Pope the center of attention

Junior puts in work on QB exchange

Before Matt Simms can worry about his receivers, he has to actually be one first.

So while the Tennessee quarterback was obviously spending time developing chemistry with his targets in the passing game this summer, Simms also had to pile up some reps when the ball was coming his way - from the center.

And with junior center Cody Pope setting a mark of at least 100 snaps each day throughout the summer, there was no shortage of them for Simms as the Vols tried to work through perhaps their biggest shortcoming from spring practice - making sure there was actually a ball available for the quarterback to deliver elsewhere.

"I was definitely there for the majority of them," Simms said. "I don't know if I was taking all 100 (snaps), but I was definitely taking at least 80 of them. It definitely helped out a lot, and just that quarterback-center exchange and that communication between each other is extremely important, especially in this conference.

"It's definitely more consistent. We've just got to continue to get better with it, because we're going to face a lot of good defensive linemen and those snaps are going to be tough. We've just got to be prepared for it and look at a lot of defenses, see what we've got to go up against and continue to improve on it."

During the open period of practice on Monday, the difference was noticeable from Pope, the odds-on favorite to win the starting job and anchor UT's new offensive line.

Particularly during some early no-huddle work, Pope regularly put the ball where it needed to be and didn't have any trouble shooting snaps over the head of Simms or skipping them at his feet - issues that clearly bothered coach Derek Dooley during his first 15 practices with the team in the spring.

He still doesn't appear to be totally comfortable with his situation at center, though Pope and junior-college transfer Darin Gooch seem to have provided enough to at least move Victor Thomas back to defensive tackle this week.

"Gooch is still new, and it's hard when you're just learning an offense," Dooley said. "But he's doing some good things, and Cody has an advantage because he's been here all spring and he's doing some good things. We need a little more consistency, and I think the big thing at center is avoiding the bad plays.

"It's a little like quarterback. Let's avoid firing the snap over the head, let's avoid going the wrong way and then the nose (guard) comes up and blows up the back. You've got to learn how to function without blowing the play up before you can worry about the other stuff. We're not there yet."

The Vols have nearly a month to get there, and they're not likely done tinkering as Dooley tries to identify both a starter and some options in reserve.

Pope is the most likely candidate for the former, and as for the latter the Vols tried freshman James Stone on Monday and also have given some looks to sophomore Carson Anderson behind Gooch.

"It definitely is getting more consistent, definitely getting a lot better," Simms said. "But we can never be good enough, though.

"We have really high expectations here, even though a lot of other people don't. So we've just got to continue to work hard on it and not get lazy with it."

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Comments » 27

apisonvolfan writes:

I know this is off-subject but does anyone know the status of John Brown. It was important that he qualify to begin with, but with the wall injury it is HUGE

Bogus writes:

in response to apisonvolfan:

I know this is off-subject but does anyone know the status of John Brown. It was important that he qualify to begin with, but with the wall injury it is HUGE

Don't hold your breath.

VolFanNC writes:

Should know on Monday. 2 tests this week, if he passes he's in...if not then he's out.

GerryOP writes:

Geeze, focusing on the basics? Interesting.

Which day are our footVols going to interrupt practice to relax and be serenaded by the Pride of the Southland Band? Say what? Phil is gone? Oh ... I see. Our footVols are going to focus on football practice. Cool. I got it.

tree_em_smokey writes:

Aaron Douglas sure would come in handy right now. Im thinking that the line will have a lot of fight in them as no one is believing in them....as Matt stated in the article. GBO BABY!!!!!!!!!

Huttdawg100 writes:

Speaking of the O-Line, Kerbyson has narrowed his list to Tennessee, Alabama, and Duke. He'll definitely play early if he stays in Knoxville. I'm willing to bet he'll start for us from day one. Add the fact that Hiestand has an excellent track record with his linemen, and he could probably be a first round draft pick when he leaves UT. Plus, women in Knoxville are a lot hotter than women in T-Town. And they smell better too.

tree_em_smokey writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Speaking of the O-Line, Kerbyson has narrowed his list to Tennessee, Alabama, and Duke. He'll definitely play early if he stays in Knoxville. I'm willing to bet he'll start for us from day one. Add the fact that Hiestand has an excellent track record with his linemen, and he could probably be a first round draft pick when he leaves UT. Plus, women in Knoxville are a lot hotter than women in T-Town. And they smell better too.

They also have more teeth. HAHA

GerryOP writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Speaking of the O-Line, Kerbyson has narrowed his list to Tennessee, Alabama, and Duke. He'll definitely play early if he stays in Knoxville. I'm willing to bet he'll start for us from day one. Add the fact that Hiestand has an excellent track record with his linemen, and he could probably be a first round draft pick when he leaves UT. Plus, women in Knoxville are a lot hotter than women in T-Town. And they smell better too.

And the women in Durham don't smell at all....

tree_em_smokey writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

DannyVol writes:

Simms definitely likes the word 'definitely.'

Hope the young man is ready...I have a feeling he's going to be better than a lot of folks expect.

