just a tremendous addition. He’s going to be a real key player for us. He’s a good athlete and a perfect corner prospect. I think he will get better in time.”
Redshirt freshman Eric Gordon also is turning heads with his play during preseason camp. The Nashville product intercepted a pass Saturday and took it the distance for yet another big play in August.
“Eric Gordon has gotten better every week,” Dooley said. “He’s feisty, he’s aggressive, he gets out of position and you go ‘Whoa!’ But then he recovers and he’s made a lot of plays. What he’s learned to do is not panic when he gets out of position. I’ve been proud of him.”
The unit as a whole appears to be making progress in overcoming the loss of two starting juniors -- NFL first-round draft pick Eric Berry, and Dennis Rogan.
“From where we were this spring, we are light years ahead. We didn’t have Art (Evans, who was injured) and we didn’t have Teague over there. So we added two good corners, and we lost Darren (Myles), who was a good safety.”
The Vols practice again Tuesday before staging a “mock game” dress rehearsal Wednesday.