Gerald Jones 'excited' at punt return possibility

Punt return position still up for grabs

Derek Dooley used two hands Monday to show how much of a dilemma he has on punt returns.

The Tennessee coach flashed five fingers on his left and one on his right to emphasize that the Vols have muffed six punts in a 10-game span this season. He then split it two and two to show how many players have contributed to the problem and have yet to offer him a permanent solution.

"We've got to figure out a way to get through these next couple of games," Dooley said at his weekly news conference. "I promise you, I'm coaching it the same way I've been coaching it my whole career and we're working them."

Dooley said he "had an idea" whom he would be looking at to step in Saturday (TV: CSS, 7:30 p.m.) at Vanderbilt, but requested a day or two before divulging specific candidates.

Wide receiver Gerald Jones - who was the first player to muff a punt this season and eventually relinquished his job to cornerback Eric Gordon after injuring his hand - was apparently one of those players at Monday's practice.

"They've got me back there. I'm excited," Jones said. "I've got to get back in the groove of things, it's been a minute since I've caught them. But I'm pretty sure I'll be fine."

Though he wouldn't guarantee any dynamic returns, Jones said "if nothing else happens, I'll catch it."

"I'm going to make sure I do that and not try to overdo anything else," Jones said. "We really need these two wins."

Dooley wouldn't directly say if the latest player to take his hacks at the job, safety Janzen Jackson, had been dismissed from punt returning duties, but Jackson's two muffs against Ole Miss last Saturday - both of which were recovered by UT - certainly didn't elicit much confidence. Jackson also went down with an ankle injury on his final punt return, prompting Dooley to put no one back for the Rebels' next punt and then freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter out for the last one.

"Coach Dooley knows I'm better than that," Jackson said. "He knows I was just anxious to get a return and make something big happen. But it didn't go that way."

The Vols rank 110th in the nation on punt returns this season, averaging 4.07 yards per attempt.

Status Updates: Gordon and wide receiver Zach Rogers should not be hindered by their respective concussions and are expected to play Saturday, Dooley said.

"As long as they stay on that path, they should be OK," Dooley said.

Jackson appeared to be at full speed and was not wearing anything noticeable on his injured ankle during practice.

"I think it got rolled up underneath me and it got stuck in the ground," Jackson said. "But it's doing better today."

Right guard Zach Fulton (ankle), who did not play against Ole Miss, participated during the early portions of practice.

"I don't know if he'll be 100 percent," Dooley said. "We probably won't know until tomorrow, but he wasn't ready to play on Saturday, so hopefully he will be this week."

Mackey Man: Luke Stocker was one of eight players nationally named as a semifinalist for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's most outstanding tight end.

Arkansas' D.J. Williams was the other SEC tight end to make the cut.

"It does feel good," Stocker said. "It's good to be acknowledged for some of the production I've had this year."

Stocker, a preseason second-team All-SEC selection, has caught at least one pass in every game this season on his way to 28 receptions for 306 yards and a touchdown. In the past two games, Stocker has seven catches for 96 yards.

"I've been proud of Luke," Dooley said.

Just For Kicks: Dooley said freshman Michael Palardy would likely maintain his job as the team's kickoff specialist despite two consecutive weeks of subpar kicks.

Palardy averaged 56.9 yards per kick against Memphis and 58.6 on his nine kicks against Ole Miss.

"He's struggling," Dooley said. "I think he's just like all the other freshmen. The problem is everybody's looking at him every time he's out there. Hopefully he'll come out of it.

"Nobody hurts about it more than him. He knows he didn't perform well. But he didn't kill us."

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 » 22

jobrando#216494 writes:

Heck, Put James Stone back for punts. He's playing everywhere else.

Ironcity writes:

In defense of our punt returners it would be nice if somebody might block someone on the returns. I don't think any of our returners have caught a punt without someone in their face. I see other teams and their returner has all day to run around and ours get killed the moment the put their hands on the ball.

ctownvol writes:

Let's just get someone back there who will catch the punts first and foremost. We are certainly not talented enough to overcome turnovers on punts. Not many teams are.

ncvol17 writes:

Palardy needs to up his game.Time to get over stage fright.

orangecountyvols writes:

It's tough being back there receiving punts. It helps if a few guys take out one or two of the dare devils racing downfield to tackle you. Also, it might be better to get away from the ball if we can't settle under it to catch it. Shoe top catches seem to get us in trouble. Hey, it ain't' easy being back there with no 'halo' rule anymore. People have a free shot at you if there is a whisker of air between you and him.

Wonder about Denarious Moore back there? Somebody with hands for the ball. Just a wild guess. DD knows a heck of a lot more than I do.........for sure.

WhitePineVol77 writes:

Get back to basics, coach.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

stop diving for punt returns!!!!!!!! problem solved!!!!!!