GerryOP writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree! I'd bet both of YOUR nuts on it! (BTW, Smoke, "it's smaller?" Just a suggestion, TMI.)

GerryOP writes:

in response to DannyVol:

Simms definitely likes the word 'definitely.'

Hope the young man is ready...I have a feeling he's going to be better than a lot of folks expect.

I have a feeling you're 100% correct ... much better.

tree_em_smokey writes:

in response to GerryOP:

I agree! I'd bet both of YOUR nuts on it! (BTW, Smoke, "it's smaller?" Just a suggestion, TMI.)

Thanks for the advice OP. I think we'll be very competative this year no matter who we play. I don't think we'll win em all but we are UT! As many have said and I agree that so much depends on the outcome of the Oregon game.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to DannyVol:

Simms definitely likes the word 'definitely.'

Hope the young man is ready...I have a feeling he's going to be better than a lot of folks expect.

I'm with you Dan.
The Kid is probably tired of hearing all about Dad and big brother.He has his own thing to prove and I bet he can do it.

nola_vol writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Too much information.

In a classy forum like this, that's what your "User Profile" is for.

6MillionDollarPumpkin writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

Aaron Douglas sure would come in handy right now. Im thinking that the line will have a lot of fight in them as no one is believing in them....as Matt stated in the article. GBO BABY!!!!!!!!!

Screw Douglas!!!!!

jcherrie#219531 (Inactive) writes:

in response to DannyVol:

Simms definitely likes the word 'definitely.'

Hope the young man is ready...I have a feeling he's going to be better than a lot of folks expect.

But if he says "I'm an excellent driver" it might be time for a new center.

On the other hand, I bet he can memorize the play book.

GerryOP writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

Thanks for the advice OP. I think we'll be very competative this year no matter who we play. I don't think we'll win em all but we are UT! As many have said and I agree that so much depends on the outcome of the Oregon game.

Sorry Smoke, I don't agree. I don't believe that Coach Dooley is creating a program that is so fragile that the outcome of one game, the 2nd game, will determine the rest of the season. The team will take it as 1 win or 1 loss and move on to the next game.

The biggest worry about the Oregon game will be that the players lose focus by looking ahead to the 3rd game.

One game at a time ... right now we are undefeated.

25-- Fear The Dooley Dude...

Volunatic writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Geeze, focusing on the basics? Interesting.

Which day are our footVols going to interrupt practice to relax and be serenaded by the Pride of the Southland Band? Say what? Phil is gone? Oh ... I see. Our footVols are going to focus on football practice. Cool. I got it.

Kind of encouraging to hear that sort of thing is going on. I hope there's some focus on tackling techniques, too.
A couple of years ago, I was hoping they would hire George Quarles from Maryville HS, because Fulmer's staff seemed to be getting so bad about teaching football fundamentals.
Let's hope this staff can keep the focus on the important things.

Volunatic writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

They also have more teeth. HAHA

Now, now. I once dated a bama girl, and she had beautiful teeth. Beautiful. I mean BOTH of 'em were straight and just as white as could be.

Volunatic writes:

in response to grvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He's not on campus yet, so I'd say Bar Knoxville isn't the problem in his case.

bkgunter writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Geeze, focusing on the basics? Interesting.

Which day are our footVols going to interrupt practice to relax and be serenaded by the Pride of the Southland Band? Say what? Phil is gone? Oh ... I see. Our footVols are going to focus on football practice. Cool. I got it.

Need a 12-step group to let it go ? Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. Cut Fulmer's corpse loose for chrissakes. This is season two without him for most of BON. Some of you just can't get enough of the sound of his corpse banging against our hull, though.

CroKev writes:

"I would have all of my Offensive Lineman wrestle if I could." - John Madden.
Ex-wrestlers generally make great linemen. I remember Carlton Haselrig didn't play college football but was a 3x NCAA wrestling champion. He then started for the Pittsburgh Steelers on the line when he tried out for the team. Go Gooch!

mloaks#222092 writes:

why did lil Simms come HERE to UTK after his brother dissed this place and screwed the program?

harleyln1956#415938 writes:

in response to mloaks#222092:

why did lil Simms come HERE to UTK after his brother dissed this place and screwed the program?

As the bible says (I am not my brothers keeper) he saw the best fit for him and said screw my brothers opinion.

GerryOP writes:

in response to bkgunter:

Need a 12-step group to let it go ? Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. Cut Fulmer's corpse loose for chrissakes. This is season two without him for most of BON. Some of you just can't get enough of the sound of his corpse banging against our hull, though.

You must be new around here aren't ya'? I started campaigning to get rid of Big Ol' Doofus after the '05 season. I'll give you a free pass this time ... but don't let it happen again!

You have a nice day...

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

in response to tree_em_smokey:

Aaron Douglas sure would come in handy right now. Im thinking that the line will have a lot of fight in them as no one is believing in them....as Matt stated in the article. GBO BABY!!!!!!!!!

Like that attitude! Let's see what you say in here after October.

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