Vols learning from adversity

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Release) -- Immediately after Saturday’s loss to Florida, the Vols spoke about the need to use the game as a learning tool and how they would go back, look at the game film and find ways to correct their mistakes.

By all accounts, the coaches and players have all done exactly that.

Instead of dwelling on the loss, the Vols have tried to find ways to use that experience to their advantage, which has led to two strong days of practice.

“They have been really good,” UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “It was a tough one on us. We struggled a little bit just talking to them about it on Monday when we got back together but we overcame that and they bounced back. We have had two good days of practice. We are excited about where we are sitting at right now emotionally. I think the leaders are showing up a little more which is a good thing.”

One example of a change Tennessee will make as a result of last Saturday’s outcome is relying more on the run game late in games, something Chaney realized after watching the game film.

“I feel like we are trying to do things more physical up front and we did,” Chaney said. “I think if anything I look back on the ball game, I think I might have abandoned the run game too quickly, as we got towards the end of the third and early in the fourth, so that would be the biggest change. If you had to say something about the run game, I would say it was more in my hands than anything our kids did.”

Although Tennessee didn’t handle the adversity it faced in the second half against the Gators as well as it would have liked to, the team has recognized the issue and hopes the experience it gained will help it the next time it faces that situation.

Junior quarterback Tyler Bray was particularly upset with his performance, but Chaney was quick to point out that it shouldn’t fall squarely on his shoulders and his development as a quarterback is an ongoing process.

“I think Tyler got frustrated towards the end of the ball game, as we all did,” Chaney said. “We continue development of our football players. Tyler has been playing really solid football and we got a little affected, our whole team did. Offensively we did [get affected] towards the end of the game. We talked about it, we addressed it, we watched it on film and we will go out and try to correct it. The smarter we are and the harder we work to correct things we will usually get it done.”

In his media session on Tuesday, Bray noted that the offensive’s performance late in the game against Florida was so out of character that he didn’t even finish watching the game film. That might have been slightly more sarcasm than reality though.

“That is not really true, I don’t know why he said that,” UT head coach Derek Dooley said. “We correct all of the film and I think Tyler’s point was, you have to have a short memory when you play quarterback. I wasn’t disappointed in our second half at all. We came out in the third quarter, put on a great drive to go ahead, 20-14. With three minutes to go in the third quarter we had a good football game and we were in command and then we had a five-six minute stretch where we made a lot of mistakes, where we let the game get away from us and we have to learn from it.

“Tyler has grown a lot as a quarterback, he is not where he wants to be. I think he is as disappointed as anybody about how we finished the game as a team and how he finished as a quarterback. I know the next time we are in that situation we will learn from it and improve.”

TIME TO STEP UP

The football team battled with Florida for three quarters on Saturday before a five-six minute stretch changed everything.

According to defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, it is because the team didn't go out and do what they needed to do.

No excuses will be made, no fingers will be pointed. The team just needs to move on and execute.

"There are no communication issues," said Sunseri, "The bottom line was we didn't execute what we needed to do. Everyone can have excuses, the bottom line is we didn't execute. We played darn good football for about three quarters and all of a sudden we had eight or nine plays where it wasn't good and that can't happen."

During that eight-play stretch, Florida stymied the defense with many different looks and formations that the team just didn't react to.

"You have to understand it is just not one person out there that has to identify a formation or person, you have 11 guys out there that have to be looking at people, calling things out and communicating stuff," Sunseri said. "That is what didn't happen on the field. We didn't execute that part of it. We didn't do what we had to do there."

The Vols' game against Akron will be a time to rebound from the loss, and step up.

"The bottom line is that these guys have gotten better and better," Sunseri said. "They had a little set back at the end of the game, they rebounded the next couple series to get the people off the field, but then we have to finish the way we started. And that is what this defense is going to do."

CONFIDENT KICKERS

Derek Dooley still has not made a determination of who will be the Vols' starting placekicker on field goals and PATs for the Akron game. The team has used both juniors Michael Palardy and Derrick Brodus as the starters in each of the last two weeks, respectively.

Despite not having the starter resolved, both players have confidence in their abilities and will be ready if their number is called upon.

"I'm the same as I have been since the season started," said Palardy, who is 2-of-3 on field goals and 8-of-10 on PATs. "Obviously there was a bit of adversity, but I'm still as confident as I was when I started the season off and where I was in fall camp."

Brodus, who drew his second-career start against Florida last Saturday, is similarly sure of himself and keeping his same routine.

"I have approached (practice) the exact same way I have the last couple of weeks, I haven't changed anything," said Brodus, who was 2-of-3 on PATs vs. the Gators. "I feel whenever you change things, everything goes wrong."

Special teams coach Charlie Coiner says until the players execute in the actual games, they will be subject to criticism.

