Search for punt returner begins again

Gordon, Jackson lobby for chance

Tennessee wide receiver Gerald Jones has his hand checked out during the game against UT Martin at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. UT won the game 50-0.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee wide receiver Gerald Jones has his hand checked out during the game against UT Martin at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. UT won the game 50-0.

The broken bone in Gerald Jones' hand has left the job as Tennessee's punt returner wide open.

And a pair of defensive backs were lobbying for the opportunity after the Vols finished practice Monday in preparation for Saturday night's game against No. 11 Oregon (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.).

"That's one of my favorite positions on the field and one of those positions (where) I'm the most comfortable," cornerback Eric Gordon said.

"I've been waiting on this a long time. Hopefully I will make the best of my opportunity."

"It's the coaches' decision," safety Janzen Jackson said. "I just like to have the ball in my hands, really. We're going to definitely need some help on punt return, we didn't do that good last game. You should be looking to see some new faces back there."

Jones, a senior receiver, had two returns for minus-8 yards and muffed the game's first punt in last Saturday's season opener against UT Martin.

He hurt his hand making a catch later in the game and will miss the next two games, leaving UT coach Derek Dooley with an important decision to make on a position he's had concerns with for a while.

"It's been a concern," Dooley said at his weekly press conference Monday. "(Since) the first day of spring practice I came off the field and I said, 'I'm nervous about our punt return situation.' "

Tailback David Oku was listed as the punt returner in a depth chart released Monday, but Dooley wasn't ready to give him the job.

"I don't know if (Oku's) the No. 1 guy, we've got to figure all that out," he said. "We're pulling out old high-school film on some of these guys to reevaluate where we are."

"I'm going to get my tape right after this," Gordon joked.

"It makes me that much more versatile if I can go cover a guy, and anything can happen out there, then I can go redeem myself on punt, kick return. You can't ask for more as a player."

Oku, Jackson, Gordon and freshmen receiver Justin Hunter were the candidates Dooley mentioned.

"You always want a guy who can change the game back there," Dooley said, "but you want him to change the game for you. I think Gerald misunderstood me when I told him (that). He almost changed the game (the other way)."

Gordon feels he's got the tools to be UT's returner.

"First of all, (I'm) somebody that's going to catch the ball," he said.

"And then I just think me with the ball in space, I don't have any rules so I can pretty much just freestyle and do what I want to do. I feel like I'm just very versatile in the open field."

The Real UT: Phil Simms, former NFL quarterback and father of UT junior quarterback Matt Simms, saw his first game in Neyland Stadium against UTM.

"He was really excited to sit in the stands," Matt said. "He loved the atmosphere of the Volunteer crowd. He said it was unbelievable."

He's also got a favorite between UT and Texas, where Matt's older Chris played.

"He did say it was better than Texas," Matt said, "so I can't wait to rub that into my brother a little bit."

Status Update: Starter receiver Denarius Moore and starting guard Jarrod Shaw had walking boots on their injured ankles at Monday's practice. Dooley said both are "day-to-day" and questionable for Oregon.

Sure Tackling: UT's defense didn't miss very many tackles against UT Martin thanks to an increased focus on it during preseason camp.

"We had a great night tackling," junior linebacker Austin Johnson said.

"Back in our first scrimmage of camp, we had a really bad day tackling. From that day we really harped on tackling. I think we'll be a great tackling team for the rest of the year."

Balancing Act: Dooley was asked how he would handle the confidence boost from the opener and keep his team from becoming overconfident.

"Well, if they look at the film and they get overconfident, then we've got a bigger problem," he quipped. "We've got an intelligence issue that we have to deal with. I'll probably send them to the Thornton Center for a little work."

Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 65

shulessjo writes:

just go with the most experience and expect no turnovers.... anything extra is icing on the cake....

The7Maxims writes:

I got to vote for Oku.

ChattaVol1 writes:

I like the way Gordon talks, I hope he can back it up!

dvols writes:

none, bring the house!

mdvol writes:

Going to need someone we can rely on because Oregon is going to be punting all day!

Wilcox not only held Oregon to 8 points last year, the Ducks only had 31 yards rushing against BSU!

We are going to surprise some damn people.
We will upset either Florida or Alabama.

