Is Tauren Poole trying too hard?
Tauren Poole didn't need to watch the film. Allison Dooley had done it for him.
After one of the Tennessee junior running back's worst efforts of the season, a 16-carry, 33-yard game against South Carolina that featured more stutter steps than actual steps, coach Derek Dooley's wife had a pointed question for Poole.
" 'Why does Tauren get the ball and stop?' " the coach recalled his wife asking after the 38-24 loss to the Gamecocks. "I told Tauren 'I saw you outrun the entire Alabama secondary but then you get the ball on the outside zone, you got green grass and you stop and you don't trust your speed.'
"I think that's what it is."
Sure, South Carolina has one of the best defensive lines in the country and touts the top rushing defense in the SEC. But Poole, who has 100-yard games against nationally ranked foes Alabama, LSU and Oregon on his resume this season, wasn't ready to give too much credit to the Gamecocks. He didn't throw the new fullback that blocked in front of him, freshman Channing Fugate, under the bus, either.
It was all Poole, he said.
"I was trying to do way too much," he said. "I wasn't trusting it and you could see it throughout the whole entire game. Stopping my feet, just trying to do way too much."
Dooley described Poole's style Saturday as "a little jumpy," but "sometimes when you play a real good defensive line, they can make you a little jumpy."
Poole, who is fifth in the SEC with 628 rushing yards, may be one of UT's few veterans on offense, but he didn't begin to see regular carries until the 2010 season.
"That had to contribute to it," Dooley said. "Those guys are quick, they're slanting, they're moving, they're on edge, so you didn't have clean reads all the time and then you lose your trust a little bit. That's an experience issue."
Bray Watch: Dooley said he's noticed nothing different in the attitude or performance of quarterback Tyler Bray since he named the freshman his starter for Saturday's game against Memphis (TV: CBS College Sports, 8 p.m.).
"He's been the same," Dooley said. "Both of them (Bray and Matt Simms) have and that's good. Business as usual. Don't notice anything better or worse. The same ol' methodical approach."
Injury Roundup: Cornerback Eric Gordon (concussion) and linebacker Herman Lathers (back spasms) wore red, non-contact jerseys at Tuesday's practice.
Kicker Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps), who has not played since September, dressed out in pads but did not kick.
Hot Start: While his team went through early-practice stretching Tuesday, Dooley was unusually animated, getting in the face of a number of players in hopes of shooing away the "Tuesday mully-grubs."
"It's the standard Tuesday 'feel sorry for me late in the season,' " Dooley said. "I wanted to go ahead and put an end to it in the beginning instead of waiting to start screaming during practice. And it was good. It picked it up."
Bobby's World: Bobby Bowden, the legendary former Florida State coach, talked to the Vols before Monday's practice. Bowden was in Knoxville for a speaking engagement with the Knoxville Quarterback Club and was able to make the rounds before getting out of town.
Before he arrived, Dooley said he had to educate some of his younger players about the 44-year coaching veteran.
"It's amazing what some of these guys don't know," Dooley said. "So I had to give them a little bio."
Dooley said Bowden left the room on quite the high note.
"He ended it by saying 'Darrell, keep up the good work you're doing,' " Dooley said. "That was a nice touch."
Poole Party: Poole has four games to compile 372 yards and reach the elusive total of 1,000 - a benchmark most tailbacks consider paramount.
He's taking the pursuit seriously.
"It would mean a lot," he said. "I've worked toward getting 1,000 yards and I'm going to continue to work toward that. I know the guys up front are going to work with me to do the same thing."
Poole said he would take the offensive line out to dinner if he reached 1,000. That was news to left tackle Dallas Thomas.
"Thank y'all for telling me," Thomas said with a smile. "Now that I know that he said that, we're going to the meeting room, we're going to look at all the film, look at all their defenses and go over everything."