Vol report:The Curry connection

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- History will be made on Saturday as Derek Dooley coaches against a head coach who also faced his father, as Bill Curry brings Georgia State to Neyland Stadium. Curry went head-to-head with Derek's dad, Vince Dooley on seven occasions from 1980 to 1986 when Curry was at the helm of Georgia Tech and Vince was in the midst of his 25 years as the head coach at Georgia.

Saturday will mark the first time a head coach has been of the opposite sidelines of the Dooley father-and-son combination.

Derek Dooley was asked if Curry was the first to face him and his dad on the SEC conference call on Wednesday.

"That is a good question and I never thought about it," said Derek Dooley. "It may be. I can't give you a definite answer, I would have to kind of reflect back but I think you are probably right. Thinking back to La. Tech I didn't know if Dick Tomey went against my father, he might have. I don't think Chris Ault did. I don't know but you very well may be right."

Turns out it is the first time.

In fact there are only three coaches that have coached against Derek Dooley that were active head coaches during Vince Dooley's tenure at Georgia from 1964-88: Tomey (Hawaii/Arizona/San Jose State), Ault (Nevada) and Steve Spurrier (Duke/Florida/South Carolina). But Vince never coached against any of the three when they were head coaches.

Bill Curry held a 2-5 mark against Vince Dooley in the match-ups. When Curry took over at Alabama in 1987, while Vince was still at Georgia the schools did not play. Vince retired from coaching in 1988. Curry moved on to Kentucky in 1990, where he coached seven more years until 1996. Curry returned to the coaching ranks with the up-start Georgia State Panthers in 2008 and will be coaching his final season with GSU this year. He announced last month that he will retire from coaching following the 2012 season.

Another connection is that Curry played his first collegiate game at Tennessee as a member of Georgia Tech's freshman team in 1961. Curry and the Jackets beat the Vols, 16-12 in what was a much smaller Neyland Stadium.

"I remember it when it was much, much smaller," said Curry. "Obviously, it was when I was young and played there in the early 60's. I guess it was 60 or 70,000 then and it seemed big, and now it's just gigantic and steep.

"The stadium is, in terms of degree of loudness and the ability to drown out signals, it's in the top five. It's colorful with its checkerboard end zones and all that, and the incessant playing of that song [Rocky Top]. We've gotten our guys accustomed to hearing it."

Curry had a grander memory as Neyland officially seated 46,390 in 1961 and was expanded to 51,527 in 1962.

As a player Curry was 2-1 against the Vols in varsity games from 1962-64.

Another twist is that Curry played his final college game while at Georgia Tech against Vince Dooley and Georgia in Vince's first year as head coach of the Bulldogs in 1964. Dooley got the best of Curry in that first-ever meeting as UGA handed Tech a 7-0 loss as the Yellow Jackets finished the year on a three-game losing streak. The Yellow Jackets started the season 7-0 but saw the year take a turn for the worse starting with a 22-14 victory by Tennessee on Nov. 7, 1964.

Both Derek Dooley and Bill Curry Jr., were teammates at Virginia. Curry Sr., said that Derek Dooley was a mentor to his son and that they have stayed in touch over the years.

Finally, Curry said the Tennessee game always had special importance during his playing days as his Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd was a legendary player with the Vols, earning All-American honors in 1930. Dodd always placed extra emphasis on facing his alma mater according to Curry.

YOU’VE GOTTA HAVE FAITH

The Vols bought in to first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri’s system from day one and that faith paid off last Friday against NC State.

When installing a new scheme, it usually takes a few games, if not a full season, to get comfortable and work out all of the kinks. That didn’t appear to be the case for Tennessee, however, as it looked plenty comfortable generating a good amount of pressure on the quarterback and forcing four interceptions, UT’s most since 2010, against the Wolfpack in the Georgia Dome.

“The system works and then the kids buy in to the system,” cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said. “We coach our guys hard on all 11 positions on defense. The guys are finally starting to see the dividends pay off. All we want those guys to do is come out and compete every day, believe what we’re teaching them and then the product speaks for itself.”

The reviews for the Big Orange defense’s first outing were positive, but there is still plenty to work on in the coming weeks. The Vols feel the issues are all correctable though, especially with the hard-working attitude of this year’s group.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but at the end result we got the win,” Ansley said. “Mistakes that we can fix and mistakes that kids understand what they did wrong. Moving forward I feel pretty good about what we’ve got. Mistakes are never about what the other team did, it’s about what we did. It was nothing that NC State did that we weren’t ready for. It was all about how we executed that particular play and assignment.

