After getting burned twice, Vols got it covered

Full event details »

Tennessee assistant coach Kurt Roper was a little mum Tuesday morning when asked about UT's punt-coverage team.

But he did it with a smile on his face.

"I really didn't want to talk about it so we didn't jinx it," joked Roper, who handles UT's punt return coverage in addition to his duties as running backs coach.

Through Tennessee's first three games, the Vols allowed four punt returns for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Florida and Cal averaged 42 yards a return, while Southern Miss did not return a punt against the Vols.

But since those three games, the Vols have given up just 34 yards on 10 opponent returns.

After giving up returns of 77 and 83 yards for touchdowns early, the longest return since September has gone for just 11 yards.

Part of the reason has been punter Britton Colquitt.

Part has been a new spread formation the Vols debuted against Georgia.

And part has been a change in personnel that put more wide receivers and defensive backs on the field for punt coverage.

"I think Britton's done a great job of punting, directional punting and being on time in getting it out," Roper said. "I think the difference in formations helps getting guys out faster than what the tighter punt formation does for you. I think effort is another thing. I think the guys have been giving great effort and have been challenged. Those first two returns may be a challenge for you."

Since Florida's Brandon James and Cal's DeSean Jackson scored touchdowns, the Vols haven't faced a bunch of scrubs either.

In its last seven games, the Vols have faced Alabama's Javier Arenas, Georgia's Mikey Henderson, Arkansas' Jerell Norton and South Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn.

Those five players rank second through fifth, in order, in the SEC for punt-return average.

Florida's James ranks No. 1 with a 17.2-yard average per return.

Now Bennett: After facing the SEC's leading rusher last week in Arkansas' Darren McFadden, Tennessee gets the conference's leading receiver Saturday in Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett.

The junior leads the SEC with an average of 6.7 receptions a game and set the league's all-time receptions mark this season. He has 228 career catches entering Saturday's game.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Bennett is sixth in the league with 73.9 yards per game.

UT defensive coordinator John Chavis complimented Bennett, but also said the rest of Vandy's offense merits attention.

"We've got to defend Vanderbilt's offensive attack," Chavis said. "Bennett's a part of it. They've got another receiver or two, to be honest with you, just as good. It's not just Bennett. They've got other receivers. They do a great job of moving him around."

Simple Again?: Chavis said he called the fewest blitzes of his career against Arkansas in an effort to help stop the Razorbacks' running attack.

That likely won't be the case again this week.

"There's nobody that likes to bring pressure more than I do. That's me, that's who I am, that's what I believe in," Chavis said. "But sometimes that can get you in trouble. When you're playing a team that runs the scheme that Arkansas runs, unless you hit things exactly right, you're going to cause yourself as much problems as you do them."

Vanderbilt and its balanced offense requires a different approach.

"You have to change," Chavis said. "We did what we felt like would give us the best opportunity in last week's game. That's what we'll do this week."

Lead Foot Taylor: UT receiver Lucas Taylor has been playing the last three games with a metal plate in his shoe to help combat a turf toe injury suffered against Mississippi State.

"He's playing with a plate inside his shoe and doing the best he can," wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said.

Taylor has 782 receiving yards this season and ranks third in the SEC with 78.2 yards per game.

Tickets Available: A limited number of tickets for Saturday's final home game of the season remain.

They may be purchased at the UT box office in Thompson-Boling Arena or by phone at 656-1200 or 800-332-8657 from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. or online at

Tickets are $40.

Pay-Per-View Info: Saturday's game will be shown on DirecTV channel 684 and is also available through local cable systems and on Dish Network.

The game will be available on ESPN's GamePlan package, but only outside the state of Tennessee.

Mike Strange contributed to this report.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 43

gohawks1 writes:

Here's an example of a change made by the coaching staff that's had positive results. Kudos, coach.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I didn't know we had turned the corner that well!

Punt coverage and returns has been a problem for years at UT but it sounds like we are finally starting to see some progress.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

I just wish I could see some of this action.

I have been able to catch the Alabama game, regretfully and the Arkansas game (yes!) online. I think I can't see anymore this year.

