Mychal Rivera is trying to 'just be ready for anything'

Chaney 'comfortable' with juco transfer TE

Tennessee tight end Mychal Rivera has a buddy who's pretty good at the whole "perspective" thing.

"He always tells me you're a deep breath away from being the No. 1 guy no matter what," Rivera said after practice this week. "So I try to prepare like that every week. Just be ready for anything."

Right now, as UT prepares to play Ole Miss on Saturday (TV: WVLT, noon), Rivera is a concussion and a staph infection closer to being the No. 1 tight end.

Though senior tight end Luke Stocker, who again wore a red, non-contact jersey at Thursday's practice because of those injuries and ailments, is expected to be available, Rivera, the excitable junior-college transfer, has received the lion's share of repetitions with the first-team offense.

It's nothing new for Rivera, who has gained experience through actual playing time, as UT's pro-style offense provides plenty of opportunities for the No. 2 tight end.

"I haven't seen much difference in Mike," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "Mike goes out and performs every day at a high level and we're comfortable with him."

Rivera looked as comfortable as he's been all season Saturday against Memphis.

Rivera did exactly what a tight end is supposed to do, as he found space in the middle of Memphis' defense and hauled in short, but meaningful passes to finish with a career-best three catches for 29 yards. He caught one pass apiece in the second, third and fourth quarters and two of the three were good for first downs.

"It feels great," Rivera said. "I came a long way since I first got here in the first practice. I'm just getting better every day and that's what I'm trying to do. I know that will come better with the next game."

Rivera proved he could be an every-down tight end at California's College of the Canyons, where he hauled in 35 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns after one redshirt season at Oregon. His ability to find holes in the defense and actually catch the ball - a skill not carried by all starting tight ends in the country - is what he considers the strengths of his game at this point in his career, his sophomore year.

There's plenty of time to improve and plenty of areas to improve upon, said coach Derek Dooley, a former tight ends coach in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins.

"The thing that has held him back is the knowledge of the offense and understanding the concepts," Dooley said. "There's a real difference between memorizing what to do and then really understanding the concept so you can play plays on principle. Minimizing his mental errors has been the biggest challenge.

"But he's got good size, good athleticism, very good hands, he's a tough guy and he works hard. He's got a lot of good qualities to start with."

Rivera wasted little time getting his hands on the ball when he arrived at UT. He was the first Vols player to touch it on a meaningful play, as he returned a UT Martin squib kick 7 yards to open the season.

He considers that his "Welcome to the SEC" moment.

"I knew stuff was on," he said.

It could very well be "on" Saturday if Stocker's injuries prove to be too much. After a bit of prodding, Rivera admitted with a laugh that it's made this week of preparation a little different than others, but "I'm giving the same amount of effort I do every week, busting my butt."

"I know that no matter where you go in the country, you're going to have to wait your turn," Rivera said. "I learned that a long time ago, and everybody has to wait their turn. For some very few guys, it falls their way. But what better guy to wait my turn behind than Luke? He's a kind-hearted, great guy and he helps me out wherever he can.

"I'm just trying to be where he is."

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 » 16

Vol_FAN_atic writes:

I see good things a comin'!

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

Guess I will get bashed and called a troll for this, but here goes anyway...

Why can CDD not give a player a compliment without having to start off with something negative?

I just don't understand why he can't say something completely positive about a player. It might work wonders for their confidence and morale.

Are all our players really that bad?

Vol_FAN_atic writes:

Every good coach motivates by one of two ways.

- Motivate by example
- Motivate by fear

We are in the motivate by fear stage. We have to motivate the players to be better then they "think" they are now. Also a good coach knows his players. Some you love on a little, some you yell at and criticize. CDD has demonstrated both. The negative comments make for good news!

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

in response to Vol_FAN_atic:

Every good coach motivates by one of two ways.

- Motivate by example
- Motivate by fear

We are in the motivate by fear stage. We have to motivate the players to be better then they "think" they are now. Also a good coach knows his players. Some you love on a little, some you yell at and criticize. CDD has demonstrated both. The negative comments make for good news!

I just feel like if he wants to yell at and criticize players, the media is not the place to do it.