“The guys knew exactly when they did, what they did wrong and that’s always a good sign. When you don’t know what you did wrong and why you did it, that’s when you have issues moving forward, but the guys were really engaged on the sidelines. They had some chances to correct some things and those guys stayed locked in for four quarters.”

The majority of the defensive miscues last Friday can be attributed to breakdowns in communication, something safeties coach Josh Conklin feels will resolve itself with more time on the field.

“Big picture, one of the things we did well was that we never got rattled when we had a bust in communication,” Conklin said. “We run a multiple-set defense so we are doing a lot of things on any given play. We are checking to stuff and adjusting, but the more that we talk and the more we get comfortable communicating and the more confident the guys get knowing what they are saying is right, we will eliminate a lot of those communication busts and errors. I would anticipate that will get better going into this week.

“The things we have got to get better at this week are just making sure whether we are in the right leverage on a wide receiver or in the right leverage if we are in the deep part of the field so we have got to make sure we keep cleaning up and tightening up as we go forward.”

Despite those typical first-game issues, Tennessee was pleased with what it was able to accomplish its first time out on the gridiron, especially against such a talented opponent.

“I looked at NC State as an SEC opponent,” Ansley said. “All through February and Spring ball, and all through summer, you always have that in the back of your mind to open up with a really good team, a well-coached team, a hard-nosed team that is going to run the ball and try to throw the ball deep. They brought a lot of things to the table as far as offense is concerned.

“We were nervous going into the game about what they were going to do because it was the first game, but once we got settled in and our kids understood what they were trying to do I thought we did a good job of making some adjustments, settling down and playing Tennessee football.”

HITTING THE SEAM

The Tennessee running back corps combined for 191 yards on the ground against NC State, more than they recorded in all but one game last season, a 199-yard effort vs. Buffalo.

The Vols were led by Marlin Lane, the third running back to enter the game, who finished with 75 yards including a burst for 42 yards late in the game.

Each of the potential starters for this week, Lane, Devrin Young or Rajion Neal, would tell you that they have each other’s' backs both on the field and along the sidelines and there is no jealousy amongst the bunch, just support.

Running backs coach Jay Graham would support that sentiment.

"They have all done well," said Graham. "They have worked hard and some of the things we have been working on they have done a good job with. All three of the guys have been practicing pretty hard because they understand the situation."

Young, listed second on the depth chart for the opener, only got two touches against the Wolfpack, but according to Graham will see more time this week against Georgia State.

"I really wanted to get (Devrin) in coming into the first game," said Graham. "I plan on getting him in a little bit more so we are going to make sure to do that. When we are moving fast (as an offense) in certain series that he gets in because he can touch the ball and make some things happen for us."

The Vols had some huge bursts during the game including Lane's run and a 67-yard touchdown run by Cordarrelle Patterson on an end-around. There were even bursts for five yards here and there and an 8-yard touchdown run by Neal, but when the Vols needed to pick up short yardage, they were unable to do so.

"It is always a concern, no matter what," said Graham. "Those are very important downs. A lot of times the other team knows you are running it and you have got to go get that extra yard. That is something we have put an emphasis on and we have been working on it really hard and a lot of it is driving guys off the ball and the running backs driving their legs and finish the run."

Graham also stresses the importance of hitting the holes that the O-line and blockers create for these running backs.

"It is the way they see things," said Graham. "There are going to be small holes and a lot of times you have to be careful when you cut back. We've talked a lot about pressing to the line of scrimmage. That is something that (Marlin) has been getting better at, and something he has had a lot of work on this week, so we have to take that from the film room, to practice, and to the game."

The competitive energy surrounding the group helps not only on the field during the games, but all week long in practice.

"Every week we are competing," said Graham. "It has been a good week of practice [this week] but the most important thing is getting to the game and based on how you practice determines how many reps you get. That's the thing that I try to tell them in practice if you do those things right, you will see it in the game."

SOUND BITES

GEORGIA STATE HEAD COACH BILL CURRY

(On the match-up with the Vols)

"Going into games like this, the most important thing the staff has to do is to cause the players to believe we have a chance to win this game. I've been on both sides of the coin. I've been the coach of the hopeless underdog going into these situations and have seen our team win the game. And I've been on the other side when we were trying to convince people these guys might be dangerous and they could come up and play a lot better than people expect."

(On GSU goals for the game)

"Our goal when we play these kinds of games is to get better every time, and so far we haven't done that. We've played one of these games each of the last two years, and we have not played our best in either of those games. Our theme has been since spring practice has been 'man up and finish.' We will continue to work, scratch and fight until we learn how to do that."

