Vol backup plan still sketchy
Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 6:50 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is comfortable with most of his first-team players after the Volunteers’ final fall scrimmage.
It’s the backups he’s worried about.
The Vols spent Saturday working on specific situations, like running out the clock or needing to win late in the game, and those situations exposed the team’s young and inexperienced players.
“We need a ton of work at this stuff,” Dooley said. “The players that had experience were calm and played well, and the ones that didn’t (have experience) and are new and the freshmen really struggled.”
Two seasons of coaching turnovers prompted the departure of several would-be sophomores and juniors who would be filling the backup roles.
The Vols currently have 76 scholarship players — nine fewer than the NCAA’s limit of 85.
“I’m not worried about what we don’t have, but today it really showed,” Dooley said.
Tennessee didn’t release statistics on the scrimmage, which was closed to the media and the public.
Dooley said the team would review the film and do whatever it could to correct the issues before the Sept. 4 season opener against UT Martin.
The offense didn’t have the kind of big runs or passes it’s had in the previous scrimmages, partly because of defensive improvement and partly because of missed assignments on the offense’s behalf, center Cody Pope said.
“We didn’t have as many explosive plays, so it was hard to really get a lot of energy, I guess. Because you know, a big play and everyone gets energized,” Pope said. “But it was kind of like cutting down a tree. You’ve just got to keep cutting, keep cutting, until that thing comes down. Eventually we broke some big plays.”
Matt Simms threw one interception, while Tyler Bray threw several picks. Linebacker Savion Frazier finally got his hands on one, after dropping several in the previous scrimmage, and took it into the end zone.
“I dropped three balls last week with no gloves. They kept telling me to put some gloves on, so I told them I’d wear some gloves today,” Frazier said. “I got me a pick and took it to the crib.”
One of Tennessee’s key defensive backs, safety Janzen Jackson, struggled a bit after missing several fall practices with a hamstring injury. Jackson is one of only two defensive backs with playing time.
“He’s very behind and he hurt us a lot today, and it’s because he missed so much practice,” Dooley said.