Motivation by fear is for someone who lacks the knowledge or talent to do it a better way. I have worked for people who motivate by fear, they would have been a lot better off trying it a different way.

tnsportsman writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED:

Guess I will get bashed and called a troll for this, but here goes anyway...

Why can CDD not give a player a compliment without having to start off with something negative?

I just don't understand why he can't say something completely positive about a player. It might work wonders for their confidence and morale.

Are all our players really that bad?

TROLL! LOL, Kidding!

CDD is changing the culture, to do that you weed out the want-to-be's. IMO, after Liar Lame A Bombed UT, 59 live bodies right now and needing 25 new SEC rated recruits this year; CDD has the hardest job in college football.

But, OUR VOLS will be 6 & 6 and in the Music City Bowl after all this mess!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

elbtenn#502977 writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED:

Guess I will get bashed and called a troll for this, but here goes anyway...

Why can CDD not give a player a compliment without having to start off with something negative?

I just don't understand why he can't say something completely positive about a player. It might work wonders for their confidence and morale.

Are all our players really that bad?

Maybe he spent too much time with Saban.

tnaseevol writes:

in response to tnsportsman:

TROLL! LOL, Kidding!

CDD is changing the culture, to do that you weed out the want-to-be's. IMO, after Liar Lame A Bombed UT, 59 live bodies right now and needing 25 new SEC rated recruits this year; CDD has the hardest job in college football.

But, OUR VOLS will be 6 & 6 and in the Music City Bowl after all this mess!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

Did you not learn your lesson a few weeks ago about predicting the Vols' win-lose season?

I hope that they end up 6-6, but I seriously doubt it. 4-8 Imo is closer to what it will actually be.

GBO

ps....I'm still owed a cinnabon by tnsportsman!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to tnsportsman:

TROLL! LOL, Kidding!

CDD is changing the culture, to do that you weed out the want-to-be's. IMO, after Liar Lame A Bombed UT, 59 live bodies right now and needing 25 new SEC rated recruits this year; CDD has the hardest job in college football.

But, OUR VOLS will be 6 & 6 and in the Music City Bowl after all this mess!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

the worst part about it is that since we have 60 bodies now and we recruit 27, that will give us 87 less the 17 or so seniors we have. With only 70 players next year, it will still be a long row to hoe next year as far as depth is concerned. We will have more experience but still not a lot of depth.

RespectTradition writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED:

Guess I will get bashed and called a troll for this, but here goes anyway...

Why can CDD not give a player a compliment without having to start off with something negative?

I just don't understand why he can't say something completely positive about a player. It might work wonders for their confidence and morale.

Are all our players really that bad?

Here's a guess:

(these are all made up comments!)

Dooley: He is fantastic. He has great hands and is an excellent blocker. He runs wonderful routes and understands the playbook front to back.

Fans: Then why doesn't he play more? Why aren't we making it a point to get him the ball? These coaches can't make use of the great talent. They suck.

or

Fans: He isn't as good as coach is saying. Why is he blowing smoke? Who is he trying to fool? Or is he so stupid he can't tell when a player doesn't completely get it?

Seems to me, that Dooley just tells it like he sees it. He doesn't try to spin everything all happy and nice. He speaks truth as he sees it. It is a concept rarely seen in high level sports, honesty.

Your thoughts are not those of a troll. You have seemingly sincere thoughts about the well-being of our players. I respect that. A lot.

However, I spent several years coaching basketball, and one of the things I learned is that many times, the players need to hear good things, but they also need to hear that you think they are capable of more and that you expect more. Praise should always be tempered with ways to grow. As my old VP told me at my job, when they evaluate the younger employees they never give top scores for the first couple of years. They don't want to give them an idea that they know everything. They wanted to leave room to grow and improve.

Just my two cents.

Go Vols!

volcycle writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED:

Guess I will get bashed and called a troll for this, but here goes anyway...

Why can CDD not give a player a compliment without having to start off with something negative?

I just don't understand why he can't say something completely positive about a player. It might work wonders for their confidence and morale.

Are all our players really that bad?

I don't really see anything negative. I do see his honest assessment in these comments. He just doesn't "candy coat" it. To me, negative comments are when you are degrading a person. I don't really see that in this instance.

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

in response to RespectTradition:

Here's a guess:

(these are all made up comments!)

