Vols wishing for tackles to build a 'well'

Pressure from the outside is one thing, and Derek Dooley seems to like what he's seeing from that angle.

Now the Tennessee coach is looking for some on the inside to really strand a quarterback in a tight spot.

Comparing a collapsing pocket to being trapped in a deep hole, Dooley stressed after practice on Monday the need for his defensive tackles to supply some help for a group of ends that qualifies in some ways as a pleasant surprise midway through camp. At this point, the Vols appear to be limiting the space a passer has to operate in, but the walls don't have him completely surrounded yet.

"They don't have to have sacks, but tackles can push the pocket," Dooley said. "You ever try to throw out of a well? ... If you're standing at the bottom of a well and you try to throw a ball out, it's hard. There's no room to follow through, right? You're sitting there and there's a wall.

"Two good tackles who can push the guards back into the lap of the quarterback, then he's throwing out of a well and he short-arms it. We're getting it at the end, but then we're able to step up and make a throw. That doesn't do you any good."

Losing Malik Jackson for a couple weeks of practices hasn't done the Vols any favors, with the top returning tackle on the shelf nursing a knee injury and forcing them to look at other options on the interior.

That could be considered a blessing since it has allowed UT to get more evaluations on sophomores Corey Miller and Joseph Ayres and junior-college transfer Maurice Couch along with converted offensive lineman Daniel Hood. But on the flip side, Dooley also expressed some concern that Jackson was in need of some live work to be fully ready for the season, and his sprained knee will likely keep him out for another week.

"Corey is playing better, Mo is getting a little better, you know, Dan is kind of a steady hand," Dooley said. "Dan is more of a first-down run-stopper. But we just don't have a lot of guys there, so we need Malik back.

"(Jackson) was playing at a real high level this spring, got a good spring practice under his belt and he got good work in underwear for the first few days (of camp). But he definitely needs some good work going into the first game -- he needs to hit, he needs to tackle and he hasn't done that. I'm a little worried about that."

There hasn't been much public concern from Dooley lately about his rushers on the edge. But with or without Jackson, the Vols are still trying to find a way to send quarterbacks down to the well more often.

Laundry List: The distractions are starting to pop up for the Vols as the midway point of camp approaches and classes resume.

So in order to make sure the team stays focused on the task at hand, every player on the roster was given a checklist of things to work on during Monday's workout at Haslam Field and today's final two-a-day session.

"I think the biggest thing I wanted them to focus on was we've got three practices before school starts," Dooley said. "So we identified about two or three things on every player on the team on what they need to improve on over these next three days, and try to keep their focus on that.

"A lot of distractions, you can start feeling it in the air with school getting here, girls are in town, you know, and class is starting. We're trying to eliminate all that in their minds and stay focused on today."

Bionic Elbow: Corey Miller has made it clear he won't be making excuses no matter the situation.

When asked about youth on the defense or being an undersized tackle or anything else recently, the sophomore defensive tackle has taken the same hardline approach.

On Monday, an apparent left elbow injury that has led to a bulky brace becoming part of his equipment prompted the same response.

"What brace?" Miller said. "You feel me? You've got to get it done any way possible.

"It's no problem at all, you know, just going at it with those big guys every day."

Miller isn't expected to miss any time doing it, with the brace serving as a precautionary measure as he battles for an expanded role in the middle of the defensive line.

Bumps And Bruises: While Miller was still able to participate with his minor issue, the Vols added one new player to the inactive list for Monday's afternoon workout.

Freshman running back Tom Smith, who posted a team-high 80 yards rushing in the scrimmage on Saturday, was limited with a hyperextended knee that could keep him out for a couple of days.

That gives UT two rushers on the shelf for the time being, with Rajion Neal out for perhaps another week with a knee injury as well.

The Vols did get Antonio Richardson on the practice field though, with the freshman offensive tackle getting some work with the second-team line during the open portion of practice.

"(Richardson) was back, but he had no idea what he was doing," Dooley said. "Marcus Jackson wasn't helping him, then every now and then Cam Clear would line up next to him and that really didn't help him."

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 14

VolGrad writes:

If we can improve this year to get more pressure on the QBs, our secondary could have a record setting year of big plays.