Digital5000 writes:

Why wouldn't we try Nu'Keese Richardson back there?

-Enjoy Yourselves

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to dvols:

none, bring the house!

I like this guy!

iowavol writes:

I like either Gordon or Jackson back there. Using Oku on both k/offs and punts as well as 45% of the running plays may be too much.

RJ_Vol writes:

TommyJack has sub 4.5 speed. May need to check his eligibility.

VOLtage writes:

I say put Bobby Majors back there. Wait a minute what year is this? Oh OK never mind.

oskie_score writes:

David Oku had been penciled in prior to GJ BUT if he is to be as involved in the offense (rotating w/ Poole) throughout the 2010 season as the UTM gm then, IMO, it would be counter-productive.
Two choices that bring big play explosiveness;
Eric Gordan & David Oku*
OR
EG & Justin Hunter

txsvol#372416 writes:

I like the idea of Jackson hitting others, and not being hit himself. SAVol

oskie_score writes:

On another note, how about BSU?

mdvol writes:

in response to oskie_score:

On another note, how about BSU?

Down 21-20 to the Chick fil A Champions.

tdvol1989 writes:

Uhhhh...Jones out and Moore questionable. I sure do wish Hunter, Rogers, Rogers, and Stocker had a little more opportunity last week. Somebody else is going to have to step forward in the receiving crew. I would hate to see us compensate by getting too conservative.

We have nothing to lose here. But too many people are expecting too little from us. The guys on ESPN are not even mentioning this game as one to watch. Oregon is more talented and this really is an uphill battle, but we are the Vols. They won't be awed by Neyland as Outzen is a pretty loud evironmnent too. But, down year or not, we don't roll over.

VolSkins writes:

If in a 50-0 nothing game, i can't rememeber seeing Hunter, put him back there, let him use his speed and make a contribution. I agree not Oku, it's obvious Dooley likes his style, which is a good one. He would be great in the zone blocking scheme, one cut and go. Loved seeing th o-line run block, pass block...eh not so much.They have to give Simms time to find the open man...I kinda trut simms, and if something isn't there, he seems to throw it away, which is the sign of a smart quearterback...Bray is way off, not so much. Our Def is swarming, and fast, Wilcox has decided we are small, so we will use our speed to our advantage...Licoln will cost us a game. If we beat either Oregon or Florida...Im a happy camper, espically with this depth...and yes I know Im going off one game vs Tenn-Martin...but its what I got...and did Florida look good to anyone?

TommyJack writes:

in response to RJ_Vol:

TommyJack has sub 4.5 speed. May need to check his eligibility.

TommyJack has sub 4.5 speed only from the recliner to the fridge.

Brillovol writes:

On another note, I liked the "real UT" reference. Eat your heart out Texas fans.

OrangePsyched writes:

I know this is off subject but has CDD's show started for the season? I have Direct and have been looking for it with no success. Whoever we put as punt returner hopefully can't be much worse than last week. We need a gamebreaker. ROCKY TOP!

chaos001 writes:

this guy's not too shabby on returns either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPhcmP...

VolGrad writes:

We've got a couple of flys buzzing around this board, I think.

GBO!!!

VolGrad writes:

I would love to see Justin Hunter be able to return punts.

slipshuck writes:

let gordon have the ball

RaineyVol writes:

ERIC BERRYY! ANYONE?!

AWOLVol writes:

Seems like historically we've had the most success with DBs back there. Terry Fair returned a few for TDs, and there have been others. For whatever reason, I can't see us having a receiver back there, much less a tailback. Maybe we could use Teague and have a taste of both worlds since he's a converted WR playing DB.

DannyVol writes:

in response to chaos001:

this guy's not too shabby on returns either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPhcmP...

I agree. Teague showed flashes of brilliance last year on offense and while he will be good no matter where he lines up I think we are a better team if he gets touches.

CroKev writes:

in response to tweetdriver63#346474:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ever heard of one of the original "Volunteers" named Davy Crockett, who died at the Alamo?

UTByrd writes:

Rajion Neal should get a shot. He's got the speed, power, and moves.
Go VOLS!!!!!

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to VOLtage:

I say put Bobby Majors back there. Wait a minute what year is this? Oh OK never mind.

