KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Redshirt senior Herman Lathers has been a member of the Tennessee football team through many changes.
This season, Lathers has seen a change in the mentality of the Volunteers, in a good way.
"The mood was good [today at practice], that was surprising," said Lathers. "We don't get the results we want but the mood is always good. We know what is at stake and we know what is ahead of us. We have a great team so we are just going to keep on working."
The Vols were right back at it Monday at practice fixing the mistakes that they made Saturday and preparing for the upcoming game against South Carolina.
The whole time, they kept their heads held high.
"It is human nature to fall down and get sad and depressed [after losses]," said offensive lineman Antonio Richardson. "It is week-by-week in college football and anybody can be beat at any time."
"In the offseason and right now we put emphasis on us staying together and that is the reason week-by-week that we have the confidence that we can play with anybody, even though this week didn't go that well. Each week we go into the game thinking that we can play against anybody because it is that togetherness. Last year it is what it is, we fell apart, but this year we are doing a good job of honing in and staying together and that is the difference."
Lathers echoed Richardson's sentiments about the team's attitude.
"Most teams fold at times like this with the losses we have had," said Lathers. "We have a great team. We have been together since day one and it has been great so far." "It is great. The whole team's confidence is great. We have been together since day one. Most teams in past years would have folded by now but our spirit is great, our mood is great so that is great to see at this time of year."
The Vols still have an opportunity to win out and finish with an 8-4 regular season record, as noted by senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner.
Lathers knows that he, and the team, will just move forward and work towards this goal.
"It is hard but we know what is at stake and we know we have a great group of coaches," said Lathers. "So we are going to keep working and keep grinding."
Neither the Tennessee offense or defense performed as well as they had hoped in a 44-13 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, but head coach Derek Dooley was not interested in making any excuses during his Monday press conference.
“I think our two sides of the ball are very different,” Dooley said. “We have one side that is really experienced with a lot of good ability and we didn’t perform on that side, the offense, the way I thought we could of. Now look, this is a great team we played so I am not taking anything away from how good they are. They are outstanding but we left a lot of plays out there. Just those two interceptions alone and the drop, there is about 150 yards of offense right there. Being able to put that kind of number on Alabama and some points. I’m not sure why we didn’t play a little better on offense.
“On defense, certainly there are some things that contribute to it. It’s not an excuse. A lot of growing pains with the coaches, a lot of growing pains with the players. I think we have nine guys out there in their first or second year of the program and a new system. It’s not an excuse. We have to play better.”
As they do every week – win or lose – the Vols will go through an evaluation process to determine the best way to approach the upcoming week in order to be best prepared for their next opponent.
“We evaluate the coaches every week on how we coach, how we motivate, how we teach, what we are running,” Dooley said. “We do it every week to see where we can be better. There is a lot of dialogue with the players. It’s not we are over here and they are there. We work together to solve problems and that is what we do each week. If there is a way we can coach you better to help you, we are going to do it. If there are things that we are doing that you don’t get, we aren’t going to do it, but it requires a good mutual relationship of maturity and honesty to do that.”
Despite the tough stretch, Dooley remains confident that this team will turn things around.
“Of course it gets more challenging the more losses you have, that is human nature, but it is a close team,” Dooley said. “It is a team that I believe in and I have always believed in. I believe we have the right kind of guys in moving forward. It is just a question of staying the course and being able to get over the hump on some of these things and we aren’t there yet.”
Coming off a tough game against the top-ranked Crimson Tide, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray said he did not play at his normal pace on Saturday.
"I was trying to press," said Bray on Monday. "I was just rushing through my reads instead of being patient, because the line blocked great for me all night. So instead of being patient, I just rushed through it and might have made some throws I shouldn't have thrown."
Bray was 13-of-27 for 184 yards with two interceptions in the contest. It marked the first game in 2012 that he did not throw for a touchdown.
"I just need to calm down," said Bray. "I rushed way too much that game and tried to play too fast. I just need to kind of relax."
The California native knows the importance of his role within the team concept and understands he needs to make improvements.
"The quarterback has the ball in his hands every play," said Bray. "If he's throwing it well, the team's playing good. If he's not, the team's going to play bad."
The best way to cure what ails the Vols right now according to Bray?
"A win, period, would be great right now. We haven't won in a while, so any win is great."
EVER-READY WORLEY RETURNS HOME
Sophomore quarterback Justin Worley returns to his home state with Saturday's game at No. 17 South Carolina.
The Rock Hill native actually made his first career start against the Gamecocks in 2011 as the Vols fell 14-3 at Neyland Stadium.
Worley saw late action in the Tennessee loss to No. 1 Alabama, completing 3-of-4 passes for 19 yards, this past Saturday. In his second season, Worley has gained great experience and says he is prepared if Coach Dooley calls for No. 14 to go under center against the Gamecocks.