(On playing at Neyland Stadium)

"What we try to tell our guys each time we go into a big hostile stadium against a physically advanced team is to feed off the energy of the crowd. Because you can. It doesn't have to be just for them. It's fun to play in that type of atmosphere."

(On his son playing college football with Derek Dooley)

"They were both walk-on players. Derek was older, and he was wonderful to Bill, Jr."

UT CORNERBACKS COACH DERRICK ANSLEY

(On staff continuity)

“A lot of us knew each other. Myself and Coach Conklin had prior relationships with Coach Sal. Coach John Palermo had prior relationships with Coach Sal. And then you bring in Coach Staley so all of us kind of had previous relationships with each other. We kind of knew each other so it was really good. Everybody is pulling for each other. We have a boss in our room and he’s worried it’s the last word that it’s going to be going forward. He takes all our opinions into consideration and we listen to everybody’s opinion. If Coach Sal likes it then we’ll put it in. If he doesn’t think it’s a good fit, then we’ll hold it for another time. He’s been great about that. Letting everybody have some say so, and everybody having different parts of the game that they bring to the table to prepare for. As far as continuity, it’s a very good room and I’m happy to be in that room.”

(On press-man coverage in the game)

“Some good and some bad. The thing is the more times you do things over and over it becomes a habit. That’s what we stress in practice. We stress our guys playing with their hands and having good block protection, things like that. The more we do that in practice, the more guys get out there to see it live and in color and get it done, the more they’re likely to believe in it more.”

On Prentiss’s interception: “He did what he was coached to do. We knew that route was going to come 30 (yards) short, it was kind of like a quick out to try to pick up three, four yards. Coach Sal made a great call. He put us in the right defense for it. Pre then executed it about as good as you can execute it. We’ve got that coverage in since spring. It’s been a good change up for us. He made a good job and broke on the ball. It so happened that we had the right offensive play for that call and he made a good break on the ball and got the interception.”

UT SAFETIES COACH JOSH CONKLIN

(On who graded out the highest in the secondary)

“Byron Moore and Brian Randolph graded out the highest. They took a lot of reps and they were very productive. They both had some mental errors, which took their point production down, but they were productive and I felt like they did some really good things. They know where they have to get better at.”

(On playing younger guys on Friday)

“I think from a big picture standpoint we just want to get better and we want to improve, whether it is the starting guys or the backup. If they get in there we are approaching this like everyone has got to get better at every single position. If it is a backup then he has to get better at special teams if he gets a chance to get in there, then he has got to get better when he is playing the safety position as well.”

(On the safeties not feeling rattled after mistakes)

“Early on we got a little rattled but when we came back we did do a nice job not being rattled by one mistake and we didn’t compound that into another and another. We took that, made the changes and adjusted, and those guys came back and responded well. I think that was just the way we demand that they approach everything showing up there on Saturday.”

(On communicating as a secondary)

“I think the tempo of what was going on with the high tempo early on when you are trying to make the adjustments, trying to get everyone on the same page communicating. The communication breakdown was in the right coverage call; we just didn’t get it communicated to the opposite corner. It was a breakdown, but the positive was we came out of there and our guys do not get rattled and we adjust to it and we limit those as the game goes on.”

UT SPECIAL TEAMS/TIGHT ENDS COACH CHARLIE COINER

(On the benefits of having the special teams with a game under their belt)

“The younger these guys are, the more beneficial it is. Some of them were running down the field for the first time. Every game is different, but I talk a lot with our guys about when the lights come on. You can take those live reps and actual game speed and you can teach a lot more than you can out (at practice) or when we are in a scrimmage situation. The difference between game one and game two should have your most improvement, so we hope that is true.”

(On Matt Darr)

“He had two kicks he would like to have back and we would too. We could take the sky kick he had during the fourth quarter and we need that because it is a field-position game and it changes how your coordinators can call the game, it changes how people play and how aggressive you can be. It takes hope away. If you start a drive on the eight-yard line and you’ve got 92 yards to get seven (points) it is a big deal.”

(On Alex Bullard playing TE)

“I thought he did really well. He is limited in what you are going to do with him because you are not going to run vertical routes with him, but I was really happy with him because when you do that sometimes you pigeon hole yourself. Now, we’ve got some pretty fast guys on the outside and if (the other team) wants to load the box up assuming it is a run, well Alex can pass protect as well as a tight end or the tackle next to him, so now you can go vertically down the field with it. I was happy, he had 21 snaps and did a really good job.”

