Janzen Jackson eager to return punts

Game summary: UT vs. South Carolina

Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson has no trouble admitting that he wasn’t exactly the best kick returner in high school.

Punt returning, though, was a different story.

“I had my most production on punt return,” Jackson recalled with a smile after Monday’s practice. “We had three kick returners back there, so they didn’t really kick it to me.”

Jackson will be the only punt returner on the field for the Vols on Saturday at Memphis (TV: CBS College, 8 p.m.), as he’ll step in to replace Eric Gordon, who muffed his second punt of the season Saturday at South Carolina.

“Janzen’s got a lot of ability. He’s almost our best at everything,” coach Derek Dooley said. “We’re not getting production at the position. We’ll make a change and see how Janzen does.”

Jackson will serve as the Vols’ fourth punt returner this season on a unit that ranks 108th in the nation (11th in the SEC), averaging 4.7 yards on the 10 punts it hasn’t fumbled, fair caught or let bounce untouched. Gordon fumbled once against Georgia and in the third quarter against the Gamecocks. Wide receiver Gerald Jones fumbled in the season opener against UT Martin.

“We have to have the ball back,” Jackson said. “Being able to return it is the bonus, but first you’ve got to catch the ball.”

Dooley has said in the past that he sometimes worries about putting too much on Jackson’s plate, as the sophomore safety also fills vital needs on punt and kickoff coverage, while playing virtually every snap on defense.

The move to returner, Jackson said, actually makes life easier.

‘Punt returners, unless you break it, ain’t running that far,” Jackson said.

Dooley said Jackson, who has returned punts in practice throughout the season, “looks good moving around” but “it ain’t like he’s going to get punt-catcher of the year, either.”

“I might close my eyes,” Dooley said.

Center Of Attention: On paper, James Stone is listed as UT’s backup center to Darin Gooch, but he worked with new starting quarterback Tyler Bray and the rest of the first-team offense at Monday’s practice, Bray said.

Dooley said Stone, who did not see the field for the first time this season against South Carolina, will “probably play some” at center Saturday.

“It’s time to start getting him integrated into the game,” Dooley said. “This is where we were hoping to be about six weeks ago with James.

“When (JerQuari) Schofield went down, we just had to move him at guard. That just slowed our whole development at the center position with James, so we’re kind of starting over.”

Stone is left-handed, which presents a unique challenge for quarterbacks accustomed to receiving snaps from a right-handed center, Dooley said.

“You get in the habit of catching the snap one way,” Dooley said. “Now, I wish he was right-handed. It would have been a lot easier.”

Injury Update: Linebacker Herman Lathers (back spasms) was the only player at Monday’s practice wearing a red, non-contact jersey, but a number of others are “day to day” with nagging injuries, Dooley said.

Cornerback Marsalis Teague (turf toe) and defensive tackle Montori Hughes (ankle) were noticeably limited at practice. The respective statuses of kicker Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps) and cornerback Naz Oliver (knee) will be determined as the week unfolds, Dooley said.

Wilcox In The Box: Dooley said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would likely call plays from the press box for the rest of the season.

Wilcox, who swapped places with secondary coach Terry Joseph, had called plays from the field up until the South Carolina game.

“I think it helped us a little more in the secondary, communicating between drives and adjustments and personnel in and out of the game,” Dooley said. ”Both of our secondary guys were up top so I think that was a little help.”

Back In Action: Dooley said fullback Kevin Cooper, who was suspended for the South Carolina game because of academic reasons, was back with the team in full capacity and would be eligible to play against Memphis.

Cooper, though, may have to fight to reclaim his job, as freshman Channing Fugate was listed first on the team’s depth chart Monday.

“Ol’ Channing played pretty good,” Dooley said. “So we’ll see where it goes.”

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 18

procraft writes:

sounds like the puzzle is starting to come together!

SanDestinVol writes:

have they just give up totally on Oku or what?

UTByrd writes:

Here comes some more growing pains. Ut will continue to grow into next year. Let's hope for a great recruiting class and a good finish to this year. I still want to see some more of Rajion returning kicks and/or punts.
Go VOLS!!!!!

VolBlitz writes:

in response to SanDestinVol:

have they just give up totally on Oku or what?

Good question, I'm wondering the same thing.

He must be in the dog house.

I think Neal is playing better than Poole right now so Oku may be the odd man out in the 2 man rotation.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Max crowder will solve the center issues next year.

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to SanDestinVol:

have they just give up totally on Oku or what?

not so fat in RBs anymore are we...Bryce Brown made a big mistake leaving

PUL4VOLS writes:

I am eager for ANYONE to return punts for the Vols and not return the ball to the opposing team. I know Memphis is not much but I would love to see us play a complete game and show Ole Miss a reason to be concerned about their game Nov. 13th. Anyone else feel that way?

iadvol writes:

Oku and Askew must be playing Wii NCAA Football b/c they are not playing football on the field. Pathetic 4 star talent.

