Tennessee depth problems hitting secondary hard

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could use a few sturdy defensive backs this week to help the Volunteers blitz Mississippi’s formidable run game.

The problem is, he’s having a hard time fielding a complete secondary because of injuries, suspensions and dismissals.

“We just don’t have a lot of guys. We’re just think. We don’t have a lot of guys back there,” Dooley said.

The Vols (3-6, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) already were thin in the secondary at the start of the season after Dooley dismissed would-be starting safety Darren Myles Jr. following his second arrest. During spring practice, redshirt freshman cornerback Naz Oliver tore a knee ligament.

The team’s woes were compounded when starting cornerback Marsalis Teague suffered a turf toe injury during their Oct. 23 loss to Alabama and Dooley indefinitely suspended cornerback Art Evans for a violation of team rules.

Sophomore Prentiss Waggner has moved from safety to cornerback to fill their spot, leaving freshman Brent Brewer as the only strong safety listed on Tennessee’s depth chart.

“It really prevents you from pressuring more than you’d like,” Dooley said. “Where it really worries you is if you’re going to dial up some blitzes.”

The Vols need blitzes if they want to stop Ole Miss (4-5, 1-4). The Rebels rank 13th in the FBS in rushing with an average 221.6 yards on the ground per game, thanks to tailback Brandon Bolden and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s ability to make clutch runs.

Masoli, who suffered a concussion Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette and hasn’t yet been cleared to play against Tennessee, also has a habit of throwing on the run.

It was the only way Memphis, whose average 14.2 points per game ranks second-to-last in the FBS, managed to burn the Vols on Saturday. The Tigers scored their only two touchdowns in Tennessee’s 50-14 win on passes to Marcus Rucker, who darted by the defensive backs.

“You’ve got to have a lot of guys who can run and cover, and we don’t really have that on our team right now,” Dooley said.

Waggner returned two fumbles for a combined 45 yards against the Tigers, and starting free safety Janzen Jackson returned an interception 35 yards, but the pair combined for only three tackles. Cornerback Eric Gordon led the unit with six tackles and an interception, and Brewer had two.

The secondary could get some relief should Teague return this weekend. The Vols coaches have slowly been increasing his workload during practice, and Dooley said after Tuesday’s practice that the sophomore was starting to look better.

Dooley said Evans was working to get reinstated, but didn’t know when he would be, and Oliver has returned to practice but isn’t prepared yet to play.

Backup cornerback Anthony Anderson, who broke up his first pass of the season in Tennessee’s win over Memphis on Saturday, said the guys who are healthy are doing what they can to keep from being a liability for the team.

“That’s part of life, you go through tests and we’re having a big test right now with the young guys, but we’re not young anymore,” the junior said. “We’re going to have to step up. It’s big-boy ball and we’ve got to be big guys now. We expect to do well and we need to work to do well.”

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Comments » 22

volfreak#210492 writes:

“We just don’t have a lot of guys. We’re just think. We don’t have a lot of guys back there,” Dooley said.

"We're just 'think'"? What the heck does that mean? :)

Yes we are thin and everyone's gotta play a little bigger, harder and longer to get this win....

GBO

VOLliven2it writes:

I say let's blitz em anyway. I do not see how we can stop them if we don't. I hope the LBs step up and do better than last year. As I reflect on that debacle, I believe we have something to prove against the Reblackbears or whatever they call themselves in our pc world. GO BIG ORANGE!

tnsportsman writes:

VOLS solve the problem, if Convicted Felon Masoli plays with a concussion, PUT HIM OUT! One good hit, that's all.

MS can't stop anyone either so this will be a high scoring game. OUR VOLS with Bray finds the way to win this one!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

TKO writes:

Evans can't tackle air.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Iam sure Ole Miss will try to pound the run down our throat but our thrown together secondary will not go unnoticed..If Poole can find room to run it will help with ball control and time of possession..The obvious answer here is make TD's and outscore them

Ironcity writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Comments coming from mister sportsmanship himself Troll Shen

TommyJack writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The pot calling the kettle...and so on.

volzinanyyear writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

24-21. worry about that. kinda hard to talk trash the week after you LOSE. You better hope Cam Newton gets ruled ineligible or its outback bowl for the crimson turds

BeRealistic writes:

BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY FELLOW MARINES. I think our secondary is weak/or weaker than our OL. We need our secondary & linebackers to step up this week to stop their running game. This will be a very good football game for VOLS fans to see in what direction we are going.

