Tennessee receiver Brandon Warren might be due for an early season renaissance.
“He’s getting better,” head coach Lane Kiffin said following Wednesday’s practice. “He’s had a good week of practice. We’ll give him some shots.”
That’s a welcome change for Warren. The former Alcoa High School star didn’t catch a pass last week against Florida and barely played.
“Everybody wants to play and I’m definitely a competitor so it hurts me sitting on the sideline. I hate it,” he said. “But if that’s what I’ve got to do at the time then that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Warren’s statistics have gradually decreased each week this season. The junior had three receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening game against Western Kentucky, then had only one catch for seven yards in UT’s next game, against UCLA. Then was all but a no show in Gainesville.
He said he’s not sure why he hasn’t been on the field more. Minor off-field troubles have plagued his career.
“I’ve just got to wait my turn, I guess,” Warren said. “Keep working hard so coach can build his confidence in me.”
Kiffin questioned Warren’s work ethic in practice earlier this season.
“I feel good,” Warren said. “I come here and work hard like everybody does, work just as hard. I think the thing with me is to understand and play fast all the time. I feel like I’m getting better. Hopefully things are about to start turning.”
Practice Report: Kiffin said the Vols cut down on mistakes during Wednesday’s practice.
“I thought today was really good on the offensive side of the ball,” Kiffin said. “Out of 36 plays, we ran two repeats, which is better than we’ve ever been before on a Wednesday.”
Sophomore defensive back Art Evans, who has started all three games, missed Tuesday’s practice because of laryngitis. Brent Vinson has been running with the first team since Monday. Evans was back on the field Wednesday.
“He did most of the drills today, which was good to see,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin said senior tailback Montario Hardesty is a “little banged up”. Junior linebacker LaMarcus Thompson did not practice again due to a sore back.
UT was also without defensive tackle Wes Brown. That’s nothing new. The senior has been battling sore knees all season.
“We think Wes will be able to play every time,” Kiffin said. “Every game we go into, something happens at some point, but he battles through.
“If there was a guy who didn’t need our physical practices, Wes would be that guy. For instance, in the opener he played great and he didn’t practice much that week. We’ll push Wes out there tomorrow.”
The New King: Freshman linebacker Greg King figures to get his first start in place of Thompson.
“There’s no nerves,” said King, who recorded his lone tackle of the season last week against Florida. “I got all the jitterbugs out the first game so I’m just ready to play now.”
In UT’s first game against Western Kentucky, the nerves couldn’t be ignored.
“I was nervous to get in, to be honest,” King said. “After that, my nerves just went away.”
King said he still needs to improve on his technique and reading offenses. He said his best attribute is listening to UT’s coaches and not talking back.
“I’m still trying to get better,” he said. “I’ve got a whole, whole lot more to learn.”
Thompson has 15 tackles this season, including three for a loss.
No Votes: Safety Eric Berry didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t receive a single vote from pollsters in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy Poll.
“I’m not even paying attention to any of that,” the junior said. “Really just trying to get these wins. Trying to get back to the SEC Championship because all that stuff is opinionated. I don’t really focus too much on opinions. I don’t really care about opinions. I just try to do what I do on the field to help my team.”
UT launched a Heisman campaign for Berry, who had 11 tackles, two for a loss and an interception last week against Florida. Berry leads the Vols with 24 tackles.
The poll consists of 10 Heisman voters, one from each region. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow leads the voting followed by California tailback Jahvid Best, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.
Clean Game: The Vols are tied for sixth in the nation with only six penalties per game and are tied for ninth best with 95 yards of penalties. Kiffin said he’s pleased with UT’s discipline.
“You don’t all of a sudden become disciplined on Saturday,” Kiffin said. “You become disciplined by the way you do things in practice and in the off-season. Our players have done that and we need to keep it up.”
W.R. on I.R.: Receiver Gerald Jones said he will be the Vols’ utility man now that senior receiver Quintin Hancock is sidelined with a fractured jaw. Hancock played all four of UT’s receiver positions. Now that duty falls on Jones.
That will open up a spot for freshman Marsalis Teague, who will likely fill in at Jones’ vacated spot.
Hancock is one of a handful of UT’s receivers to miss practice time with an injury. Crompton admitted that developing chemistry with his receivers has been a challenge with the constant rotation.
“Sometimes it does get tough,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you know who’s in there because guys run routes different. You’ve got to kind of peek in the huddle.”
Crompton said he and UT’s receivers have stayed after practice to make sure he knows how each player runs their routes.
Walking the Walk: Defensive end Chris Walker is flying high after his two-sack performance against Florida last week.
“I think, by far, that was the best game I played since I’ve been at the University of Tennessee,” said Walker, who had five tackles against the Gators.
Walker said it was important for him to have a breakout game after being lauded for his play in the off-season.
“This was one of the games that a lot of people would be able to see what type of player I was and what type of defense (we have),” the junior said. “I think I really focused on coming out and having a good game.”
Not Too High: Jones said he’s not concerned that the Vols will be too confident this week against Ohio, which is a 21-point underdog.
“Coach ain’t going to let that happen,” Jones said referring to Kiffin. “He already showed the film yesterday when Ohio and Ohio State played last year.
“Ohio was beating Ohio State 14-12 coming into the fourth quarter. If we come in here being too confident, they can sneak up on you.”