Dave Hooker’s 8/7 Practice Report
Injuries happen. Still, Tennessee would just as soon they don’t happen to two players at the same position.
With impressive freshman Corey Vereen scheduled for an MRI on Thursday and senior Jacques Smith out for four to six weeks with a broken thumb, the Vols may have to reevaluate just how they handle their defensive ends. The most logical move would be for senior Corey Miller to see some practice time on the right side of the defensive line. Miller is currently listed as a second string defensive end on the left side of the line behind senior Marlin Walls.
While Miller is poised to show vast improvement this season, he doesn’t have the quickness that Smith has shown. As far as a pure pass rusher, the Vols won’t be as strong at defensive end as they expected if Smith isn’t in the lineup.
The good news for Tennessee is the Vols open the season with Austin Peay and Western Kentucky. Smith should be healthy for the Oregon game on Sept. 14. If not, the Vols likely won’t be able to produce the pass rush from their front four they had hoped for without adding additional pressure via blitzing.
Miller seems ready to make the move to right defensive end. As a veteran, he’s been dedicated to learning the Vols’ new 4-3 defense in its entirety.
“We meet all the time,” Miller said. “So we have a lot of opportunities to learn new things about our defense, and learn things that we haven’t known back in the spring. So, now I feel like it’s a lot better on our side on understanding.”
While losing Smith and possibly Vereen is far from ideal, Miller said UT’s veteran defensive line should be able to handle the challenge.
“We have six seniors. We have a lot more guys that are ready to contribute at any given time,” Miller said. “[Defenive line] coach [Steve] Stripling had us in meetings all day preparing for those types of situations. These guys are ready, we are ready.”
Junior running back Marlin Lane has been nothing but contrite in his public comments since returning to full-time status with Tennessee’s football team. Lane wasn’t allowed to practice during spring drills because of off-field issues.
“It was very difficult, because the whole team became a family,” Lane said of his separation. “Being separate from them was like being alone and not with my family. I just learned to appreciate what I got.”
Several coaches and administrators mentored Lane during his pseudo suspension.
“They just told me `What you give is what you get,’” Lane said. “And `Hold your head up high no matter what goes on.’ Never tell them a fib and speak the truth to them and they will help you out. Buy in to what they are saying and we are going to be successful.”
Freshmen are Fine
Jones cited some youngsters following Wednesday’s evening practice. Quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson were some of the tops.
“(I am) very encouraged by our two freshman quarterbacks,” Jones said. “They continue to progress. We put them in some stressful situations tonight, I really like the way they are developing.”
Cornerback Cameron Sutton is the first freshman to have his black stripe removed from his helmet so the orange stripe can be seen. Removing of the stripe is a sign that Sutton has established himself among UT’s upperclassmen. He’s not the only one. Another stripe could be removed soon.
“The two freshman corners, Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman, very encouraged by what I see in them,” Jones said. “I think right now they are gaining a lot of confidence as we continue to progress throughout training camp.”
Tennessee will hold its first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday. Jones said he will focus much of his attention on UT’s kickers.
“We’ll have a big day on Saturday,” he said. “We’ll do a lot of special teams scrimmage situations. The next few days in the development of this football team are going to be critical. We’re working towards getting game ready. Saturday is gameday for a lot of individuals. I’m really interested to see our special teams, and that’s going to be a big day for us Saturday.
For now, senior Michael Palardy is still listed as the starting punter, placekicker and kickoff man. Punting has seemed to be his strongest suit during preseason camp. Placekicking is still a work in progress.
“My game is special team,” Palardy said. “My game is consistency. My game is going out there and having the pressure put on me. I embrace all of that. I embrace Coach Jones putting the pressure on me and the whole specialists group.”
Junior tight end Woody Quinn was not happy about some dropped passes he’s had recently in practice. The drops are a bit surprising as Quinn, a former volleyball player, was expected to have good hands. The one question about his play was his overall physicality.
When asked about the drops, Quinn said, “Too many…One is way too many for me so I’m trying to improve that. You know, I feel like more than anything for me, is focusing on going fast and not you know, Coach Jones said one day I was kind of walking on egg shells trying to do every little thing right, and I just have to run, get to where I’m supposed to be, turn around and catch the ball.”
Sophomore safety Brian Randolph has surprised himself with his play. Admittedly, he was concerned he wouldn’t reach the same level of play he did before suffering a serious knee injury last year.
“That was my worst fear,” Randolph said. “I thought I would be timid. I thought I would be scared, I thought that would be the No. 1 thing on my mind. But so far it has not bothered me at all.”