Game preview: UT vs. Kentucky
Tennessee Stat Book
The learning curve doesn't just apply for a true freshman quarterback.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney admits to needing a little patience himself while calling plays for one.
With that in mind, Chaney pointed the finger back at himself for some of Tyler Bray's struggles in last week's win over Vanderbilt, which in turn could be a valuable lesson for both heading into the last game of the regular season on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.) against Kentucky.
"It's a little bit me," Chaney said. "I don't think I called a particularly good football game over there for the young man. We did some things a little different than what we had tried to before, and I think quite honestly we weren't ready to get into a lot of that. If I had to do it again, I'd change a few things personally.
"But with that said, he's got to make me look good and I don't think he did that all the time either. That's just kind of the way it is. Hopefully we'll continue to learn each other and become better."
Bray didn't exactly play poorly in his third consecutive win since taking over as the starter for the Vols (5-6, 2-5 SEC), but he did have some issues reading different defensive looks and his two interceptions marked his first clear growing pains since his first snap off the bench at South Carolina.
But perhaps by emptying the backfield more often and relying on Bray's natural ability after two huge passing performances going into last weekend, UT might have gone for too much, too soon offensively. And with the Wildcats (6-5, 2-5) much better statistically against the pass than the run on defense, that could put the onus on Chaney to again rein himself in with his new toy.
"I think sometimes with production or non-production, too much is put into it," Chaney said. "I think every half has a lot of learning experiences. Sometimes you learn through some positive things and sometimes you learn through some bad things. I don't think we played particularly well. Hopefully he can learn from it. But also he's made some plays before that he probably shouldn't have, and he's got to learn from those also. Every time he steps out there he's learning a lot.
"I think we did a lot of the empty stuff early on, and we struggled with that quite honestly. I thought we were ready to roll that direction a little bit, and quite honestly, looking back I don't believe we were. But that's water under the bridge now, and we keep moving on."
Bumps And Bruises: Zach Rogers finally got his red, non-contact jersey off, and the wide receiver appears ready to return from his concussion.
Prentiss Waggner was the only player still wearing one during Thursday's afternoon practice at Haslam Field, but the sophomore cornerback insisted earlier in the week his sore body wouldn't slow him down against the Wildcats and UT doesn't seem concerned at all with him not being able to contribute.
"Last week, this is the sixth game in a row since the open date, so everybody is like that in college football," coach Derek Dooley said Wednesday. "The way we do it, we keep working and we keep lifting and your body gets stronger, and a lot of it is mental.
"Hopefully we'll be ready, but everybody across the country is banged up, that's how it is."
Change Clothes: A different number on the practice field made Chad Cunningham a little harder to find, but the wrap on his left hand ultimately gave him away.
The senior punter, wearing backup Matt Darr's No. 3 jersey instead of his own No. 96, injured his left hand making a tackle last week - which isn't really a problem for him kicking off or even punting, but it could be for his role as a holder on field goals and extra points.
Backup quarterback Matt Simms has taken reps throughout the week as the holder and could be in line for some work there if Cunningham can't go.