Tennessee knows special teams will be key

Tennessee’s struggles covering kickoffs have been well documented.

This weekend the Vols will have some company.

The No. 1 team in the nation doesn’t have many weaknesses, but if there is a hole in Alabama’s game, it might be one it shares with UT heading into Saturday’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.). And the Vols have been waiting to finally be the team taking advantage of a gap instead of the other way around.

“We’ve seen the holes, man,” return man David Oku said. “It’s time to take one to the crib now. It’s time to take one to the crib.”

The Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has already let two guys in there this season, one of just three teams in the country along with UT to give up multiple touchdowns on kickoff returns this season.

Those blown assignments have been particularly painful for the Vols (3-3, 1-2), given both their offensive struggles and the inability to balance the equation on special teams with its own return game.

“It’s frustrating, but that’s what you go and game plan each week for,” Oku said. “It’s real frustrating, but you’ve just got to go and deal with it. Coach (Eddie) Gran is a really good special teams coach, so I think we’re getting there.

“He said it’s about being patient, too. I think we’ll get it down. We’ve identified (the problem) and we’re working real hard on it this week. Coach Gran put it that if you don’t feel like playing special teams then get off. He’ll find somebody else to put in there.”

Gran has already plugged in a few different options on kickoffs, although the Vols are still searching for the right spark.

Oku has had the most opportunities, Nu’Keese Richardson has the longest return and Dennis Rogan has the best average in limited chances, but nothing has really clicked. That’s been a problem on more units than one on special teams, but with so few ways to attack Alabama, it’s clearly an area the Vols have focused on.

And lately the Crimson Tide has as well.

“They gave up two kickoff returns in the first two games of the year,” UT coach Lane Kiffin said. “Since then they’ve been much better.

“When you give up a couple touchdowns, it’s hard to get your stats back up. So, they’ve not been as poor lately as they were early.”

The Vols haven’t recovered nearly as quickly from their first-half woes in the return game, but it might just be a matter of time and experience.

UT has generally trusted the responsibility of handling the football to a pair of freshmen in Oku and Richardson, and its expecting much more from them as they grow into the role.

“At times it has (been frustrating), but we know if we just keep working hard and just keep listening to Coach Gran and to the scheme, we can get better,” Richardson said. “We can make it happen. Definitely, we see some good chances. Whoever is back there just break it, get a big run and give our offense something to work with.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the end zone back there.”

The Alabama defense doesn’t make it easy to get there. But the Vols know from first-hand experience there’s another way to score.

Take Two: The Vols are getting a second crack at the top-ranked team in the country, and they had an extra “Thursday” practice to get ready for it.

UT didn’t exactly get all that it hoped for though.

“Second Thursday practice I thought was just OK today,” Kiffin said. “We had a few mistakes, had to go back and repeat a few things, but we still have some time to clean things up. Tomorrow will still be big.

“(Thursday) just was normal. Mistake here, a mistake there, our intensity wasn’t the same as it has been for the last few days and maybe that comes from back-to-back Thursdays feeling good about where they were at. We have a lot of stuff to clean up.”

They won’t be doing it at Bryant-Denny Stadium though, since the Vols aren’t going there for a walkthrough today.

Bumps and Bruises: Quintin Hancock was again held out of practice, but the Vols aren’t ruling him out for Saturday yet.

The senior wide receiver was still wearing a walking boot to protect his sprained ankle Thursday, but he will be reevaluated this morning. Both offensive guard Vladimir Richard and cornerback Art Evans should be available against Alabama though.

“We expect both of those guys to go,” Kiffin said. “Art moved around and practiced basically everything today. Vlad did everything today. We anticipate both of them being able to play.”

Gerald Williams also returned to practice and is expected to play.

Sizable Test: Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney downplayed the difficulty of facing a 3-4 scheme up front. But stopping the players running it for Alabama is a different story.

“Physical defense, probably the most physical defense we’ve had to face since we’ve been here,” he said. “It’ll be quite a task for us up front trying to battle those guys there. They’re large, they have mass, they have speed, they’re a very talented group, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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Comments » 63

GahLee writes:

If UT plays sound on special teams, they will have a good chance to win. A lot of that depends on Arenas and his health.

I can't understand why we are so bad on special teams, it is inexplicable.

Cldvols1 writes:

The Vols have got to come out focused and play physical against the Tide if they want a victory! Let em know early that if they intend on winning their gonna have to work their arses off for it. Berry needs to pop Ingram so next time he'll think about breaking one through the line. Crompton needs to play as well, if not better, than he did against UGA...that goes for the wideouts too! Boys this game can be won, it's not impossible. If we do win it'll be one of the biggest victories ever against our oldest rival. Now Go Vols!!!

xvolx writes:

vols problem on special teams is no blocking on return and no tackling on coverage. Their not tough or aggressive enough.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Kiffin was just trying to bring back tradition when the 2 teams use to wear home jerseys when they played. "Kiffin stomped his feet and held his breath"...what is Dat Fooley talkin about?? The UT-UA rivalry is one of the oldest in the Souteastern Conference that began early in the 1900s. UF didn't do jack chit till the later 20th century! Just another Gay tor fan who gets off by posting on a Vols website. Preciate ye business buh! GBO!!!

tigervol77 writes:

C'mon Kiffin take the 15 yards and show up in Orange!!!!!!!! Do all the stretches in White the go back in the locker room and change. That would be AWESOME!