DebKY writes:

I love seeing Kentucky's own Channing Fugate wearing ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!

quickslant writes:

"The respective statuses of kicker Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps) and cornerback Naz Oliver (knee) will be determined as the week unfolds,...."

I thought Lincoln wanted to be a Navy Seal?
hahahaha.
Seriously, that's not gonna happen Danny.
Got to be a little tougher than that for that gig..

LibertyVolance writes:

in response to PUL4VOLS:

I am eager for ANYONE to return punts for the Vols and not return the ball to the opposing team. I know Memphis is not much but I would love to see us play a complete game and show Ole Miss a reason to be concerned about their game Nov. 13th. Anyone else feel that way?

Of course. Each of these upcoming games are very important. We haven't won since the UAB game. Everyone wants to both progress as a team and win together too. The team needs it, and the fans need it. I like the way we are showing steady signs of progress and I'm just as excited about the possibilities of winning these final 4 games as ever before. Maybe even moreso this year being undermanned as we have been. We are all growing up together with this team and every weekend is a challenge where we can win if we do things right and keep an upbeat attitude.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to quickslant:

"The respective statuses of kicker Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps) and cornerback Naz Oliver (knee) will be determined as the week unfolds,...."

I thought Lincoln wanted to be a Navy Seal?
hahahaha.
Seriously, that's not gonna happen Danny.
Got to be a little tougher than that for that gig..

Three things for you.
(1. Even Navy Seals get injured and sick.
(2. You know nothing about his injury nor what it takes to recover.
(3. It takes a dumb stupid idiot to post what you did.You need to be taken to the wood shed and beaten like a wet mule until you learn how to feel compassion for others.Your day will come.

mercyseat writes:

in response to Driving_Ms_Dooley:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't think it's the pressure as much as it is KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE BALL when returning punts/kickoffs! Also, is it too much to ask for the punt returner to run up the open lane? Or, to quit cowering down and stop running? I've noticed Poole stopping and re-routing at the running back position and turning his back and stopping before contact on the play. You can't run like a coward and expect to live very long because those DB's will hurt you when they see a weakness like that.

mercyseat writes:

in response to quickslant:

"The respective statuses of kicker Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps) and cornerback Naz Oliver (knee) will be determined as the week unfolds,...."

I thought Lincoln wanted to be a Navy Seal?
hahahaha.
Seriously, that's not gonna happen Danny.
Got to be a little tougher than that for that gig..

I got slammed when I said that, and for saying Art Evans and Prentis waggner were the biggest slow motion wussies since Eric Ainge.Oh.... how the truth hurts! Also notice how arrogant Lincoln comes off in his interviews.The "me me" syndrome is alot of our problems, eg; (Matt Simms, Lincoln, etc.) being selfish and no "team" attitude, but David Oku is just out right scared to run in punt coverage, which only makes him more of a target to hurt.

mercyseat writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Three things for you.
(1. Even Navy Seals get injured and sick.
(2. You know nothing about his injury nor what it takes to recover.
(3. It takes a dumb stupid idiot to post what you did.You need to be taken to the wood shed and beaten like a wet mule until you learn how to feel compassion for others.Your day will come.

Get over it! He has a right to his opinion and he is only stating the truth! And, as for compassion... it runs out after doing the same shi- over and over again and again. I guess it takes an IDIOT not to see that! You have a wonderful day.

TrueVol70 writes:

"Janzen’s got a lot of ability. He’s almost our best at everything"
Couldn't have said it any better, Coach. He is a very talented football player and I am sure glad we have him.

monsterman writes:

in response to DebKY:

I love seeing Kentucky's own Channing Fugate wearing ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, well I hate to see TN's own Randal Cobb wearing Blue and he is an impact (2 star, lol) player. I hope we can continue the streak against UK but unless we get TB settled in at QB and improve the vols offensive production I think it may be coming to a grinding halt here in a couple weeks. This is the game that really troubles me the most.

quickslant writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Three things for you.
(1. Even Navy Seals get injured and sick.
(2. You know nothing about his injury nor what it takes to recover.
(3. It takes a dumb stupid idiot to post what you did.You need to be taken to the wood shed and beaten like a wet mule until you learn how to feel compassion for others.Your day will come.

Well, buddy here's three things for you:

1. Navy seals are probably the baddest mo-fo's out there,
and Lincoln is a kicker getting ready to miss his 5th game in a
row. Catch my drift?

2. It is a quad injury. Yeah, it certainly could affect his production,
but that wasn't my point.

3. If you ever want to meet this 'dumb, stupid idiot behind said
wood-shed, you better pack a f**kin lunch...

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