I'll still be listening though!! Enjoy it for me


nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I think the best thing is how so many things that have improved are due to schematic changes and coaching.

The very thing everyone was blasting the staff for earlier this year has changed. Granted, we wish it happened a little sooner... but we are heading on I-75 southbound so far!!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Yeah no doubt about that!

I remember way back after Florida, I had TN running the table with the exception of Alabama. I posted it somewhere but I'm not really vain enough to find it.

I hope I'm right! Also, I remember saying that many consider SEC Championship against LSU to be the beginning of the UT decline. They cost us our shot at the NC. I say it is time to return the favor and win a game we have no business winning to set things right in K-town again.

Next year looks great. Always scary with a new QB. I have faith in J-Cro though even though many don't. It should be exciting. The RB's will be absolutely loaded! Receivers also matured with the whole o-line back!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I thought he did pretty well last year. He was thrown to the dogs by having to go against LSU and ARK but held his own. Once it is his show, he should be alright.

Hard to tell what will happen next year. FL and GA will have grown up and we will be younger. Doesn't look good on paper... but maybe the young ones are what we need to start moving back to SEC powerhouse status!

Colliervol writes:

Good adjustment by the coaching staff on a major problem. Give credit when it's due (and criticism when it's due). Here's a thought. You can do both and still be a Vol fan. Gosh, what an amazing concept. Something some folks on here just don't quite grasp.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


Good call. It's all or nothing with a lot of people. Even when we begin to win and show major improvement in problematic areas, we still have to fire Fulmer.

On the other hand, when their are problems... deal with it! I don't think there is anything wrong with saying "Hey, the defense is playing terrible and they need to get their act together." But when you begin the name calling and obstinately refuse to change your position even when the team changes it's playing, well, that's just ridiculous.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


Welcome to the site. You guys really killed us earlier this year. Harvin and Tebow are absolute beasts!!

Don't worry, we'll take care of Vandy <snicker>. KY will be tough but hopefully managable.

LSU is a loaded team that TN is outmatched against on paper. I'll be glad to see them get a shot at them though. You never know what may happen.

I hope you enjoy the game. I'd rather watch my team fight in the championship than sit at home not getting the opportunity.

Volfan1 writes:

Just remember gatornation....
Tennessee - two SEC losses.
Florida - THREE SEC losses.
Enjoy watching the SECCG on TV.
You sure looked "great" against Georgia, too....cough, gag, choke!

movol77 writes:

Colliervol, please stop adding a defense of your "criticisms" everytime you make a positive post. It's just not necessary to justify criticisms when posting an "at-a-boy" (unless one has become defensive of self-image as a critic).

asleep#212036 writes:

Amen Colliervol!

I would like to say that I am also surprised from the statistics given that we have improved that much in kick coverage. On the other side, Rogan also seems to be the better choice. It is refreshing to see the coaching staff address a problem and fix it, something the "haters" are convinced never happens.

I can't wait until next year. The offense will be fine as the run will only get stronger and the receivers will have the experience to help out a new starter (like Meachem and Co. helped Ainge last year). Defensively, with the linebackers in good shape, and the secondary through their trial by fire, all we need is to shore up the D-line. With Bolden, Williams, Fisher, and Nelson all returning, the tackle spot should be OK. Defensive end will be up for grabs but Ayers and Brown have both played well and should start. Colquitt and Lincoln back too. Florida and Alabama at home, Auburn still with no QB (and maybe new coach) next year. Georgia looks to be the prime-time game in Athens. Wouldn't you just love to beat RIcht 3 years in a row? Go Vols!!!

Colliervol writes:

Movol, I'm just trying to point out that one can do both and still be a Vol fan. Pretty simple concept really. As far as my criticisms go, I'll stand by every one of them. Cause I'm only going to level the ones that I think are valid. Really could care less if anybody agrees or not but it's fun to debate them.