Oh yeah---Bobby was a great one for that job. Since that's not possible just someone that can catch the ball and not run backwards.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to RJ_Vol:

TommyJack has sub 4.5 speed. May need to check his eligibility.

Just a note - TJ's frau sewed their home phone # in all his clothes.

VolBlitz writes:

I think Eric Gordon is our best shot. We sure don't need to lose Janzen or Hunter to injury and I think it's asking a bit much from Oku.

Also I like EG's attitude about the position, he wants to be back there and says he's "comfortable". Gerald didn't look "comfortable" back there to me.

gnm53108 writes:

Give it to Eric...He has the "want to's".

baldfan writes:

still can't believe Dennis Rogan tried to/went pro early. . .

LiveFaith writes:

in response to CroKev:

Ever heard of one of the original "Volunteers" named Davy Crockett, who died at the Alamo?

Can he return punts?

VolGrad writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nope, VT miscues gave it away.

77VolFS writes:

in response to OrangePsyched:

I know this is off subject but has CDD's show started for the season? I have Direct and have been looking for it with no success. Whoever we put as punt returner hopefully can't be much worse than last week. We need a gamebreaker. ROCKY TOP!

As long as you have "local channels" included as part of your package, you'll find it on WVLT. I missed it when it was on Sunday morning but was able to watch it Sunday night at 9 (after they show a replay of game on at 7).

gnm53108 writes:

in response to LiveFaith:

Can he return punts?

Can he play dt?

send writes:

dont matter with the coverage we had just fair catch it our special team sucks!!

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to SECFB:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't bother...

cooper65#432178 writes:

in response to VOLtage:

I say put Bobby Majors back there. Wait a minute what year is this? Oh OK never mind.

One of my all-time favorite Vols. Bobby could do it all. Great defensive back, solid punter, and outstanding kick returner. Great results for a guy without the physical tools. I really thought he should have been a Heisman candidate.

Orange_Juiced writes:

in response to FLVOL79:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

...while practicing darting eye movements in the mirror...

OrangePride writes:

I would like to see David Oku get a chance. He is certainly the most dynamic kickoff return man and perhaps that translates to punts as well. If he beats the first man, it is going to be trouble for someone! GO VOLS.

illinoisvolfan writes:

Gordon or Teague are the best options. Watch some of their footage on YouTube when you can. And for you cynics (or trolls) out there, I know they won't be running against HS competition on Saturdays. However, great athletes have a way of making something good happen when they touch the ball, and these two definately qualify. GBO!!

VolGrad writes:

Supposed to be able to watch it here after the fact: http://www.utsports.com/allaccess/

See this link for more information on the coaches' shows: http://www.utsports.com/volnetwork/vo...

GBO!

Pompey writes:

in response to VolGrad:

Nope, VT miscues gave it away.

...VT not through losing, offence one dimensional....kidneys never lie!

bigorange61 writes:

in response to illinoisvolfan:

Gordon or Teague are the best options. Watch some of their footage on YouTube when you can. And for you cynics (or trolls) out there, I know they won't be running against HS competition on Saturdays. However, great athletes have a way of making something good happen when they touch the ball, and these two definately qualify. GBO!!

While you are at it, check out Rajion Neal on YouTube. He may be a better option than Teague. No offense to Teague of course.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to chaos001:

this guy's not too shabby on returns either: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPhcmP...

I agree..he may be our best bet...BTW..I loved the sog in the video!!

Vol_Doc writes:

in response to SECFB:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, I'm going to enjoy watching Bama lose, too. Should be fun.

PennVol writes:

in response to VOLtage:

I say put Bobby Majors back there. Wait a minute what year is this? Oh OK never mind.

You're right, it's a new era. Let's go with Eddie Brown.

VOLliven2it writes:

If we have unspecial teams play this Sat. as we often did last Sat. things will not work out well for us. Jones really did not look comfortable on punt returns. In my opinion, he seemed to be pressing, trying to make something happen. On that first muffed one, he did make something not good happen. Hopefully we will do better. And furthermore, if it should come down to a field goal will any of us put complete trust in Lincoln? I cannot say I will. They have only a couple more days to work it out. GO BIG ORANGE! There can be no ducking them ducks!

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