"I don't know that the confidence is ever going to be there until they get out there on Saturday night or Saturday afternoon and they do it," said Coiner, who also worked with the Buffalo Bills' special teams units from 2006-09. "It all goes back to the beginning. When you turn the lights on and you go out there and perform the way you're supposed to perform, whether you did it in practice or not, that's when the confidence will come."

The Vols have missed one extra point in each of the first three games, which Dooley called the "yips" in his Monday press conference. Palardy says it's "not a lack of focus" and added that it "shouldn't have happened."

Palardy said he is "working a lot and determined to make sure I'm out there on that field ... whatever I can do to help the team."

Coiner gave the latest on Saturday's starter.

"We don't know right now. What we are doing right now is, they both kicked today and yesterday. We still have Thursday left to do it. I like the fact that they're disappointed and obviously they would be disappointed, the fact that they get it. They get that this is not good enough.

“When you have to make extra points and we expect you to make field goals, we wouldn't send you out there. So I like the fact that they've come in, they've taken the business approach, we've done some things that we're trying to help them this week."

APPROACHING AKRON

Akron may not be in the SEC, but that doesn’t mean the Vols are looking past them.

In fact, they are looking forward to the opportunity to show not only that last Saturday was out of character, but that they have learned from it and are ready to move forward.

“It is a chance to respond from a tough loss,” Dooley said. “We really had a great game going there for three quarters against a real good football team. We made a lot of mistakes during a five-minute stretch that we have to learn to overcome and we will do a better job of it. We have a big test this weekend against a team that can really throw the ball as well as anybody.”

If it knows nothing else about the Zips, Tennessee knows that any team coached by Tommy Bowden will be able to put points on the scoreboard.

“They are certainly lighting it up [offensively],” Dooley said. “It is like any first year, they have already gotten into a nice rhythm in a real quick time. He is obviously a great coach, knows how to score a lot of points and throw for a bunch of yards and that is what they are doing. They have a really good quarterback and a lot of receivers running around out there making plays. It is going to be a big test for us.”

SOUND BITES

TENNESSEE HEAD COACH DEREK DOOLEY

(On the run game)

“The biggest thing is to break tackles. I think we blocked Florida as well as we ever have against that kind of front seven. For three quarters I think we were averaging four yards a carry. But what we have to do a better job of, when we get a little air, is to turn that four yarder into eight yards, and that three yarder into seven. We haven’t done as good as we need to do in that area and when we get a little space out there and it is one-on-one with a safety we have to make him miss.”

(On official visits)

“We do everything. You have 48 hours to show them everything that is going to touch their lives when they are on campus at Tennessee from academic support, football support and also a personal-growth standpoint. What is an added bonus on gameday is that they get a chance to see the gameday environment and be around our team and see how our team responds to everything. Of course you want to win the game, but the more important thing is what we look like, what our energy level is before, during and after the game and that probably resonates with recruits more than anything.”

(On changing his philosophy in the offseason)

“I think there are a lot of areas, and we do it every year, to see how we can do a better job as coaches because that is where it all starts. We did a lot of different things from a team building and training standpoint in the offseason, but then schematically we made a lot of changes in how we are running things. Moving to a lot more tempo on offense and on defense [learning] how to create more to impact the game in a negative way. We are certainly not where we need to be on either side of the ball from that standpoint but I feel like the direction that we are moving in is going to help us over time.”

(On replacing Brian Randolph)

“[Brent] Brewer comes in and that means that some of the young guys as we get deeper into it and go into dime and those kinds of things will have to elevate their play. We have three freshmen that we think have a lot of ability, Daniel Gray, Deion Bonner and LaDarrell McNeil, and they have to continue their development to keep pushing the guys in front of them and provide depth.”

(On the kicking game)

“I think for the most part our kicking game has been very good other than our issues on the kicks, and that is a big issue. We have to keep ironing it out and give those guys a little confidence to go out there and not worry about missing, go stroke it and when they do they look pretty good.”

(On the third quarter against Florida)

“I think it is fair to say there was a little bit of a stretch there when we went on a run of too many passes. Probably what happens is, we had a couple drops so you feel like you are still grooving and getting open and throwing the ball well. But when a lot of those things were happening we ran it a few times, it was working and then there was a little stretch I’m sure that we all would like to have back when we threw in another run or two. We are better when we are balanced. We can’t beat those really good teams throwing it 45 times a game and we know it and we have to learn from it.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JIM CHENEY

(On rotating players)

“I think you just have to do it. You just have to put them out there and count on them, trust that they are going to do it and Make sure when they are out there I am aware of who is on the field. That is tougher with the situation we have going now, trying to play a little bit faster football. In the old days, I would call a grouping to make sure I knew who I had on the field right now I don’t have that so I have to be conscious of that. Because of that, we probably aren’t going into the game with the amount of volume we used to and we never have.”