Asleep, next year could be interesting if we get consistent QB play. Heard a radio guy this morning say that, privately, Fulmer has been telling people that the 2008 and 2009 teams have a chance to be special because of all the young talent. Of course, the same thing was said before 2005 so I think I'll wait and see.

gohawks1 writes:

Asleep, don't forget about Chris Donald at LB. I'm not sure how his progress has been this year, but he was a 5-star and the #1 rated prospect in TN coming out of high school. I can't wait to see him on the field next year.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Gatornation seems to have gone away. I was hoping to see what his take was on this:

Which would you TN fans rather have:

a. Beat Florida, no SEC Chmp game.

b. Lose to Florida, play in SEC Chmp.

I hate to say it as much as I dislike FL... but I'll take ATL.

How bout you?

Colliervol writes:

Nick, I'll take B any day. Gatornation, if we're lucky enough to make it to Atlanta, we'll wave to you while you're sitting home. If not, well, Georgia will wave to you.

beatlecakes writes:

3rd time in the SEC Championship with LSU is the charm...

skroutyboy writes:

OK, I hate to play the devil's advocate, but let me ask a question. Granted, our punt coverage has improved dramatically. However, kickoff coverage is still poor, in my opinion. Here's my question: how many punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns have we allowed since the last time we had one? I remember Georgia had one of each last year--those plays kept the game close. Can anyone answer this question? Not trying to be a nattering nabob of negativity (quoting Spiro T. Agnew), but just curious.

jawjavol writes:

Hey Colliervol: you made the requisite one positive comment for the year so you no longer qualify for membership in the nasty negative poster club. No need to apologize or even bring it up again. Welcome to the reality.

I am a Vol fan and usually supportive which means I try not to resort to name calling or talking about a coaches weight. I am not sold that we can win this week or next after the emotional high of last week. I believe we are more than capable though.

I think the coaching staff has done a good job several times this year, namely ARKy and GA games. What I have a bigger issue is that Fulmer did not have this team ready to play in Berkeley or Gainesville and there was zero passion against Bammer. For $2M I expect maximum effort week in week out. I want the same things from Fulmer as my financial advisor... returns commensurate with the pay he receives. I hope Hamilton has him on notice that he must produce. UT has finished lower than preseason polls every year since 2000. That says over-rated.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I can't remember the last time we took it to the house. I can tell you one thing though... I expect to see it multiple times with Rogan over the next few years. The kid is electric!

With punt returns, it always seems like someone is right on top of our returner when he catches it. That could be an area of improvement.

Kick returns have been great but the 5 yard back rule is helping everyone. Regardless, TN has been great in that... I think 8th in the nation.

hcjournals#206623 writes:


Remember this. We made Steve Spurrier retire. We'll help Oscar Meyer out the door also. He is a jerk, and you know it. We are ahead of you in the SEC. Did you notice?
Of all of the schools in the SEC, your fans show the biggest lack of class. Georgia, unfortunately, has become second. Maybe if you stop selling white wife beaters you'll have less problems. DO sell those as your shirts, don't you?

Mr_Brownstone writes:

Colquitt is so overrated.

GreerVol22 writes:

Snapper, holder, and Lincoln are the only ones on special teams putting in the time to get better. Some progress is better than no progress but we are still a long way from being good, and the only reason we are better is coaches have set some of those 8th year seniors and walkons on the bench in favor of better athletes. If it were not for Colquitt being accurate with the squib it would be even worse. Likewise with punts to the sideline. Rogan has been the only positive that I see.

Its truly a sphincter tightening adventure every single kick!

jdcvols#230433 writes:

jawjasvol, we finish lower than pre-season rating because we do not care about bowl games. It's horrible. Last year, if we had beaten PSU, we would have be ranked right ahead of CAl at 12th or 13th instead we barely hang on in the Top 25. Bowl games kill us every year.

phi0129 writes:

This is defnitely an area that TN has improved drastically in this year. And I think it's great. But why did it take them 3 years to employ this new "formation" and switch good players to special teams? We have been getting killed in this area for years now. So I'm not going to say great thing we changed when it took them 3 years to do it.
I'm extremely happy with Rogan. It's good to see a local boy provide some electric energy and excitement. I told my Dad the other day I expect him to take quite a few to the house before his career is over. I could see a big play like that IF we get to the SEC championship maybe being a difference maker.
Gator: Let's be honest. Sometimes we have sucked this year and sometimes your team has sucked this year. Unfortunately, your team has sucked more often in the SEC. With the craziness of college football this year, I think we can beat a very much better and solid LSU team if we come to play (sounds a little like some revenge for 2001...hmmm).

Nick: You mentioned watching the game online. Does anyone know where I could find this weekend's game?

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

nicksjuzunk and tngeoff.

It's very refreshing to see two guys who may or may not be critical of UTs coaching situation actually have an adult exchange where proper kudos are given for improvements and good coaching decisions.

My first impression geoff was that you were just another fulmer hater with blinders on. And then I saw a change in your tone and I (initially) thought you were demonstrating the textbook definition of fair-weather fan-ship. However, that criticism was/is unfounded. I think in your case you are torn between emotion and reason and right now your logical side has been appeased by a successful trend. Thanks for proving that some Fulmer critics are able to see the bigger picture.

You have it right. Right now we all need to be on board and root for the TEAM, the Vols, the men wearing orange and white. These men have dedicated four years to this program and Fulmer or no Fulmer they deserve our support.

Lastly...ANYBODY who at this point is dumping negativety and Fulmer criticsms, in the face of a potential SEC-CG berth, is unmistakeably NOT a true fan. The mistake these people are making is by defining success this season as validation for the current coach. Last time I checked, the SEC flags currently waving over our beloved Shields-Watkins field do not have a coaches name embroidered upon them. Neither does the 1998 NC flag that rides so high in the air. Championships that go in the books are for the state, for the fans, and for the players...not the damn coach. He is but the means of orchestration. Savor this time, foster the confidence of these boys, and lets put another flagpole up at Neyland!!!!

Go Big Orange.

orangebloodgmc writes:

vol in lsu-land, are you in baton rouge? Do you have a plan for watching game saturday?

GreerVol22 writes:

marc_ash, well put on both post. However, losing either of the next two negates 1-6 entirely. We are supposed to win these kind of games, despite all the parity BS everyone talks about. The team just has to find the fortitude to act like it.

DennisVols writes:

Since we keep seeing the bad stats about UT and all the negative talk about where this program is headed I decided to look at the most recent figures to see if all this really added up.
Is UT in the decline? Are we no longer one of the elite? I compared UT to the 5 coaches everyone thinks is out coaching Fulmer. Meyers, Richt, Saban, Miles and Spurrier
Over the last 7 games how has UT compared to other SEC EAST and LSU
(1) UT Average Points Per Game Allowed: 21
(2) LSU Average Points Per Game Allowed: 22.85
(3) UA Average Points Per Game Allowed:24.28
(4) UGA Average Points Per Game Allowed: 25.14
(5) USC Average Points Per Game Allowed: 28.86
(6) (5)UF Average Points Per Game Allowed: 29.14
(1) LSU Average Points Per Game Scored: 36.57
(2) UT Average Points Per Game Scored: 36.14
(3) UF Average Points Per Game Scored: 35.14
(4)UGA Average Points Per Game Scored: 33.74
(5) USC Average Points Per Game Scored: 27.71
(6) UA Average Points Per Game Scored: 25.86
UT, UGA & LSU: 6-1
UF: 4-3
USC& UA:3-4
UT has the lowest scoring defense over those 7 game, the 2nd highest scoring offense and tie for the best record.
Considering how this season started it was easy to get on Fulmers case and the rest of the staff. It was easy to question the heart of the players after the Gator stomp. Looking at this turn around and the fact that UT is right where everyone would hope they would be, in control of the SEC East heading into the final two games it is also hard not to give credit where it is due. UT’s stats and record ranks at the top of the SEC and those coaches who most, including myself, thought were so much better do not have the record or the stats to prove it.

