UT in good hands with Poole in slot

Tauren Poole doesn't root for Tennessee's passing plays to break down, but he's more than willing to help pick up the pieces when they do.

Poole's roll as a pass-catcher out of UT's backfield hasn't been a constant fixture, but he showed last Saturday against Memphis just how important a good set of hands can be for a running back.

Fresh off a 19-yard pass to Gerald Jones to start a first-quarter drive, freshman quarterback Tyler Bray had his next play break down all around him. Defensive linemen were in his face and his receivers downfield didn't have enough time to find open space.

That's when Bray, the big-armed freshman, found Poole on a short pass that didn't go more than 3 yards through the air. Poole took it 41 yards down to the Memphis 10-yard line.

Three plays later, Bray found Poole again through the air on another short pass for a touchdown, his first receiving score of his career.

"When everything breaks down and the quarterback has a running back, I always tell them that I will be open for them," Poole said. "It's just another addition to the offense."

Poole has 15 catches for 146 yards this season. He'd have no problem picking up a few more Saturday (TV: WVLT, Noon) against Ole Miss.

It's what he did so well in high school, he said.

"I played out in the slot some in high school running quick routes," Poole said. "Hopefully the same thing can happen here. It's just going to take time as we open the offense up more."

Though the plays look like a mess whenever Poole finds the ball in his hands, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said it takes discipline both from the quarterback and running back to save a broken situation.

"Anytime that takes place that helps," Chaney said. "That rewards the running back for doing the right thing, which we've not been able to do up until now and it was fun to see that happen."

Stocker Hurting: Tight end Luke Stocker is not only dealing with the after-effects of a concussion he suffered against Memphis, but he also has been taking antibiotics for a staph infection in his left arm.

Coach Derek Dooley said he still expects the senior tight end to play Saturday.

"We were more worried about that than the concussion, but we put a bunch of antibiotics in him and it worked," Dooley said. "It swelled up after the game, kind of got puffy on him."

Stocker, who wore a red, non-contact jersey at Wednesday's practice, is the second Vol known to have a staph infection this season, though Dooley said "we've had a few staph infections" during a September interview. The one suffered by walk-on defensive tackle Minor Bowens earlier in the year prompted Dooley to hold an impromptu seminar on "shower discipline."

Secondary Matters: Dooley was less optimistic Wednesday about the status of cornerback Marsalis Teague, who has missed the past two games with turf toe.

"It's just hard to get 100 percent on a toe without just getting on the shelf for a while," Dooley said. "He's going to have to play through it and hope we're not setting him back much."

Fulton Doubtful: Dooley saw some improvement from offensive guard Zach Fulton over the past two days of practice, but not enough, reconfirming his feelings that UT will be playing with its sixth different offensive line rotation of the season.

"He's getting better," Dooley said. "But he's still doubtful, I don't expect him to play."

No Hughes Is Bad News: Montori Hughes' hot start is now officially an afterthought.

The sophomore defensive tackle, after recording seven tackles - 2.5 for a loss - and a number of quarterback hurries in the first two games, has all but vanished from the stat sheet. He's also lost his starting job to 265-pound Malik Jackson, who has emerged as one of UT's most reliable defensive players over the past month.

Hughes has nine tackles over the past seven games, some of which he barely saw the field because of a nagging ankle injury.

"We probably all put too high of expectation on him coming in here just because of how he looks," Dooley said. "He's just a long way to go to being a good football player and playing with the right kind of technique and discipline to where he can be a factor in the game."

Hughes had an up-and-down fall camp, which led to a number of his teammates expressing disappointment about him wasting his vast potential. He responded with two games where he was nearly unblockable, but has since regressed back to a point where his coaches and fellow linemen wonder when or if he'll ever return to his dominating form.

"Right now, he's just not doing it consistently," Dooley said. "He's not where he's supposed to be a lot of times."

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 » 13

Volsfan94 writes:

I think we will lose to KEnt only but i really hope we win out!
Music City Bowl Baby!!!
I'll get to go :)

utfpmd writes:

Multiple players with staph infections?
Each player needs to get rid of Staph nasal colonization by putting Bactroban (mucipirocin) ointment in each nostril AM and PM for 7 days.
Go Vols!

PUL4VOLS writes:

I am happy for Tauren Poole. In addition to key pass cathches and runs, I want to see him get that illusive 1000 yards rushing. He has about 270 to go in three games. Considering our troubled o-line situation, that is fantastic. It lets me know next year should be something special for Mr. Poole and the Vol backfield. I am also confident our d will be better.

iowavol writes:

I agree with you Pul4vols. Just think what kind of year Tauren would have running behind Alabama's or SC's line. He's a great back and should have been playing behind Hardesty and ahead of the other guy last year.

As for Montori Hughes, what's up with this guy? Got the size and the talent, we need to get his head screwed on right.

gnm53108 writes:

We really need Montori to step up.He has the tallent.

gnm53108 writes:

And a BIG ORANGE thank you to all our Veterans.

richvol writes:

We can do a lot of things now that we have a QB that doesn't hold the ball too long.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to richvol:

We can do a lot of things now that we have a QB that doesn't hold the ball too long.

Scoring more than the other team is the thing I'm hoping for.

Glug glug.

givehim6 writes:

in response to AlvinToles:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Glad to here this a few weeks ago Chaney and almost every asst. coach on staff was stupid and should be fired. I think we have a great staff, there game plans have kept a undermanned, inexperienced Vol team competitive in the first half against some good teams only after running out of gas in the second half due to lack of depth did we fall. Just think in a few years when the good recruiting pays off and UT is back on top then the praise will come for our staff. Do you think some of the fare weathered fans will eat crow and apologize? Humm...

iadvol writes:

Huges = weak sauce..hopefully he becomes something worth a darn next year but i wouldnt bet on it. if we land two stud dt jucos next year, hughes will never see the field again.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to iadvol:

Huges = weak sauce..hopefully he becomes something worth a darn next year but i wouldnt bet on it. if we land two stud dt jucos next year, hughes will never see the field again.

Dont give up on Montori.

I'm not going to give examples but could provide several that didnt blossom untill their junior year....some not until their senior.

He has the tallent.

WildVolFormation writes:

in response to NachoDaddy_76:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

From what I've heard, it's likely that some 5-7 teams will go bowling this year, since there are so many bowls (and not enough 6-win teams to fill those bowls).

RespectTradition writes:

Is the headline misleading or am I just misremembering? Have we been lining Mr Poole up in the slot?

Go Vols!

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