But don’t expect the Tennessee coach to take the easy approach when UT does return to practice today.
“It’s going to be hard for me to compromise being physical and tackling (in practice), and if that means guys are going to get hurt, I’m going to have to live with it,” Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday.
The Vols (2-2, 0-1 SEC) missed tackles all over the field against UAB en route to allowing the Blazers to pile up 544 yards of offense.
But with a couple more starters banged up and low scholarship numbers, Dooley doesn’t intend to limit how much the Vols tackle in practices this week in preparations for Saturday’s trip to LSU (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.).
“What I can’t live with is watching a team that doesn’t tackle well,” Dooley said, “so I’d rather have the worst players in college football who are going to go tackle than have good players that won’t tackle.
“I’m sorry — we’re going to be physical in practice, and we’re going to tackle. I may be kicking myself in three weeks, but, man, I don’t know what’s worse. It’s hard to look at a team that doesn’t tackle very well, and we didn’t do it (against UAB).”
While LSU, with bruising 235-pound tailback Stevan Ridley and the elusive Russell Shepard, certainly presents a stiffer challenge than UAB, the Vols tackled well against Florida’s talented skill players two weeks ago, leading Dooley to believe the tackling struggles were due to lacking “mental energy.”
“I was a little concerned with how we were from Thursday night to game time mentally,” he said. “As much as you beat it in ‘em, I’m not sure how locked in we were because the evidence suggests that we weren’t locked in the way we needed to be.”
Holy Undershirt, Batman!: Matt Simms’ secret is out.
Receiver Denarius Moore posted a picture on his Twitter account of the Vols’ quarterback putting his shoulder pads on before the UAB game, revealing Simms’ black Batman undershirt.
“I can’t believe he (did) that,” Simms said.
“I didn’t know he was going to post it on Twitter, I just thought he thought it was funny. I’m happy that he was focused and prepared for the game.”
Simms said he wore the shirt during his successful junior and senior years of high school and brought it back for the Florida game.
“We won this week, so I’m going to continue to wear it,” he said.
“I’m kind of superstitious.”
Illegal Substitutions: UT had just 10 players on the field on a third down and a field-goal attempt during one of the overtimes against UAB.
Dooley called it a “substitution error,” adding that different coaches are responsible for various situational substitutions.
“We’re going to correct that,” he said. “That’s 100 percent coaching.”
Ironically, UT’s defense stopped UAB on third down with just 10 players after struggling to do so throughout the game.
“We might put that defense in in the future,” Dooley joked. “It confused the offense so much.”
Returners Wanted: Dooley said UT’s coverage units were “awesome” against UAB, though he voiced his frustrations with the return game Monday.
“We’re still searching at both returners,” he said. “I felt like we left a lot yards out there. We had some big windows to hit, and we’re not hitting them.”
The Vols are last and 11th in the SEC on kickoff and punt returns, respectively.
Status Update: Receiver Gerald Jones has been cleared to return to practice, but his status for LSU is still unknown.
Jones, who’s missed the past three games, will still be wearing a protective splint on the hand in which he broke a bone against UT Martin.
Like Jones, tailback Tauren Poole (thigh), cornerback Art Evans (knee) and linebacker Herman Lathers (leg) are all day-to-day, though Dooley said it’s possible all four could play.
Center Cody Pope (stinger) and guard JerQuari Schofield (foot) will not play.
Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.