DennisVols writes:

Sometimes our eyes get clouded. As a passionate fan I was outraged at the loses to UF and UA. We looked really bad in both.
What we fail to do at times is remember that a season is won over 12 games now and it seems that the idea of going undefeated in the SEC is nearly impossible.
As I have stated before "It is not always that you lose that matters, but how you lose". No one wants to see UT go down like that.
What is very impressive is this young team and coaches have put together quite a turnaround from where most thought we were going after 3 games.

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

Posted by orangebloodgmc

"vol in lsu-land, are you in baton rouge? Do you have a plan for watching game saturday?"

Yes, I live in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately I do not budget ESPN gameplan into my expenses so I will not see the game on TV. This past weekend there was a free LFS simulcast through Yahoo of the AR game, so I'm hoping I might find a similar thing with Vandy but I seriously doubt that will be the case. In any event, I'll probably just be content in seeing highlights and checking the score updates.

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

It's very refreshing to see a lot of posters (who in my short time here I found to be ravenously anti-Fulmer) take a look at the program from a positive angle.

Is there hope for some of the hold-outs? CRVol is one in particular that comes to mind. Will he have an epiphany and see the potential of the home stretch and decide to root FOR THE TEAM, or will he continue to wallow in his negativity, pouting as a child deprived of a favorite toy?

orangebloodgmc writes:

Vol-in-LSU-land, before you give up on watching the game this weekend, let's call Ivar's sports bar at end of week; they may show it. That's where I watched the ARK game. Geaux Vawls! Knock down the dores!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

Posted by orangebloodgmc

let's call Ivar's sports bar at end of week...

Hey, I didn't realize you are in BR! Yeah, going to a sports bar was another option I thought about. I've never been to "Ivar's" that near LSU?

RemembertheAlamo writes:

marc_ash....did BJ transf to a JC?

LargeOrange writes:

You are right TDTN, I did miss your last post, very clever. Ironically, in the same post, you used to attempt to insult me, marc_ash goes on to say - "Thanks for the positive posts today, very refreshing."
I guess TDTN couldn't have that go on. His attitude is that we have got to stick to the negative personal attacks and quit wasting time with intelligent football discussions. Has anyone noticed that since we have won 3 in row, 6 of the last 7 and are back in the top 20 with a lot of good things ahead, that the Haters have shifted their focus from the Coaches to mere Vol Fans on this board? marc_ash, I bet you could explain transference to TDTN, but then he would start flaming you too. So allow me: “Transference is a phenomenon in psychology characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another. Another definition is "the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from CHILDHOOD toward a new object. Transference was first described by Sigmund Freud, who acknowledged its importance for psychoanalysis for better understanding of the patient's feelings.”
I understand you now TNTD, and I truly do feel sorry for you and I hope you get some help before it is too late.

Volunatic writes:

Good to catch up on all the stuff I missed while looking at all the pretty girls instead of listening to the Psych 101 prof.

Volunatic writes:

By the way,
Beat Vanderbilt!

RemembertheAlamo writes:

All kidding aside, I think Crompton is the best we have right now.....he could develope the same way T Martin did after Peyton left....I would be happy to have another NC.....I think he will start at the first of the season, but if he stumbles then Stephens or BJ could come on.

Volunatic writes:

I think you're probably right about Crompton, vols76. He does have a little starting experience from two big SEC games last year, and his arm is definitely strong, as that TD pass two weeks ago to Kenny O'Neal proved. I think that he will develop into another Vol great.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Vol-in-LSU-land, Ivar's is sports bar tavern near Perkins RD overpass. But since the whole group doesn't want to read this, email me at Geaux Vawls!

vol_in_lsu_land writes:

OK GMC....

I sent you an e-mail. If things fall into place I'd enjoy watching the game with another long distance fan.

invisiblekid writes:

A nice turnaround and adjustment on the punt return coverage. The spread formation and having faster players on the field seems to have done the trick. I'd like to see the trend of the coaches putting their better athletes on special teams continue. Beamer has made a living off of doing that for the Hokies and the Vols need to make as many breaks as possible in this area. It's a well-documented opinion by many at this point, but the talent level isn't quite what it used to be for the Vols. Pressing the special teams and winning the turnover battle can be a great equalizer against teams like FL and LSU.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.