(On what made Bullard the man for the TE job)

“I would say he is our sixth lineman. You try to put your best people on the field, so you put him out there. That’s a great situation for a guy because they come in and he knows the front side of the offense but the negative is you’re one ankle away from him going back. If anything happened to one of those lineman, he would have to go back and play because he is your sixth man. He has practiced it all this week and we are continually getting the other guys ready too.”

(On Mychal Rivera)

“You cannot ask for a better attitude than Mych. He is motivated for the team, he wants to be good and wants to do all the things that he can. There is no problem with blocking, there is no problem with the route running part of it, and I’m happy to have him in the loop.”

UT OFFENSIVE LINE COACH SAM PITTMAN

(On Zach Fulton being named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week)

"Yeah, he graded out at about an 85. We nominated him because he was the best guy we had for this week. He played physical and his pass protection was incredible. I'm just happy as heck for him."

(Biggest challenge of the no-huddle offense)

"It's just playing fast. It's getting on the line and staying in a stance for a while. It could be five seconds or it could be 15 seconds. Basically, it's getting in your stance and seeing what's in front of you. A lot of times when you are tired, your head will go down and you can't see what's in front of you. That's a big challenge to stay in your stance for 15 seconds and with your head up. It really is [hard] once you get tired. Now early in the game, it shouldn't be a probably at all, but you just have to discipline yourself."

(On the consistency of the running game)

"We have to get better blocking. Our technique wasn't as good. I think their movement bothered us. As we talked about last week, I was a little nervous about their movement. Their movement bothered us in our fits. It didn't bother us that we cut guys loose. It bothered us in that we were high, that our second step wasn't up the field; it crossed over at times. I think this next game will be a bit better, but their movement certainly bothered us."

(On the lineman having pride and accountability in short-yardage situations)

"I don't know what happened in the past here, but I know we have good kids and they care. They have a pride about them and they don't want to get embarrassed. When you don't make it as an offensive lineman, it doesn't matter whose fault it is. It looks bad on you and you don't want it to happen again. We have those type character guys."

UT RUNNING BACKS COACH JAY GRAHAM

(On Marlin Lane)

“Marlin has been banged up a little but he had a really good week of practice. That’s the thing I try to tell these guys, if you practice well then you will play like you practice. He had good pad leverage and broke some tackles, he did some good things.”

(On play-calling during the second half against NC State for the RB’s)

“It was not as much about (the RB’s) as much as it was what we were given by the defense. We always make halftime adjustments based on what they see.”

(On the RB’s blocking)

“It was good but we have to get in the film room and work on seeing the correct technique and this is how you have got to do things. As far as ID, it was really good.”

(On his message to the backs after the game)

“It is always on all of us. It is about being disciplined, hitting the line of scrimmage with speed because maybe you will run past a lot of guys or defensive players who may not see you. That’s something we have really been working on; speed through the line of scrimmage and low pad level.”

UT WIDE RECEIVERS COACH DARIN HINSHAW

(On Jacob Carter earning a scholarship)

“He has put in a lot of time and in that process he has worked really, really hard to earn where he’s at. He understands the offense, all four positions. We can put him anywhere so that’s value. Plus, he makes plays. That’s what makes him good, that’s what makes him valuable.”

(On Zach Rogers)

“He has worked really hard too. He’s a guy that has performed well all camp. He went out there and again, hard work and opportunity equals big plays and that’s what happened on Friday night.”

(On Justin Hunter’s first game back)

“There was a little bit of rush there. We hold Justin to a high standard. In the first half, the balls weren’t coming his way and I said, ‘Just stay the course man, they’re going to come, it’s going to happen.’ Sure enough it did and then he made his plays.”

(On having 10 different players catch passes)

“I give a lot of credit to Tyler Bray for understanding that defenses adjust as you go through the game. We hit a bunch of long balls and they started to play their coverage a little bit deeper, and then he started to hit some underneath stuff in the second half and getting his completions.”

UT DEFENSIVE LINE COACH JOHN PALERMO

(On Daniel Hood)

“He came out ready to play. I wasn’t sure that’d be the case. He’s such a nice kid, he’s easy going. His intensity level needs to pick up all the time but I thought he had good intensity when we started the football game.”

(On Daniel Hood’s intensity levels)

“I just think it’s his nature. He’s not a confrontational person. He’s not an overreactor, like I am. He just takes a little bit more prodding to get him going. I don’t want to say it’s a problem, but it’s an issue every time we go out there. We have to get on to him about being mean, being nasty.”


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