PUL4VOLS writes:

Jackson was anxious trying to make a big play. Come on man. Stay away from the ball when the defender is on you. Fair catch it if it's high enough. I am glad he is okay but the one he got hurt on was a terrible attempt to field a punt in that position. Someone ought to be able to do the job. I hope it happens starting this week. Be it Gerald Jones or someone else, please think twice before putting Jackson back there. We do not need him hurt and we do not need momentum switch which almost occurred in the Ole Miss game.

tnsportsman writes:

in response to wallandhiker:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Next year we already have to soild commits as return specialist in Young and Arnett! Two real play makers.

Gerald, if for any reason it looks like you can't make it to the damn ball on punt returns, RUN FORREST away from the ball, LOL!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

IndyVolFan writes:

When I was in school, the punter would punt from the gateway in the upper deck...straight up. If the returner could catch it, they got practice off. I don't think they ever did, but they got good trying to watch the ball getting moved around by the wind.

Laydbakvol writes:

When I saw Jackson run from the bright sun into the shadow on his last punt, I wasn't suprised he had problems with it. It is nice though to not have to cringe everytime we have to kick off or punt. Our guys are really staying in their lanes and getting down there. I give the coaches credit for that.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to TennVolAlum:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is it Kenny Chesney, The Boys of Fall

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Laydbakvol:

When I saw Jackson run from the bright sun into the shadow on his last punt, I wasn't suprised he had problems with it. It is nice though to not have to cringe everytime we have to kick off or punt. Our guys are really staying in their lanes and getting down there. I give the coaches credit for that.

That's a very good point. Yes, we are covering kicks to the bad guys very well.

rockytopwestone writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

Is it Kenny Chesney, The Boys of Fall

Well who is the artist playing the cool bluesy sounding guitar they keep playing during timeouts ? Many Thanks in advance.

tdvol1989 writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

stop diving for punt returns!!!!!!!! problem solved!!!!!!

Yeah, I got to stand with you on that one. If you have to dive to field a punt, then don't. It's kind of like if you are going to field it inside the 10, let it go.

I say let Da'Rick do it. Of course, he is a freshman, but he is pretty solid physically. And, they are looking for ways to get him the ball. I remember us using Carl Pickens in the kicking game with a lot of success.

tovolny writes:

Tennessee is off-sides on lots of kickoffs. They have been all year. The officials will usually let one step go without the flag. This does bother me, however. But Palardy charges the ball too fast. Maybe he is charging faster in actual games than in practice...trying to get there a little faster than the rest of the team. I don't know, but I bet they are not practicing kick offs with the actual kickoff team. Palardy, or any kicker, has to know that the team is not going to pass him. I have seen Palardy practicing kickoffs in high school and he was kicking most well over 60 yards...more like 65 and 70. I could be wrong, but I just think he is charging too fast now.

Anyway, George Cafego used to have our kickers kicking so hard you could notice a louder sound than when the opponents were kicking. I can't remember seeing anybody off-sides when Cafego was coaching.

I know coaches aren't foolish enough to read these posts. Just wanted to see if anybody out there was noticing what I am noticing.

tnfanincali writes:

Yeah i was really surprised that Jackson didn't signal the fair catch when the defender was right on top of him and the sun was in his eyes (on his last punt).. was wondering if anybody else noticed that...

Also, I liked what I saw out of Bray the past two weeks even though some of those passes were just up for grabs. If Hunter wasn't so acrobatic, a couple of those would have probably been picks. Obviously the competition was much weaker in Memphis and Ole Miss than the teams we played in October, but it just feels better with Bray in there. Next couple of years could be exciting...

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

At this point I would settle for a clean fair catch..A fumbled punt is almost as bad as a pick 6.Bring in Terry Fair for a teaching clinic; he was sure handed and fearless..Not the greatest of UT returners but flipped the field MANY times with zero blocking and God help any punter who kicked Fair a line drive.

PHAT_VOL writes:

We are deep at reciver and I think Jones is a good choice. Jackson is to valuable to the defense to risk him being injuried returning punts. How about Da'Rick Rogers being given a chance at tailback. Eddie George was 6'4 about 240 lbs. and was a H.T. winner. So big guys can play tailback to.
GO VOLS !

mloaks#222092 writes:

last punt Jackson got hurt; WHY was he even back there, much less trying to return, while way ahead? did I miss Dooley adress this?!?

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

A statement that has traditionally (and erroneously) attributed to the Hippocratic Oath comes to mind: FIRST DO NO HARM. Just catch the ball or get away from it. If you catch it, hang on to it. Any return yardage is icing on the cake. Just don't kill us with muffed or fumbled punt returns.

mercyseat writes:

For Goodness sakes dont put Eric Gordon back there to catch with him coming off a concussion! Everybody's saying that was Massoli's problem with accuracy on throws.

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