KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday that he continues to see improvement in his team's practice habits, including the focus to compete through good times and bad.
The Vols worked for two hours at Haslam Field in preparation for Saturday's visit from No. 7-ranked Alabama.
"Competitive periods are getting better, which is encouraging to me," Dooley said. "That's something we've been emphasizing from Day 1. The brand that you develop as a player and the brand you develop as a team are based on how you compete, regardless of the play, the score, or the time of the game. Just compete.
"We're getting a little better at that. Hopefully, it will carry through the season."
Tennessee's ability to compete at full strength has been hindered by injuries to key members. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes, offensive guard JerQuari Schofield and placekicker Daniel Lincoln remain doubtful for a return to action by Saturday.
"To me, it's the same way I felt on Monday -- it's gravy," Dooley said of the prospects of having those three ready. "I'm counting them as if they're not going to play. They're really limited in what they're doing in practice. They're out here and they're moving around.
"(Dallas Thomas is) doing better. He's a little more in the thick of things. We're expecting him to go."
Shaw Taking Snaps
Part of Dooley's juggling act is getting senior offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw some work at center. Since junior Cody Pope was injured in the Florida game, junior college transfer Darin Gooch has been Tennessee's only option in the middle of the offensive line.
"He has obviously a little bigger physical presence in the middle and he's a senior," Dooley said of Shaw. "What comes with that? The risk in the shotgun snaps as we all have seen. We're still in the early stages. It's probably something we would have done three weeks ago had we known Cody's injury was the way it was. I just felt like we needed to do something."
Dooley says Shaw has accepted the extra work and responsibility.
"He's doing a good job being kind of our utility guy. I told him today, we're moving him around so they never know where `Shaw-dog' is, like a wide out. He looked at me; he wasn't real sure what that meant."
The Vols head coach isn't speaking lightly of the effort given thus far by Gooch, who played one season at Butte College in the northern California town of Oroville before coming to Knoxville.
"It's tough. You go from Oregon, to Florida, to LSU, to Georgia, to Alabama -- every week it's challenging. He's competing. His attitude is good. He's doing as well as he can do and he's done some good things, but it's tough."
VOLS LAND THREE ON MID-SEASON LIST
Three Tennessee seniors are included in Phil Steele's 2010 Midseason All-SEC Team, announced Tuesday afternoon.
Luke Stocker is a second-team selection at tight end, Nick Reveiz earned a third-team nod at linebacker and Daniel Lincoln also is made the third team at placekicker.
Stocker stands second on the team with 16 receptions and has 168 yards, a 10.5-yard average. He owns at least one catch in all six games, including a career-high tying five for 41 yards against Florida and four for 56 against UAB. Stocker also leads the team with 31 consecutive starts.
Reveiz has hovered near the SEC lead in tackles all season and ranks third through six games with 54 stops. He reached double figures in four straight games, making 10 against Oregon, a career-high 14 against both Florida and UAB, and 11 at LSU. Reveiz also shares the team lead with four tackles for loss.
Lincoln has missed the last two contests with a groin injury after making all seven of his field goal tries to start the season. He owns four boots from at least 40 yards, including a career-tying 49-yarder against Florida. Lincoln needs just five more field goals to tie John Becksvoort for fifth on UT's all-time list with 53.
Courtesy: Tennessee sports information