KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- Defensive backs Anthony Anderson and Naz Oliver practiced with a new unit Friday morning at Haslam Field, as both have switched to the wide receiver position. As Tennessee bounced back with a strong workout, Anderson and Oliver were catching passes from UT’s quarterbacks, rather than trying to prevent them from being caught.
“We moved Anthony Anderson and Naz Oliver to wideout for several reasons,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “Reason number one is we’re absolutely depleted at wideout right now. We’re not deep as it is and we have injuries. We have injuries with Zach (Rogers) and Deanthony (Arnett). Little stuff. Not major. We don’t have a lot of guys. We have a lot of guys in the secondary. Naturally, when you’re short in an area you say, ‘Who on that board has the skill sets to help us that we can afford to move?’”
With a wide receiver core that features primarily sophomores, Anderson’s senior leadership was a major factor in his “reassignment.”
“Anthony, in particular, has a lot of good athleticism, he played (wide receiver) in high school, but he also brings a nice senior presence into that room,” Dooley said. We have a young room in there. Our oldest guy is Zach and he doesn’t talk. The next oldest guys are true sophomores. I think Anthony will help us athletically, give us more bodies, a little presence of leadership in there and hopefully it will be a good move for everybody.”
The move will be aided by Anderson’s team-first mentality, something Dooley entertainingly classified as rare.
“Great character, team football player and loves Tennessee,” Dooley said when describing Anderson. “It’s easier said than done because we’re all selfish by nature. We’re born selfish. When a baby is hungry, he cries because all he’s thinking about is ‘I need some milk.’ When you take a toy away from a baby, he cries and gets mad because he’s not thinking about sharing. He’s thinking about ‘I want my toy.’ You have to beat out that self-absorbed trait that we’re all born with and Anthony has none of that.”
Anderson displayed his lack of selfishness when speaking to the media about switching jersey colors.
“I’m excited,” Anderson said. “It’s something new since high school, but I felt really comfortable for the first day. (Coach Dooley) pulled me off and gave me a few suggestions. I told him whatever is best for the team. If I can help on offense, then I will. (The biggest adjustment) is just knowing that I’m not looking at the orange side as a defensive back. I’m looking at the white side and the orange side.”
In sync with Dooley, the Knoxville native knows his role.
“The guys look up to me just as a good guy on the team, somebody that works hard and also as a senior and a leader,” Anderson said. “That’s a big part of me moving over there just to let them know it is not about individuals, it’s a team effort.”
With injuries limiting freshmen Tom Smith and Devrin Young, Anderson is also in the mix at punt returner, along with Justin Hunter, Janzen Jackson and Marlin Lane.
The Vols used Thursday’s practice to put the finishing touches on their product for Saturday’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium, much like they would during a normal game week.
“It was a real good attitude,” Dooley said. “I was pleased with it. It was good polish. It was good tempo, and that’s not always an easy thing. We have our final scrimmage tomorrow, hardcore scrimmage I mean. Hopefully, we’ll come out here and show a little improvement.”
Tennessee will focus on multiple situations, including ‘end-of-the-game work,’ an area the Vols need more experience in.
“We saw it last week,” Dooley said. “Every time we do it, we’re a long way away from being a real smart football team. It’s easy to sit there and tell them, ‘This is how you handle it when the clock is running, there’s 42 seconds and we don’t get the first down. Here’s what you do.’ Until you get out there, every situation is unique. Knowing when to hurry, knowing when to stay inbounds, when to get out of bounds and what happens next after a penalty takes a lot. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of teaching.”
SAPP IS BACK
After missing part of preseason camp with a fractured left finger, sophomore linebacker Dontavis Sapp has returned to action with the Vols. You will notice the club-like wrap on the hand to allow for healing, but that hasn’t slowed him down.
“He’s back and we need him back,” Dooley said. “He’s an important guy. He can’t extend his hands and take on a block. He can tackle a little bit because you wrap. But (he’s limited) when you have to use your hands and block on punt, take on a block and shed blockers.”
Sapp is getting used to playing with one hand for the time-being.
“It is kind of tough, but I am getting used to it now,” said Sapp, who is being converted from the secondary to linebacker this year. “I’m going out there, trying to make as many plays as I can. When I’m tackling, it’s hard with one hand, but I’m coming with my other hand just as strong.”
Sapp had the surgery to repair the finger on Aug. 9.
“It was real frustrating at first,” Sapp said in reference to when he suffered the injury. “But, things like this happen in football. I just told myself I wasn’t going to get down. I got all my mental rest. I stayed into the playbook and film, and was attentive in meetings.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On the qualities he looks for in a good cornerback)
“Production so when they throw his way, they don’t complete the ball. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. You certainly have to have a level of size and speed to hold up. You have to have some instincts and then you have to have some playmaking ability. If the ball is in the air and you’re there, you have to make the play. There are a lot of good corners out there who everything looks good but the guy makes the catch. At the end of the day, you have to make the play. You’re going to get beat some. They’re going to catch some balls. But you have to have some playmaking ability.”
Junior defensive back Marsalis Teague
(On fine tuning)
“We are working on the little things. Working on little assignments as far as technique. Tightening on certain areas to make sure we finish making plays.”
(On morning practice)
“It’s pretty good. You practice in the morning and you have class later on throughout the day. You’re not going through class worrying about practice. It’s pretty good so far.”
Senior wide receiver Anthony Anderson
(On Naz Oliver joining him for the switch to WR)
“It’s not just me going over there, so I know somebody from the other side is coming with me. That’s a big help.
(On how his experience as a DB will help him at WR)
“I can read the defenses better. I know from being on that side of the ball what types of defenses to look for, where I can go, where I can’t go, where the safety will be standing up high. That’s very much going to help me.”
(On his first look at the offensive playbook)
“Looking at the (offensive) playbook, it looked like Japanese. I saw all those zig-zags and everything, but they made it as simple as possible for the first day.
(On battling to be the punt returner)
“I really want it bad, but whatever the coach’s decision is, I’m for it 100 percent. I’m still going to work hard at every position they have my name listed at just because you never know when I’ll be back there. I really want the position, but it is whatever coach wants.”
(On helping with Justin Coleman’s development)
“I tell him every day not to take this opportunity for granted. It can easily be taken away with an injury or if they see somebody else moving up the depth chart. He just has to be more consistent and stay physical like he has been doing all camp.”
(On his confidence in his hands)
“God gave them to me, so I’ve got to work with them.”