Dooley: He is fantastic. He has great hands and is an excellent blocker. He runs wonderful routes and understands the playbook front to back.

Fans: Then why doesn't he play more? Why aren't we making it a point to get him the ball? These coaches can't make use of the great talent. They suck.

or

Fans: He isn't as good as coach is saying. Why is he blowing smoke? Who is he trying to fool? Or is he so stupid he can't tell when a player doesn't completely get it?

Seems to me, that Dooley just tells it like he sees it. He doesn't try to spin everything all happy and nice. He speaks truth as he sees it. It is a concept rarely seen in high level sports, honesty.

Your thoughts are not those of a troll. You have seemingly sincere thoughts about the well-being of our players. I respect that. A lot.

However, I spent several years coaching basketball, and one of the things I learned is that many times, the players need to hear good things, but they also need to hear that you think they are capable of more and that you expect more. Praise should always be tempered with ways to grow. As my old VP told me at my job, when they evaluate the younger employees they never give top scores for the first couple of years. They don't want to give them an idea that they know everything. They wanted to leave room to grow and improve.

Just my two cents.

Go Vols!

Respect,

I can see where you are coming from, my only real problem with it I guess, is that CDD goes in the media with the problems, such as "mental mistakes" listed in this article. I just think that when coach addresses the problems, that should be done in his office or on the practice field, not in the media.

Coach could tell the media something like, "he had a real good game and the staff is continuing to work on improving his play." Seems that would get better results.

RespectTradition writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED:

Respect,

I can see where you are coming from, my only real problem with it I guess, is that CDD goes in the media with the problems, such as "mental mistakes" listed in this article. I just think that when coach addresses the problems, that should be done in his office or on the practice field, not in the media.

Coach could tell the media something like, "he had a real good game and the staff is continuing to work on improving his play." Seems that would get better results.

I would bet that he does both. He probably mixes it up depending on the personality and mental state of each particular player. At least, that is what I would do. I would guess that the vast majority of issues are addressed like you say. Maybe he just takes it public if he thinks that a particular player needs that kind of motivation? Maybe he just honestly answers question that a reporter asks? Dunno.

I just know that different people respond to different things. Me, for example. I hate being yelled at. If you yell at me I just tune you out. Or it pisses me off. Dad always told me, if you have to yell, you have already failed to communicate. It always disturb the parents of my players that I didn't yell at them. They didn't know what the players knew. My players knew that I get quiet when I get mad. The thing is though, I never saw the point in getting mad. If the player didn't do what he was supposed to do, it was either my fault for not properly preparing him, or it was his fault for not doing what he was taught. Either way, the correct response, to me at least, was to take him out and talk to him. Remind him what he should do and help him focus, then send him back in. Generally worked.

My point is, there are a lot of techniques. What gets the best results just depends on the personalities of the player and the coach.

Go Vols!

dvhill100 writes:

The great coaches know how to relate to their players. They know which ones do better with a swift kick and which ones do better with a pat on the back. I see CDD being honest, not belittling any of his players, just matter of factly stating what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of the players. He has not been demeaning or personal in his comments.

You praise in public and punish in private. Dooley is simply answering honestly the questions about his players.

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

Guys, thanks for the conversation tonight. Nice to carry on a decent chat w/o all the bashing that goes on around here. Enjoyed it..have a good rest of the day

UTVol4Life80 writes:

in response to AlvinToles:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

WOW. I've read most of your posts and they are pretty much amazing--and not necessarily in a good way either(haven't decided if you are serious, joking, or just completely clueless or what)...BUT, nonetheless, to answer your question on Rivera's eligibility, he does in fact have 3 years to play 3. Freshman year at Oregon-redshirt and RS Freshman at JUCO last year, leaving him as a RS Sophomore this season. Hope this helps...

PUL4VOLS writes:

Thanks for all the assessments and analysis regarding our coach's approach. Unthanks to Toles for another history lesson(I hope that guy is alright). Derek Dooley is the head coach and will do it his way. I'm good with that.
As for our future, it will be another challenging year in 2011. Not as tough as this year, I believe. Then in 2012 we will see effects of this staff and our moving beyond the negative impact of recent changes and defections. Meanwhile, I would love for us to win out this year. That could happen and begins if we win on Sat.

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