GO VOLS!

tigervol77 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He knows enough to know that this is one of the biggest rivalry games in the SEC.

tigervol77 writes:

Has anyone else heard that they have asked UT and SC to wear all black and all orange for next weeks halloween game? Or is that just rumor?

GiveYourALLforTennToday writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Its not like he wants to bring back the players from the "mediocre" 60's teams... the tradition is wearing the orange jerseys against the tide. Thats the tradition that Kiffin knows and cares about.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

True, but remember he hasn't been there a year yet so give him some time. This is his first year coaching in the rivalry and I wouldn't expect him to know EVERYTHING about it yet, but he will.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to tigervol77:

Has anyone else heard that they have asked UT and SC to wear all black and all orange for next weeks halloween game? Or is that just rumor?

That's a first for me tv77, but it would be interesting.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UF-UGA game's @ 3:30est on CBS. UT-SC game's @ 7:45est on ESPN, so I highly doubt it.

tigervol77 writes:

in response to Cldvols1:

That's a first for me tv77, but it would be interesting.

I live in SC and Clemson and who ever they play have agreed to go all orange and all black. SC is cursed in all black so I don't see that happening.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to portlandTENNESSEEfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Oh you didn't know, this is the official Volmall website. Please place your order for any piece of clothing and we will send you the balance. LOL I'm just messin wit ya buddy, Go Vols!

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to tigervol77:

I live in SC and Clemson and who ever they play have agreed to go all orange and all black. SC is cursed in all black so I don't see that happening.

Hmm cursed, they may wanna wear all black then;)

VolinCalif writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The Fl fans will be leaving early, or turning of their TV's. The Dawgs will give the Gators a case of the swine flu real time. Now the off's are being watched so they may not be able to help Fl very much. The Dawgs will beat the Gators and they will start calling TO's to run up the score. Just like another team we all know.

RockyTop10nessee writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You my friend are a D-Bag...Sorry

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

in response to Cldvols1:

UF-UGA game's @ 3:30est on CBS. UT-SC game's @ 7:45est on ESPN, so I highly doubt it.

Just consider reyem060809 and dc are smarter than most Florida football players - that's why urban cryer is baby-sitting 24 arrested players and a bible whacking virgin that will never make it in the NFL.

paul5170 writes:

in response to xvolx:

vols problem on special teams is no blocking on return and no tackling on coverage. Their not tough or aggressive enough.

Wrong...Coverage team has been too aggressive,to many players over running coverage unit,leaving lanes open.Wa-la receiving team off & running to the races.As fore Tn. receiving teams looks too simple(always running straight up)just like Fulmers teams did.

Volunteer-Varmint writes:

in response to tigervol77:

C'mon Kiffin take the 15 yards and show up in Orange!!!!!!!! Do all the stretches in White the go back in the locker room and change. That would be AWESOME!

GO VOLS!

I agree 1000% I think that would throw a monkey wrench into their game plan.

mike_d writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I hope God forgives you for the hatred in your heart. Do you realize that you might die tommorow? If you did...would you be happy with your last day? My hope for you is that you find some kind of peace in your life and dont feel the need to be such a hateful person.

mike_d writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

sad.

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I heard the university of bama bought up all the white tape at the dollar store mall and now people have nothing to hold their trailors and cars together with down there.
I heard satan wasnt going to use white tape this week ,said he was going to try green tape and hope he doesnt get caught.
2 good yrs and you think alablubber is a dynasty all of sudden?

fhulpia16 writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just goes to show you don't know Jack S*** about UT or Bama. When the Bear was coaching kentucky, he was always beat by General Neyland, He lost a lot of games so when he became the Bama Coach after a short time as head coach at Texas A&M, the rivalry heated up between UT and Bama but it had been going on for years and years. Bama and Auburn didn't even play each other till the 50s or 60s because they didn't want to. the Alabama State Legislation made them. The Bear would motivate his teams when they played UT by saying when you beat Tennessee, your making history. So STF UP about UT. We have way more tradition than any other school besides Bama and thats a fact
Go Vols

xvolx writes:

in response to paul5170:

Wrong...Coverage team has been too aggressive,to many players over running coverage unit,leaving lanes open.Wa-la receiving team off & running to the races.As fore Tn. receiving teams looks too simple(always running straight up)just like Fulmers teams did.

You're wrong. I was referring to hitting hard at the point of attack, not just running fast up the field. Also; in Richardson's defense, he was held on the Ga. kickoff return for TD with an official ten yards away watching. The SEC needs to cleanup it cheating officials.

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to tigervol77:

Has anyone else heard that they have asked UT and SC to wear all black and all orange for next weeks halloween game? Or is that just rumor?