(On the difference offensively between the first half and the second half)

“I’ll take it all the way until about five minutes in the third. We stopped them on the fake punt and we had it. I took a shot in that situation and we gave up an intentional grounding. It seems like after that and we got it back, we gave up another five-play drive. That is probably when I should have stuck with the run game, it was 20-20 then. I got a little pass happy. That probably hurt us as much as anything. Up until that point I was pleased. We had gone back down on that third quarter drive and we looked really solid. We had good emotionally stability to us and we were playing good football. I was feeling pretty good until that point and if we had hit the shot play I think I might still be feeling good, but we didn’t and things kind of went the wrong way for us.”

(On helping Tyler through his frustration)

“You try to calm him down and get him focused on the process of playing quarterback. I talked to him on the phone on the sidelines a lot and it was difficult. You try and keep his mind on what we are trying to get done. Just conversation more than anything else. Real mature conversation, that is what we try and get done. It is tough sometimes when you are in those things and you try to tell him what is going on and you try to get it resurrected and you try and get it changed but it just wasn’t happening for us during the fourth.”

(On Tyler caring about this program)

“I would agree with that 1000 percent. This kid cares a tremendous amount for Tennessee football and on his own performance. The deal is, as we continue his development as a quarterback, just keeping it internally and making sure you intellectualize how you are going to change that. I think he cares a great amount about this team and this program.”

(On Tiny Richardson’s development)

“I think he is developing fine. I think he is right on track to be a heck of a good football player. I don’t think he played a poor game at all. I think they played against a pretty good football player on that side of the line. I think that is the first time he has ever had to do that, play against a really fine defensive lineman. I think he understands now what it takes to play against these guys, but with that said I think he competed hard against them.”

(On A.J. Johnson in the wildcat)

“He is physical. He is excited and he brings excitement to us. He has a good wiggle to him and he can find the hole. You guys watched what I watched. I didn’t have a great idea of what was going to take place I just knew he is 250 pounds, let’s put him on the field and see what happens. We couldn’t be happier with that result.”

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR SAL SUNSERI

(On A.J. Johnson)

“I am really happy with the development of A.J. Johnson. You see what he is doing on defense, he comes in there for the offense, he is really turning into a leader for this team and he is being very productive out there. He is growing and becoming more mature as a signal caller and his leadership role and making plays and doing things. He’s a damn good football player.”

“His understand of what concepts are being run and what he needs to do, I am pleased with how he is taking his student process to the game. He is being a student about it, studying it, applying it. He is taking football seriously and that is the nice thing about it.”

(On replacing Brian Randolph)

“It is a big concern because Brian is a big time guy. But [Brent] Brewer is going to be back there and he is going to play. We are going to have LaDarrell McNeil, a young guy we recruited out of Texas who is doing a great job and get him ready to go. People have to step up. The whole thing about this, and this is the beauty of this game, is everybody out there gets frustrated that they aren’t the starter and then somebody goes down and they are the starter and the responsibility falls on them. As young kids grow through this program they have to understand they don’t know at what point in time their number is going to be called and when it is you better be ready.”

(On Akron)

“Akron throws the ball a heck of a lot and the ball gets out fast. We are going to have to disrupt their routes and get to the quarterbacks. It is a concern. They are averaging 88 plays a game, they get rid of the ball fast, they get it to their quick receivers and they are explosive. They have had some good plays on offense and we are up for a challenge. It is going to be a spread-type, fast paced game and we have to be ready to go.”

(On the lack of interceptions in the Florida game)

“Things like that happens. Every once in a while you come out and hit some. The ball has to be tipped in the air, you have to have people in better position to make plays and you have to take care of business. The first team we beat was NC State, the second Georgia State and then we played Florida and all of a sudden now everybody is worried. No. We are the same defense, we are going to do what we have to do and make some plays.”

JUNIOR K DERRICK BRODUS

(On not participating in fall camp)

"I feel like being a kicker, everything is the exact same thing. Your approach to the ball and everything, I was fine (not being there)."

(On Saturday's game versus Florida)

"I missed an extra-point, that was pretty huge. It happens though, you have to forget about it and move on with your next kick."

(On being a black kicker)

"I don't think about that all. I have been kicking for a while and it's just something that I do. I don't look into stuff like that, I just try to go out there and do my job and not worry about things like that."

JUNIOR K MICHAEL PALARDY

(On replicating game situations on the practice field)

"On the practice field, I rely on myself to put pressure on myself. I know a lot of people put pressure on me during the game. So I try and replicate as pressure on myself as I would have in the game. Yes, it is a little different, but it's nothing that I can't handle."

(On his split focus on kicking and punting)

"I'm still doing everything that I have done since I first got here. It doesn't matter (where I play), wherever they need me that's where I'm going to be. I don't care if its punting, just punting, kicking, kickoffs or field goals, I'm going to do whatever I need to do and Coach Dooley is going to make that decision and I'm going to abide my it."


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