Vols break out new ploy: early practice

KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley has a new twist to get his team better prepared for Saturday's early kickoff at Georgia: Practice at 12:30.

With Thursday the start of UT's fall break and no classes to attend, the Vols' final practice of the week is set for 12:30 to mirror Saturday's start time -- actually 12:21 p.m. -- at Sanford Stadium in Athens (Vol Network, SEC Network).

"It's an early kick and we didn't sustain it very well the first time," Dooley said. "It's a mental energy issue, so we're going to practice in (the same time slot). It will be good and it will give us good recovery, more recovery, up to kickoff. Hopefully, that will benefit us."

The Vols (2-3) started fast but then needed two overtimes to subdue UAB by a 32-29 count back on Sept. 25 in front of the SEC Network cameras.

Despite taking Monday off for a second consecutive week, Tennessee continues to get its licks during the adjusted practice schedule.

"It was a good practice," Dooley said of Wednesday's two-hour workout at Haslam Field. "It was physical and we were doing some good hitting out there. We were competing, so I was pleased with the practice."

Dooley said the consistent emphasis on tackling and hitting in practice must continue, even though the Vols are in the middle of their toughest stretch of games.

"We won't ever stop doing that. We've been hitting since camp and we're going to keep hitting, because we need it. We had two good days of some tackling work and we're seeing a little improvement. But a lot of guys still have a lot of fundamental issues.

"You can't be good tacklers if you don't tackle; it's just hard."

Dooley said sophomore left tackle Dallas Thomas (ankle) appears to be improving but that he can't yet commit to whether he will be available come Saturday.

"He's like Fred Sanford, but a little younger Fred Sanford. He's still day-to-day."

It looks increasingly doubtful that senior placekicker Daniel Lincoln (groin) will be ready, although Dooley left the door slightly ajar. If Lincoln -- who's 7-for-7 on field goals in the early going -- can't go, true freshman Michael Palardy gets the nod once again.

Palardy punted once for 51 yards Saturday and was just wide on a 45-yard field goal attempt.

"Right now, in my mind, Palardy's kicking unless something crazy happens," Dooley said. "If Daniel doesn't come out Thursday and he's 100 percent, then I won't kick him."

Junior tailback Tauren Poole looked 100 percent healthy Saturday after being slowed the previous two games by a thigh bruise. Poole rushed for 109 yards on a career-high 24 carries at LSU.

He's joined in the backfield by true freshman Rajion Neal and sophomore David Oku. Those two have been the complements to Poole thus far in the Tennessee running game, but missing any one of the three hasn't been easy to overcome.

"Everybody we have, when we lose one (player) it's like we lose two with our depth issues," Dooley said. "We need Tauren to be healthy, but we also need some emergence from behind Tauren.

"I said last week we were going to get Rajion some snaps, so I'm going to say it again: We're going to get him some snaps and get him some touches."

Neal has 15 rushes this season for 101 yards, while Oku has carried 27 times for 145 yards and a touchdown.

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