"It is exciting knowing that I got some reps and we went in and put three points on the board (vs. Alabama)," Worley said. "Every week it is just another week and we have to prepare like we are the starter (at quarterback). Right now Tyler is still the starter, but every week we have to be prepared.
"I would love to play, but it is in the coach's hands right now."
As a star quarterback at Northwestern High School, Worley has seen action at the home of the Gamecocks and is anticipating a nice cheering section for his return
"This will actually be my third time playing in Williams-Brice," said Worley, who threw for 13,385 yards in his prep career. "It is exciting. I know a lot of folks who will be there."
A CLASH OF THE TITANS
Saturday's game will pit one of the best pass rushers in the country, Jadeveon Clowney against an offensive line that has allowed just three sacks during the 2012 season.
Clowney has already registered 7.5 sacks for a loss of 43 yards (fifth in the NCAA) to go along with 14 tackles for a loss of 64 yards (ranking third) through eight games.
Vols sophomore left tackle Antonio Richardson is prepared for Clowney and is looking forward to the challenge.
"He is really athletic and has a physical presence, really good with his hands," said Richardson. "He is the best defensive end in the country, possibly the best defensive player in the country. We are going to prepare for him, not going to overemphasize or overhype him. We have good offensive lineman too, he is going to go against me and I am ready for the challenge."
Richardson, who is just in his second season in the Big Orange, plays like a seasoned veteran on this offensive line. He has made just seven career starts, all in 2012, but attributes his readiness to the strength of schedule the Vols have week-in and week-out playing in the SEC.
"This conference you go against good players every week," said Richardson. "From Florida to Georgia, I have been against a good player now. My confidence is up and I feel like I can play against anybody in the SEC and I am just going to treat them like another player, go into it with the same approach like I do every week and I am going to just play."
This week it will be sophomore standout against sophomore standout as Richardson and Clowney meet on the gridiron.
"The thing about it is, we are both young players and sophomores," said Richardson. "It is like a clash of the titans type deal. Maybe I will make a better name for myself, he could make a better name for himself, we will see how it goes. But I am going in there with aspirations of beating him."
When all is said and done, though he has a tough test ahead of him, Richardson, as well as the rest of the starting five, are confident.
"We are one of the best offensive lines in the country," said Richardson, "we aren't worried about it."
IN THE STARTING LANE
Marlin Lane made the first start of his career last week against No. 1 Alabama.
Though he was dinged up in the Mississippi State game, Lane came out and accumulated more than a third of the Vols' total offense, putting up one of the biggest rushing games that the Alabama front seven have allowed this season.
"I feel like I did pretty good, but I still need to work on a little something to help the offense out even more," said Lane, who gained 55 yards on 15 carries. "I feel like I gave enough effort to get positive yardage each time I touched the ball and I am looking forward to doing it again."
Lane got the opportunity to start after Rajion Neal injured his ankle in the same Mississippi State game. The starter just wasn't well enough to compete.
Lane, who has seen his share of bumps and bruises this season, believes that he is currently playing his best football.
"I think have improved a lot coming back from the hand injury and everything," said Lane. "Each week I am getting better and better. Consistency, I feel like I have all the strength back in my hand and I can do whatever now."
A lot was said after the loss against Alabama, but Lane, and the rest of the Vols, turn a deaf ear to the outside voices and just focus in on what they have to do to win.
"We just don't pay too much attention to the media," said Lane. "As long as you know what goes on inside the white lines and the meeting rooms we are all good with each other. We are just going to keep fighting for it."
JUNIOR QB TYLER BRAY
(On Alabama game)
“We lost. I made a few mistakes that I’d like to have the ball back. The other one to Pig in the end zone.. I’d like to have a quicker drop and get the ball out of my hand.”
(On preparing for South Carolina)
“It’s not like we have played great teams before. Florida has a great defensive line. We have a great offense line so it’s going to be a battle.”
(On South Carolina’s defense)
“They have a great defensive line and great linebacker corps. I mean they are a great team. That’s why they are ranked.”
(On not coming out to talk to the media post-Alabama game)
“I just need to man up and face the consequences.”
SOPHOMORE OL ANTONIO RICHARDSON
(On Jadeveon Clowney)
“Jarvis Jones is more of an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid type guy. Jadeveon Clowney is a defensive end and he is probably the best defensive end in the country in the last decade or so. He is good, he is that good. He is athletic and brings a physical presence with him. We have to get in there and watch the film, watch the film, and get better.”
(On South Carolina)
“It is just week-by-week that is all it is. Every team in college football is beatable. And our coaches do a really good job of breaking down film; we do a good job of watching film and seeing weaknesses. Week-by-week we just might not execute well. Most definitely I have to say about South Carolina, their defensive line is their strong point and as you go to the linebackers and secondary it starts to weaken a little bit. We think if we can control the line of scrimmage this can be our game.”
(On playing in the SEC)
“You are in the SEC, you are going to play those top-10 teams every week. This is what we signed up for. There is no going back now.”