Go Vols!

bearbull95#206250 writes:

One can tell just from what the coaches are saying after the practice sessions that there are more positive than negative surprises. I'm thinking that will translate to a couple of surprises on the field when we play some games that we're not expected to win. CDD's "process" is beginning to take more shape.

OrangePsyched writes:

Man I hope it's not just the koolaid, but I'm getting this real positive vibe about this years team that I haven't had for 4 or 5 years. GBO!

HooRay_Vol writes:

Too bad it didn't work out with Montori Hughes....could have really used him....what a waste of talent. Marlon Walls can still be moved inside to help out. I haven't heard anything about Greg Clark or Arthur Jeffery.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to OrangePsyched:

Man I hope it's not just the koolaid, but I'm getting this real positive vibe about this years team that I haven't had for 4 or 5 years. GBO!

My thoughts exactly. Love the way this coach talks and it looks like a really good camp so far, with some pleasant surprises.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Sometimes it's not the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog...

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

in response to OrangePsyched:

Man I hope it's not just the koolaid, but I'm getting this real positive vibe about this years team that I haven't had for 4 or 5 years. GBO!

It does appear that Dooley is much more positive this year than he was last year. I have seen a little glimmer in his eye at practices this year that I just didnt see last year.

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Naval,I tend to agree with you. I think we are being low balled as far as the talent goes. I also believe we have a fantastic staff that will get these kids ready to play. I believe the talent is way underrated. They are young and to some people (the ones that still think Freshman are as ill prepared for college ball as most were 20-30 years ago and that is not true) youth means you can't have success.

I am still worried about injuries and Bray. I know it was a different staff, but after Ainge's sophomore debacle....I am sure of nothing anymore. I am still thinking 8-4 and Gator Bowl as a realistic possibility, because I just do not believe in Georgia or South Carolina winning at Neyland.

VolGrad writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And that's just your reflection.

Look in the mirror.

Southland writes:

suits me if Dooley poor mouths like the ol timey coaches and then comes out and puts a whuppin on teams That is a lot better than being a california punk trying to talk smack like a street thug. Think we have a coaching staff that knows how to act, now lets hope they know how to coach

Volunatic writes:

in response to Whatthehellsgoingonoutthere:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's a big improvement over last year that UT even HAS a depth chart this year.
Example-- how many defensive tackles did Tennessee have at this point last season? I think Montori was the only one in whom the coaches had any confidence at all.
Tennessee's coaches even had to recruit a shot putter from the track team in order to have another guy who was willing to learn the ropes as DT.
Despite all of that, the coaches were able to get some great performances out of the Vols last season. Unfortunately, several second-half collapses occurred in games last season due to complete lack of depth-- the starters were too tired.
The Vol depth chart is not NEARLY as thin as last season. I expect this coaching staff and team to capitalize accordingly.
(Pass me the Big Orange Kool Aid.)
GO VOLS!!!

OrangePsyched writes:

in response to Volunatic:

It's a big improvement over last year that UT even HAS a depth chart this year.
Example-- how many defensive tackles did Tennessee have at this point last season? I think Montori was the only one in whom the coaches had any confidence at all.
Tennessee's coaches even had to recruit a shot putter from the track team in order to have another guy who was willing to learn the ropes as DT.
Despite all of that, the coaches were able to get some great performances out of the Vols last season. Unfortunately, several second-half collapses occurred in games last season due to complete lack of depth-- the starters were too tired.
The Vol depth chart is not NEARLY as thin as last season. I expect this coaching staff and team to capitalize accordingly.
(Pass me the Big Orange Kool Aid.)
GO VOLS!!!

Well put, our staff was hamstrung somewhat last year with our lack of depth. There were not many quality backups and yet we could have finished 8-5 against a tougher schedule than this year. With more of their players we will see definite improvement this year.

keviningeorgia writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Blahhh blahh bablahh blahh UT bad, Dooley bad. Blahhh bablahh, blahhh UT bad blahhh blahhhhhhh….

volcraze writes:

I'm very optimistic about this team. I "still" believe Dooley will get us all where we want to be. This year---I want to get invited to another Bowl Game! Vol For Life

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features