KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- ‘Sandwiched’ in between ‘a real good’ two-practice day and the second scrimmage of preseason camp, Tennessee wasn’t looking for excuses as it practiced Friday at Haslam Field.
“This was the first practice that I felt like we didn’t come out here with the kind of mindset we needed to get better as a team,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s pretty common now. We have a scrimmage tomorrow. We had a real good two-a-day yesterday and last night. It was a little bit sandwiched in the middle. Guys are a little hurt and tired.
“It doesn’t matter. You have to come ready to go. Mature professional football players and mature professional football teams come out every day. I told them that you can’t have bad days. You have to have good days and you have to have great days, but you can’t have bad days. We had a lot of guys that were good, but overall just not the mindset that we need from a consistent standpoint. That’s the mark of a young team.”
One of the possible explanations for the Vols’ focus Friday could be increase of information as camp has gone on.
“What happens is as time goes, the multiples keep coming,” Dooley said. “They keep growing. The plays get more. The formation adjustments get more. The blitzes get more. The variables keep growing on you so the more you’re thinking, the harder it gets. It’s easy to play fast day one. There’s not a lot of stuff to think about. But as the game gets going, more stuff goes in and you’re seeing more stuff. Trick plays start showing up. It just starts taxing your brain.”
Tennessee will have to be prepared for Saturday’s 5 p.m. practice at Neyland Stadium when the Vols face what Dooley says is ‘probably the biggest scrimmage’ of fall camp.
“We have really kind of four scrimmages,” Dooley said. “The first is always full-eval scrimmage. We make personnel decisions. The second one is long. There are a lot of plays. The biggest thing is seeing how much improvement we make from scrimmage one to scrimmage two. Now that you have two scrimmages, you really tighten in on who you’re going to count on personnel-wise.
“Scrimmage three is a lot more situational, end-of-the-game stuff. The last one is really a mock game. This is a big one. This is the longest one. It’s in the middle of camp. This is when they’re hurting the most. We need a good performance out of everybody.”
D.T. HOLDS DOWN LT
Junior left tackle Dallas Thomas has developed as much as any Vol since arriving on campus in 2009. That’s been proven by his last two springs alone, which have both concluded with coaching staff-given awards.
In 2010, Thomas was honored with the Harvey Robinson Award as UT’s offensive surprise player of the spring practice period. Thomas followed it up this past spring as one of UT’s Fourth Quarter Off-Season Award recipients, which is presented to players who consistently compete with the intangible values that provide the foundation of the UT football program: attitude, discipline, toughness, effort and team.
“Dallas has been a real steady hand at left tackle. He’s matured a lot since the end of the season. You saw signs of it really in the spring. It’s nice to have a left tackle who has a calm, physical presence about him. He’s improved a lot as have a lot of them upfront.”
With his spring award credentials and 13 starts under his belt, Thomas is using the opportunity to lead.
“Being the older guy, you have to keep the younger guys’ heads focused,” Thomas said. “We still have another scrimmage. You can’t dwell on that last scrimmage game just because we might have had some ‘mess-up’ every now and then. You just have to keep on pushing because we still have a couple more opportunities before the next game.”
BREWING UP A SPOT
Sophomore Brent Brewer is part of a bevy of talented defensive backs seeking playing time this season. The mix includes a wealth of returnees including Brewer, All-SEC pick Janzen Jackson, Prentiss Waggner, Marsalis Teague and Eric Gordon. Brewer started the last six games at safety as a freshman in 2010 after returning to football from a career in pro baseball. During camp, Brewer has been working to solidify his spot.
“He’s pretty steadied in at safety,” Dooley said. “He needs to play better too. He’s only steady there because he’s the best one at the position, but he has a lot of improvement to do. He’s obviously a physical guy and he needs to trigger and play more physical. He also has to be able to go hold up in space. He has a lot of work to do but he’s been a pretty steady hand there at safety.”
Safety isn’t the only position Brewer is trying to be a steady hand at.
“I’m trying to help the younger players and become a leader,” Brewer said. “I am playing hard every down.”
WHO’S NUMBER 3?
While sophomore wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers are currently penciled in at the top two wideout spots on the depth chart, one of the more enticing position battles is at the slot receiver.
“Nobody has talked about Zach Rogers,” Dooley said. “He’s had a great camp. He’s just one of those quiet, goes to work every day (guys). Vincent Dallas and DeAnthony Arnett are showing some good things. They still have a lot of development to do to understand playing receiver. But they’ve shown a lot of reasons why we signed them.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On whether or not the Vols will be ready for Saturday’s scrimmage despite Friday’s mentality)
“I think they’ll be ready for the scrimmage. It’s pretty common. It’s practice. The good news is this was the first time. I told them that. I’ve been bragging on them, but it’s hard to brag on them today.”
(On where Tennessee’s offense is)
“We dialed it back some and we played better because of it. We have to find that happy-medium between quarterback and coaches and that’s going to be constantly evolving. As coaches we’re always going to want to push more, but we can’t push so much that the guys can’t go out there and perform. It’s easily said, but it’s tricky when you’re trying to shape a game plan.”
(On who has impressed at punt returner)
“Marlin Lane and Tom Smith have both done a good job back there. Devrin (Young), we were counting on and he’s hurt. But both of them are very capable. We’ll just see how camp goes. Those are the two main ones out of the freshmen class that have been working back there.”
(On sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray’s leadership skills)
“I am really not concerned about his vocal leadership skills. I’m more concerned about his vocal call the play and run the play skills. His leadership is going to be based on his ability to perform and run the offense. It would suit me if he doesn’t say one word to anybody and he does everything right from the time we give him the play until the whistle blows. If he does that, he doesn’t have to say anything vocally. You can’t be a leader if you don’t take care of your business.”
Sophomore defensive back Brent Brewer
(On his expectations for the second scrimmage)
“(I’m working on) the speed of the game, it’s a little fast for me. I want to get my legs back under me, reading the pass, reading the line, the perimeter and beat those middle linebackers, beat those Sam-backers and trying to get over the top of those safeties.”