Derek Dooley didn’t even have to be asked about it.
Tennessee Stat Book
Tennessee’s first-year coach didn’t sugarcoat it, either.
“Our pass rush was terrible up front,” Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday afternoon.
The Vols consistently struggled to put any pressure on Florida quarterback John Brantley in last week’s 31-17 loss, which allowed the Gators to convert 8-of-14 third downs, most of those in obvious passing situations.
“Ultimately, what killed us on defense (was) our inability to win one-on-one at every level, and that’s what got us on third down,” Dooley said.
“We could never win any one-on-ones. We weren’t coming at ‘em aggressively, and then we weren’t aggressive in coverage.”
“Some one-on-ones, we just have to win those,” linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said. “We definitely have to work on our pass rush. We are making an emphasis on that (this week).”
Dooley said the Vols mixed up their blitz packages and schemes, but Florida’s offensive line blocked whatever UT threw at it.
“We probably need to do more (and) different stuff and keep changing it up,” Dooley said, “but they blocked us when we rushed four and they blocked us when we pressured. We just had a hard time getting back there, and then we couldn’t hold up in coverage.”
“We didn’t execute our stunts as well as we could have and should have,” defensive end Gerald Williams said. “We kind of let our team down this week. We have to get back there and be more disruptive and trust our techniques.”
Despite Ben Martin’s season-ending injury in preseason camp, defensive end was an area of perceived strength and depth entering the season. While Williams has two of UT’s three sacks this season, Dooley is looking for more from Chris Walker.
“We brought in Malik (Jackson), really more to bulk up the d-line, but we need to get Chris going a little bit in pass rush,” Dooley said.
“I guess we just keep working. There’s got to be times in a game where they’ve got to pin their ears back and come, go at the quarterback.
“It looks like sometimes we’re just searching a little bit, is it play action, is it run, is the back peeling — you’ve just got to go and disrupt.”
Jonesing: Receiver Gerald Jones won’t play against UAB, but the cast protecting the broken bone in his hand suffered against UT Martin has come off in favor of a splint, though he had nothing on his hand at Monday’s practice.
“He’s got to have a week of, I don’t know, maybe we’ll have some penmanship test or something,” Dooley joked.
He wasn’t done.
“I said, ‘Well let’s go throw him some balls if he’s coming out of his cast.’ I played with a splint, course I was terrible. I actually played with a cast as a wideout but I had to because I knew if I ever said I couldn’t play, that might have been the end cause they’d put the other guy in and they’d realize he was better.
“Gerald knows when he comes back, he’s back in the lineup.”
Kicking Himself: Dooley regretted not using freshman kicker Michael Palardy, who missed practice last week with a groin injury, especially when Chad Cunningham’s kickoff out of bounds gave Florida field position for its clinching drive.
“He actually was about ready to kick, but he didn’t practice all week and I was nervous about him,” Dooley said.
“I probably should have kicked him. (It) hurt us there in the end.”
Palardy will handle kickoff duties against UAB.
Status Update: Receiver Denarius Moore and tailback Tauren Poole did not participate in Monday’s practice.
Dooley said both were “banged up” and “day-to-day.”
Think Fast: Dooley spoke at some length Monday about his team’s struggles to play fast.
“Your intellectual capacity is an important part of playing football, and when I say intellectual, I don’t mean your ability to read Shakespeare,” he said.
“I just mean your ability to retain schematically what your job is, and then to be able to do the play on principle, fast, when things change. That takes a quick mind.
“We need more of that, cause I think we’re a little slow-minded at times.”
Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.