Derek Dooley didn't ease his team into the first of its two two-a-day practices Thursday morning on Haslam Field.
A day after watching film and correcting mistakes from Tuesday's scrimmage, Dooley had his defensive unit throw a bevy of different looks at his young and inexperienced offensive line. The result, understandably, was a confused group as it left the field.
"We're continuing to push the envelope mentally, doing a lot of stemming, moving, different pressures. Which starts, you've got to be mentally tight out there," Dooley said. "That was new to us, and it caused us a lot of problems on offense. So we've got a lot of work.
"If I went and asked (offensive linemen) what did they do, they don't have a clue. You ever went and looked through one of those kaleidoscopes? That's what those guys. They're up there, and there are just orange (defensive) shirts doing this (moving all over the field). You know and they just do this [look confused]. They have no clue. It just takes time. It's hard, but we've got to go. We've got to go. We can't baby them."
While the Vols deployed several new pressures on their offensive front, Dooley explained that the installation of new material is nearly completed.
"We're starting to get on the tail-end of the install. The bulk of the install is in. What's changed now is not a lot of new stuff, but the deceptive part of the game," Dooley said. "Lining up in one thing and shifting to another right before the snap, you've got to be able to make the adjustment. So that's new. But there won't be a lot of stuff in.
"Tonight we'll put in four-minute offense and four-minute defense, which is kind of end-of-the-game stuff. But there's not going to be a lot more stuff. We've got to get better at what we've got."
JANZEN STILL SITTING
Sophomore safety Janzen Jackson again sat out practice with a sore hamstring. Though Dooley had indicated earlier he expected Jackson back today, the Vols' first-year coach insisted there was nothing to be gained by rushing the return of the former five-star prospect.
"It's day-to-day," Dooley said. "It's not horrible, but it's still there and there's no sense in getting it out here and re-tweaking it."
BROWN? NO CHANGE
Yes, John Brown was physically present on the Vols' practice field Thursday morning. But he wasn't in uniform, never donned a practice jersey and did not work with the team. In other words, nothing has changed for the junior college defensive tackle who is awaiting second-session summer school grades to determine whether or not he will be eligible to play for UT this fall.
"He was not at practice. He was here. He wasn't practicing. He's still in school," Dooley said, noting that classes have ended and Brown thus was free to do conditioning work in the morning. "We should know something about John in a couple of days, and we should know something on a couple of other guys within the week. I don't have any new news on that."
Dooley indicated earlier this week that signee Eddrick Loften, a four-star safety from Texas, would take the standardized test Saturday in an effort to get eligible.
FALLS ON BOTH SIDES
On Tuesday, Gerald Jones commented on the wide receivers dropping too many passes and said the unit didn't have its best day during the Vols' first scrimmage. Today, Matt Simms, who finished the scrimmage 9-for-21, was a little easier on the group and said dropped passes are a part of the game, as well as inaccurate ones from the quarterback.
"It's kind of tough because in games there are always going to be a few dropped passes and there's always going to be some passes that aren't as accurate as they should be," Simms said. "So, that's just part of the game and that's something that we have to overcome as an offense."
One of the biggest changes for the scrimmage was the coaches moved to the sidelines and out of the huddle. For the offense the transition was good for the most part.
"It definitely went smoothly. It was good to get out there and finally play the game and not hear all the talk behind the huddle and be reminded of everything," Simms said. "It really gives you a good starting point of how much you know."
The independence from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney being behind the unit was a welcomed one because it forced the offense to depend on itself and presents game-like situations.
"Maybe I missed his presence a little bit," Simms said with a smile. "But, it was good just to get back there with just us 11 out there in the huddle and to really know what we do well as a unit."
Derek Dooley agreed with Simms for the most part, saying the quarterbacks made a few mistakes, but the scrimmage was overall a good performance for the signal callers.
"They both did some good things. Missed some throws, missed some checks. But they're still making good progress. I was real pleased with them at the end of the scrimmage," Dooley said.
Along with feeling good about the new freedom during the scrimmage, Simms also gave a good review of the young offensive lineman protecting him.
"I think we only gave up two sacks the entire time. That's a good starting point for our scrimmage and they may be young and inexperienced, but they play hard and their extremely disciplined for a young group," Simms added.
SIMMS TALKS 2-A-DAYS
The first two-a-days always presents a new challenge with the early morning rise and late second practice. Although it was just the first session, Simms said it took a while for the offense to get rolling and up to speed for the 9:30 a.m. workout.
"Definitely and especially since we woke up early and maybe a few guys didn't eat as well as they should have, Simms said when asked if two-a-days were as mentally strenuous as they were physical," Simms offered. "A few guys were definitely dragging around a little bit. I myself, in the beginning, was dragging around a little bit in the beginning.
"That just something every team goes through in camp and you just have to fight through."
But, with the mental stress comes a gift; you start to find out what kind of team you are during the grueling days. Simms added that he needs to take it upon himself to have the offense up to speed and moving in the right direction in the evening session.
"You kind of find out who you are and what kind of tempo you can work at," Simms said. "That's definitely the thing I'm most disappointed about in myself was just not keeping the tempo going with the offense with the first unit and that's something I'm going to focus on this afternoon in second session."
DEFENSE WORKS TO RATCHET UP INTENSITY
The buzz coming out of Tuesday's scrimmage following a long day of film work and review was generally positive regarding the play on the offensive side of the ball. That's undoubtedly good news for a unit that could stand to build some confidence in fall camp. The flip-side of course is that it raises more questions about a defense that has battled more than its fair share of injuries through the first week of practice.
Dooley's biggest disappointment on the defensive side of the ball seemed to focus on the intangibles. The head coach didn't mince words on Tuesday, pointing out that in his view, the defense wasn't emotionally prepared and didn't bring the same kind of intensity to the scrimmage setting that the offense did.
Starting middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, who is fighting back from a knee injury, was in lockstep agreement with the head coach's assessment, but none too pleased about it.
"It was disappointing, but I agree with coach Dooley, we weren't ready to play. As a leader on the defense I take that as one of my responsibilities, to have the defense ready to go. We need to be emotionally ready as well as mentally and physically ready. We weren't ready, coach was absolutely right. It was bad, I was sick to my stomach about it all day on Wednesday," Reveiz said of the feedback received from the head coach following the scrimmage work.
Dooley has made no bones about the fact that he is going to hold individuals as well as the team accountable for their performance. It's an approach that might rub some players the wrong way, but as a veteran with a thick skin, Reveiz values Dooley's 'no-excuses' approach and his demand for high standards.
"We take pride in our defense, not only in how we play, but how we prepare. Coach is exactly right and he let us know about it," Reveiz offered. "We didn't play well in the scrimmage, and that's on all of us as a defense. Kudos to the offense though, like I said they did a great job. They were ready to go and they beat our butts fair and square.
"We just didn't fit the run real well. That was obvious on the first play, they busted a power play for about 50 yards right up the middle. We just didn't fit it well all day. I give credit to the offensive line, they did a great job, great job of blocking, of working together, of bringing a receiver down to crack the linebackers. We've got to adjust, no excuses."
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