AD Hamilton ruled that out prior to the season starting. I'm happy about that.

paul5170 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I recall some good VOLS teams in 60's after Doug Dickey arrived Mr. Gator.There was some real defenive battles against the Bear & Alabama in the 60's.Games like 11-6,9-6.Now that was some ball games & aganist some good Bama teams.

GreerVol22 writes:

for Pete's sake, whatever you do, either catch it and run or let it bounce and run away. This hurdleing thing that Nuke does is just goofy.

volsfannsc writes:

in response to ehawkins32#429287:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Special teams play IS key to this game and I've posted this more than once in previous posts. It's not just about running one back- it's about our offense having a shot at the end zone starting with good field position. This game will be determined by the average field position of each team. To run one back is great, but the odds really dont favor it as a game changer. The long and short of it comes down to field position. If TN starts on it's own 40 and Bama starts on it's own 20, who do you think has the advantage to wrap up this game? Our coverage team abandons coverage lanes and seldom busts up the wedge. I wish I knew why. Our return game is just the opposite, we loose three guys on the wedge due to one opposing player. This is going to be a game between two great defenses. Field position will determine which defense will wear out first. I hope Gran has figured out a way to get our boys on track with special teams.

beaus27 writes:

Didn't Poole have some success last year on special teams?

txvolsfan writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who???
Is that High school?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

A. - We need to take a new complex approach to special teams/kickoff and punts.

Tackle.

B. The Vol's colors are not the problem. We are orange and white, should stay orange and white.

Even Dupree is aware of that. Black is for Vandy and fashion statements.

Color option appear to be a "If it's not broke, fix it" approach.

pventimi#592480 writes:

in response to fittobetide:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You should probably read the articles that you post, before you start calling other people fools. Oh, wait... you're a 'Bama fan.

The Crimson Tards didn't start Auburn on a yearly-basis until 1948 (they played only 12 times out of 54 years prior to that). They have played a total of 73 times.

UT has played the Tards on a yearly basis since 1928 (and 11 of 23 years prior), and a total of 90 times.

silverstang writes:

in response to fittobetide:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are seriously getting your "facts" about tennessee football from wikipedia?...c'mon!

tennesseebee writes:

Oku, I feel safe in saying that it will be okay with OrangeNation if we take one to the crib. Do it!

murrayvol writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

When were you born poser boy? Vols weren't mediocre after 64'.

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Your retarded Don Juan! Some folks from Bama consider Auburn their biggest rival while others consider it to be UT. Why dont you go play in the street...

Cldvols1 writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wrong dude, they go 5-1 or 4-2...book it!

jclvol writes:

in response to fittobetide:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There are UF fans reading this board and thinking to themselves, "schools played football before 1990?"

smoky50 writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just STFU reyem060809. You obviously need to get on the Crimson Turd site or bandwagon like everyone else. COACH Kiffin, to you, just got here. Took on a job the Fat foolmer let go to the dogs and has elevated this program. I remember not to long ago Crimson Turd fans in the stands with sacks over their heads. Keep it up, The VOLS WILL BE NATIONAL CHAMPS in a couple of years. All the while The Gators and bama will be going by the wayside.

smoky50 writes:

in response to jclvol:

There are UF fans reading this board and thinking to themselves, "schools played football before 1990?"

ROFLMWAO! Florida didnt have a football team til Spermier showed his ugly mug!

kevin151 writes:

I can't remember the last time UT ran back a kick? Although I don't remember much of my 4 years at school there.

jclvol writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not according to this young man...

http://bit.ly/Wmn9e

pammyvol1000 writes:

If were depending on our special teams to win for us.. there might be a slight problem. I don't know much but appears we all run down field and bunch up close together and then they just run around us. Why don't some guys stay back to pick up the runner?

CHISMNUMBER1FAN writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's funny; I talk to a HUGE Bama fan everyday and HE seems to think THIS is the rivalry game of the year. And being the HUGE Bama fan that he is; he is not taking this game as lightly as SOME fans are; he seems to think if Bama keeps looking to the SEC Champ and National Champ. games they are in for a rude awaking this weekend.

abnermc writes:

in response to DaMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And they will still beat fla & closing in on al.Be afraid, be very afraid.

sizeDD writes:

in response to ehawkins32#429287:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If we don't put lots of pressure on the QB it will be more difficult to stop the run which make are chances slim to none. We must run for at least 150 yards in the game to have a shot. Just trying to be realistic.

GO VOLS!

sizeDD writes:

in response to Tellico_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

JW was true greatness!

SIMSVOL writes:

in response to DonCorleone:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Don -
you really should invest a little time in reading more about college football traditions before spouting off from your %%$.
Tennessee is one of the most stories programs in college football and the team is much closer to being back on top than you clowns realize.

SIMSVOL writes:

in response to abnermc:

And they will still beat fla & closing in on al.Be afraid, be very afraid.

There goes DaMan again - spouting off more blabber about a sport he obviously knows nothing about. Get a life dude. Tennessee is coming back big time. The only thing circling the drain is your uninformed, self-entertaining, classless comments.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to reyem060809:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No one on this board cares what anyone in Gainesville, florida thinks. About anything.

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