RS SENIOR LB HERMAN LATHERS
(On the getting the defense simpler)
“We were simpler. It helps but you still have to play your responsibility and when you don’t and give up plays then it hurts you. It doesn’t matter how simple you get if you give up plays and don’t play your assignment. It doesn’t matter.”
(On the morale of the team)
“Morale is great. With the results we have been getting the past few weeks it shouldn’t be great but it is great because of the cohesiveness with have and the accountability with have and just being together as a team. It is great to see and we look forward to it.”
(On the negativity on social media)
“It is a part of sports. Great fans want to see you winning and when you don’t win you get criticized. But when you do win everybody loves you. It is a part of the game and you get used to it.”
JUNIOR OL JA’WUAN JAMES
(On Justin Worley playing)
“When Justin’s in, we don’t miss a beat. He’s just as good of a quarterback as Tyler. We have a bunch of good guys. It’s great that we have depth now and an opportunity to do stuff with it. As an offensive lineman, it won’t affect anything. We still going to protect him and block.”
(On if Worley starting would be a spark)
“You never know. As an offensive lineman, our job is to go out and protect whoever is behind us and block for whoever is running the ball. So that’s what we are going to do and we take pride in that. Whoever is behind us, we feel like that can lead us.”
(On South Carolina’s defensive line)
“They have a lot of good guys that can get after the ball. They play well together. They are playing with a lot of confidence. Our offensive line is pretty good, too. We have a lot of confidence and it’s going to be a good battle.”
(On South Carolina’s defense)
“[Jadeveon] Clowney is a great player with great instincts. He just gets to the ball, and the other guys just play well together. They know what they are doing and they are an experienced group.”
SOPHOMORE TB MARLIN LANE
(On Monday’s practice)
“We were just making a lot of corrections. A short practice to get our legs back and focusing on what we did wrong on Saturday and trying to correct it before Saturday.”
(On the rest of the season)
“With us not beating Alabama and Florida, we are just going to keep trying to push past South Carolina and try and win that. They are probably the last ranked team that we will play. We just want to go out with a bang and win out the rest of the season.”
SOPHOMORE QB JUSTIN WORLEY
(On the team’s mindset today at practice)
“We came out with a good mindset today. It seemed like we were locked in and focused. Week in and week out we have the confidence to win the game. I think Saturday was the first game that we have been beat and they gave it to us. Heading into this game, South Carolina has lost two in a row so we have confidence.”
(On moving on)
“You just have to move on and take one game at a time. Those last three losses in a row hurt, but we are on to South Carolina now.”
“This is huge. Coach Dooley said this morning that this is the last time that we will get to face an opponent that is top-15, so this is huge going forward to November.”
SOPHMORE TB DEVRIN YOUNG
(On the offensive miscues)
“We have had some missed assignments, turning over the ball, just the basics. We have to be more fundamentally sound and have to execute when we have the opportunities. I think there were two or three times that we were inside the 30 and we didn’t score.”
(On South Carolina’s defensive line)
“Their front line is real sound, they have some gamewreckers up front, but we have a real great line so it isn’t too stressful.”
RS SENIOR DB PRENTISS WAGGNER
(On A.J. McCarron finding holes)
“Just give all the credit to Alabama, every coverage has a week spot, A.J. McCarron just did a good job of finding it.”
(On South Carolina)
“It is important because we are just trying to win a football game. I am a senior, this is my last year, so the main focus is winning the football game plain and simple.”
“They are a good team, they got the short end of the stick these last two weeks and we know Saturday coming out at 12 o’clock they are going to come out fighting.”
(On looking ahead to the rest of the season)
“We can still be bowl eligible; we can still win out and go 8-4, possibly 9-4 with a bowl.”
(On the mobility of Connor Shaw)
“It is difficult, the D-Line has a tough job ahead with Shaw and keeping him in the pocket is going to be a tough job for them. On the back end we have to cover those guys for long periods of time.”
“They have a mobile quarterback. He can keep plays alive, sort of like a Ben Roethlisberger or someone like that. That is going to be a tough job in the secondary in staying with those guys for a long extended period of time.”
RS FRESHMAN DL TREVARRIS SAULSBERRY
(On playing against Alabama)
“..Coach was like ‘we want to see how you do in practice,’ so I just started going out there practicing hard, trying to play technique, learn from the players in front of me.”
(On getting playing time)
“After my redshirt year, I was thinking okay, this is my year. I can come out and start playing, get my playing time. Things didn’t go how I planned, so I just sat back, waited, kept practicing hard, kept giving the team looks, I mean I had a good scout team, so I was just like we have to get better, we have to get better, but when my time came, I felt like I was ready to step up and take the role on the defense.”
(On handling the moment)
“I feel like I handled it well. Of course I’m going to be nervous and excited, but I feel like I played my role and my teammates were helping me get there.”