Pullingguard writes:

in response to TKO:

Evans can't tackle air.

He defintely can tackle air... Have seen him do that numerous times... Just lunges for the opposing player and grabs a bear hug amount of air...It's pretty but not very effective..

HtownVol writes:

in response to shen24:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow, even after the team you think is one of the best in the nation loses their 2nd game this year you have time to get on a UT site and actually read a story about UT DBs. What exactly interested you to read this story? If you are a Bama fan then please do tell exactly why you have time to read every story about UT football.

I am willing to bet that 3 years ago you claimed to be a Gator fan and you were bashing Bama fans about ULCC (Lousiana Community College or something) and UTAH (who got destroyed this week).

And if you are a Bama fan I find it strange that you throw that record at a UT fan. Did you know what the 38 and 7 means? It is not exactly a one sided series.

Hey the Music City Bowl and the Cotton Bowl are both going to be games no one cares about so its time for you to jump off the Bama bandwagon. There is nothing to get exited about this year.

Agamemnon writes:

in response to TKO:

Evans can't tackle air.

It's very hard to tackle air. It slips right through your arms.

SEAL_9821 writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

Iam sure Ole Miss will try to pound the run down our throat but our thrown together secondary will not go unnoticed..If Poole can find room to run it will help with ball control and time of possession..The obvious answer here is make TD's and outscore them

If we put some points on the board and move the ball we'll be fine. This will be the key to the game. This will allow our defense to remain fresh throughout the game. If our offense sputters, it could get ugly. And that's no understatement.

ncvol17 writes:

where are we not thin & inexperienced?

BeRealistic writes:

in response to ncvol17:

where are we not thin & inexperienced?

True, no more needs to be said.

orange_n_peoria writes:

when will they decide on the miss qb

volvann writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Saban Hater dude... I agree with your statistical prowess, but... one thing you forgot to mention is the opponents played.. Ole Miss (Jack St, Tulane, Vandy, Fresno, KY, Bama, Auburn, Ark, La Laf) UT (UTM, Oregon,FL,UAB, LSU, GA, Bama, Memphis) Overall if we had Ole Miss schedule we would be 6-3 at this time.. So using yardage may not be a true comparison. But in reality if we had Boise St schedule we would be 8-1 at this time and ranked in the top 10. Just my feeble thoughts no offense meant.

brauhuff#295403 (Inactive) writes:

I think the home field advantage for Tennessee will be HUGE in this game. Tennessee 38-35

wigmeister writes:

in response to ncvol17:

where are we not thin & inexperienced?

Nowhere!

nola_vol writes:

Welcome to life in the SEC. No depth? You die a slow death in the second half of the season from attrition. I fear that will be our fate this year, and Ole Miss comes in well-equipped and well-timed to usher us down that slide.

If we pull this one out, it will be on sheer guts and will power. Which is the TRUE JOY of watching college football.

That SEC kind of attrition is something the Boise States of the FBS never have to deal with. Yet, on the other hand, them being healthier at the end of the season, one could argue that they are "better" in January than their battle-proven, but somewhat decimated, competitors from Big-Boy conferences.

It's the BCS version of the original Miller-Lite commercials: "Better Team" or "More Deserving?"

smifrat writes:

in response to volvann:

Saban Hater dude... I agree with your statistical prowess, but... one thing you forgot to mention is the opponents played.. Ole Miss (Jack St, Tulane, Vandy, Fresno, KY, Bama, Auburn, Ark, La Laf) UT (UTM, Oregon,FL,UAB, LSU, GA, Bama, Memphis) Overall if we had Ole Miss schedule we would be 6-3 at this time.. So using yardage may not be a true comparison. But in reality if we had Boise St schedule we would be 8-1 at this time and ranked in the top 10. Just my feeble thoughts no offense meant.

Excellent point volvann!

smifrat writes:

in response to nola_vol:

Welcome to life in the SEC. No depth? You die a slow death in the second half of the season from attrition. I fear that will be our fate this year, and Ole Miss comes in well-equipped and well-timed to usher us down that slide.

If we pull this one out, it will be on sheer guts and will power. Which is the TRUE JOY of watching college football.

That SEC kind of attrition is something the Boise States of the FBS never have to deal with. Yet, on the other hand, them being healthier at the end of the season, one could argue that they are "better" in January than their battle-proven, but somewhat decimated, competitors from Big-Boy conferences.

It's the BCS version of the original Miller-Lite commercials: "Better Team" or "More Deserving?"

Yet another excellent and valid point.

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