Prentiss Waggner sent out a message on his Twitter account Sunday that put a scare into Tennessee fans, as the junior defensive back indicated that he was in pain and his hand likely was broken.
And that may very well be the case. Waggner, who wore a red, non-contact jersey and a giant, puffy club on his left hand at Tuesday’s practice, won’t know until the swelling goes down and he undergoes another set of X-rays on Friday.
That didn’t stop his teammates and coach from giving him a hard time about it.
“I told him he didn’t hit anybody anyway, so really he’s still live. We’re just actually blowing the whistle when he gets near the runner,” coach Derek Dooley said. “Most of his work that he needs is pattern-match, covering, and he can still do all that.
“I don’t think we’re missing much, and I’m sure he’s happy because he doesn’t have to put his screws on anybody.”
Said Waggner: “(My teammates) are just telling me it messes up my swagger.”
Waggner said he didn’t initially think the injury was serious. He only felt “a little pain” after landing on the Neyland Stadium turf when he attempted to tackle wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers at Saturday’s scrimmage. The hand swelled Sunday, Waggner said he iced it and UT’s medical staff told him it likely wasn’t a big deal and it would heal on its own.
On Monday, Waggner had the hand X-rayed, which revealed “something,” Waggner said, but it’s uncertain whether or not it’s actually broken or whether he’ll require surgery.
“Either way it’s going to be OK, but it’s kind of the unknown,” Dooley said. “We clubbed him up and got him reps.”
Waggner, who has primarily worked at safety this spring because of Janzen Jackson’s absence, said running with the club slowed him down even during simple running exercises. Trying to intercept passes also was out of the question, though he said he might ditch the club for today’s practice and just be completely non-contact.
“I just like being out there with the guys,” Waggner said. “Whatever I can do, position drills, feetwork drills, I just want to be out there doing something to improve my game and get better with anything I can get better on.”
Fugate In Red: Fullback Channing Fugate also was in a red, non-contact jersey Tuesday because of a concussion he sustained Saturday, Dooley said.
Fugate, a sophomore who started five of the last six games in 2010, is UT’s only fullback on the roster with any experience at the position.
“We’re going to have to watch Channing because he’s a tough, physical player, and he doesn’t tell you when he’s hurt — which you like them like that,” Dooley said. “The downside is it’s harder to manage those guys because you don’t know when they’re a little banged up, whether it’s shoulder, chest, head, probably everything else.”
Upon Further Review: Dooley said quarterback Tyler Bray, who completed just 11 of his 27 passes and threw two interceptions in Saturday’s scrimmage, has “more going through his mind than ever went through last season,” which has caused the sophomore to miss a number of easy throws.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said last week the UT offense was 90 percent installed and that Bray had 50 percent more on his plate than last year.
“When that happens, sometimes the simple throws become difficult,” Dooley said. “That’s common, very common. Same thing with a kicker, a punt, all these mechanics and this and that, the read, then you can’t do something real simple.”
Dooley said he’s not worried about Bray’s or any of the other UT quarterbacks’ respective confidence, just so long as they’re getting better at something, no matter how small, every day.
“As long as we’re seeing a path of climbing and growing and we don’t get too caught up in the results — that’s what we’ve got to do,” Dooley said. “You’ve got to trust it a little bit.”
Schedule Update: The Vols practiced at Neyland Stadium on Tuesday, as Monday’s heavy rains left Haslam Field in a less-than-desirable state. They will practice again today and Thursday before their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday.
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble