Percentage play: Eric Gordon producing when the chances come

Matt Darr on what transpired with Derrick Brodus

The amount of chances typically has been pretty low, but there's only so much Eric Gordon can do about that.

What the Tennessee defensive back can control is the number of times he takes advantage of the opportunities he does get, and there might not be many players posting a percentage as high as the sophomore.

Gordon has struggled to carve out a consistent niche in the secondary one year after starting six games at cornerback for the Vols, though he's emerged as something of a specialist against spread offenses as a sophomore. He's also building a reputation as one of UT's best big-play threats on defense, doing it even without a whole lot of snaps to produce them heading into a trip to No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.).

"I mean, just every time they put me in, I try to make a play," Gordon said. "You know, that's it. Try to make plays, because I can't really complain about not getting playing time, I don't really control that. It's not in my hands, so when I get out there, I just try to make plays.

"Any time you do get a chance to get out there, you have to make plays. I think it pretty much sends a message."

It wasn't difficult to understand the point Gordon was making in a shutout win over Middle Tennessee State as he tried to build a case to take over at nickelback on a more regular basis.

Gordon again showed off his physical approach near the line of scrimmage with a pair of tackles for loss, leading the team in that department against the Blue Raiders and climbing to third for UT (4-5, 0-5 SEC) on the season behind only starters Malik Jackson and Jacques Smith. And he also flashed his skills in coverage with his first interception of the year, returning it 17 yards to help set up a score before halftime.

His ability to play both the run and the pass would seem to fit perfectly in UT's Nickel package, which it has used plenty this season. But the Vols are looking at more than just physical tools when they formulate the game plan, and there still seems to be some hesitancy to turn Gordon completely loose in the secondary.

"What Eric does is, he can go out there and make some plays for you, and his biggest challenge is his dependability in lining up right, knowing what to do and not giving up big plays," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "We want Eric to play more, but the dependability is the key on that.

"He's probably frustrated a little bit, as all players are when they're not playing as much as they think they should. But like most players they tend to focus on things that don't involve them instead of focusing on their play and their dependability and their consistency."

Gordon may be searching for that as the Vols go in search of a conference win on the road against the Razorbacks (8-1, 4-1) and the most prolific offense in the conference.

But when it comes to momentum-swinging plays, Gordon hasn't had as much trouble finding them.

"It's been very tough, but I've just been mature about the situation, you know, I can't let it get to me," he said. "Kind of just have to keep moving and not think about it as much.

"When I got a chance to make a big play, I made it."

Kicking It: In hindsight, Dooley would never have needed to make a desperate call to a walk-on kicker an hour before kickoff.

Derrick Brodus already would have been in uniform if the Vols coach could do it over again.

After diving into the specifics of getting Brodus to the stadium and into the lineup after the game on Saturday, Dooley went back through the 48 hours leading up to it during his news conference on Monday to explain why he was needed in the first place.

"At the end of practice Thursday morning, (Michael Palardy) felt a little something, which a lot of kickers always say that," he said. "Some muscle in my somewhere, they feel everything that happens to their body, and so, I was a little bit concerned, but there was no swelling and it was just a little pain issue and we had a lot of time before kickoff.

Then I got a little nervous Saturday morning when I could tell he wasn't there yet. But we had (Chip) Rhome, and that's why Brodus (wasn't on the roster), but looking back, we should have dressed him."

Palardy is expected to be healthy again for the Razorbacks, but Rhome might not be — which at this point makes Brodus a likely choice to travel and be in uniform once more this weekend.

Bumps And Bruises: Dooley indicated there were no serious injuries coming out of the win over the Blue Raiders, though starting tight end Mychal Rivera is dealing with a foot issue and will be monitored day-to-day.

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.

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Comments » 21

volsreign writes:

Brodus. What a story. Have you heard him interviewed? He sounds like Spicoli. But his extra points were high and down the middle. Palardy's always seem to be low and just inside the uprights. Not a very strong leg on kickoffs though. Maybe it would be good to keep him for PAT's and short field goals.

Twelvethirtyone writes:

I nearly forgot about Eric Gordon... When I heard his name called for a couple of tackles he made, I remembered him again... I am very glad he played, and played well... I hope he continues to play as well as he did Saturday. I know he is very talented, quick and tackles well. May just provide a shot in the arm our secondary needs.

Also, very happy to hear Brodus may travel with the team. I know it's only one game, and it was MTSU, but his PATs and his FG got in the air very quickly and split the uprights... I kinda want to see him kick again this weekend at Arkansas. Go Vols!!!! :)

martinvol34 writes:

in response to Twelvethirtyone:

I nearly forgot about Eric Gordon... When I heard his name called for a couple of tackles he made, I remembered him again... I am very glad he played, and played well... I hope he continues to play as well as he did Saturday. I know he is very talented, quick and tackles well. May just provide a shot in the arm our secondary needs.

Also, very happy to hear Brodus may travel with the team. I know it's only one game, and it was MTSU, but his PATs and his FG got in the air very quickly and split the uprights... I kinda want to see him kick again this weekend at Arkansas. Go Vols!!!! :)

These are the kinds of things that make me sometimes question the decisions. Eric Gordon is a baller. I completely forgot about him until entered the game and made such huge impacts. In a secondary that doesn't tackle, does it make sense to have him on the bench. Thanks for your comments about the kicker also. I was impressed.

OrangePsyched writes:

CDD give EG more PT.

VolGrad writes:

Eric Gordon did make plays when he got the chance... as of late, anyway.

He was on fire during the first half of that last game. I didn't watch the 2nd half very closely, so I don't remember what he did there or if he even played.

Go Vols!

ClearVol writes:

I hate to say it but 5-7 is looking very likely. EG is the third best tackler on the field while playing somewhat sparingly. The O looks like a cross between the inept Sanders schemes and the the "clawfense". It makes me sick to my stomach to see this team perform so poorly.. Please, somebody set me straight...

tennezz writes:

Gordon is playing good now...He gave up several big plays during the 1st half of the season and was benched.

luke255#536431 writes:

I wonder how long we keep going like this! Season is almost over and we still don't have an SEC win. CDD has never had success he had .500 winning record at La Tech and continued to show he is average. Like many UT fans I'm not asking for perfection just ONE SIGN that our program is heading in the right direction. From what I've seen in the last two years Dooley is not going to ever amount to anything. But hey what do I know..

flatrock writes:

in response to luke255#536431:

I wonder how long we keep going like this! Season is almost over and we still don't have an SEC win. CDD has never had success he had .500 winning record at La Tech and continued to show he is average. Like many UT fans I'm not asking for perfection just ONE SIGN that our program is heading in the right direction. From what I've seen in the last two years Dooley is not going to ever amount to anything. But hey what do I know..

You got the last sentence correct...If you could read, you would surely notice that Derek Dooley has the thinnest roster in modern SEC history (excluding some Vandy teams)...UT's top 44 players started this season with a COMBINED 38 years of SEC experience and weightroom time...FYI- Alabama's top 44 have 114 years; LSU 92 years; Arkansas 83; South Carolina 79; Mississippi State 74; Georgia 73; Vanderbilt 69;
Kentucky 68; Auburn 64; Florida 61; Ole Miss 52...Thanks to Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Kiffin and Mr. Fulmer, the Vols are 14 years BEHIND THE NEXT WEAKEST TEAM! Playing the 2nd toughest schedule in the NCAA; and playing without their 4 most talented players...Dooley's resume is solid (he went to a bowl game in his 2nd season at La Tech-plus he coached or played under 4 big-time college coaches in Saban, Welsh and the Dooley brothers)...Quit whining and enjoy this for what it is- a junior varsity squad playing hard for their coach against a big-boy varsity schedule. Go Vols!

TennesseeForever writes:

Glad to see Gordon have a good game. He was very physical coming up to play the run and made a nice INT. For being a fairly large city, it seems like Nashville does not produce much football talent. Big John Henderson was a great player and Scott Wells was solid. The Bartholomew brothers, Buck Fitzgerald, Micki Allen have had a few moments and maybe James Stone can develop into a better player. However, it seems like smaller cities further south consistently produce a larger volume of high-quality players on a yearly basis. Would be good for UT if Nashville could send up a few more quality players. Anyway, just a thought.
Go Vols! Let's pull an upset this week.

luke255#536431 writes:

As expected idiot fans make idiot statements.
Make ridiculous statements about combined "sec years" or comparing our football team to a pinto. The FACT is Dooley has never proven with any team he is anything more than an average coach.

Volunatic writes:

Winning a bowl game with LA Tech, by a larger margin than Tennessee beat the same opponent that same season, DOES prove that Dooley is better than average.

VolGrad writes:

in response to luke255#536431:

As expected idiot fans make idiot statements.
Make ridiculous statements about combined "sec years" or comparing our football team to a pinto. The FACT is Dooley has never proven with any team he is anything more than an average coach.

He stated his facts in context and you called it "ridiculous statements." Then he used an apt analogy to try and convey those facts in a way that even the most ignorant should be able to understand which you also labeled "ridiculous." And you deduce that he is an idiot.

Then you throw a FACT out there that is as much subjective opionion as anything else without any context at all. And we're supposed to think maybe you're an expert or something?

Be careful when you call others idiots as you may remove any doubt about your own intelligence level in the process.

Fact is, we have a true lack of junior and senior leadership on this team as compared to all the other SEC schools. Interpretation: we are a young team with a very real dearth of depth and experience - guys who can show the younger ones the "ropes" and hold them accountable. Fact is, we have lost several guys that we started the spring with and on whom we were relying, and especially as of late those in the key skill positions such as QB and WR. The most recent resulted in us playing a true freshman at QB. How many of the schools we have played thus far have faced the same type of issues? Now when you consider all that on top of the FACT that we have (according to the alleged experts) one of the most difficult schedules in the country with Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and LSU all ranked in the top 15... well, that "pinto analogy" seems to pretty much be on target.

Go Vols! BBQ those hawgs!!!

volsxsnos writes:

in response to luke255#536431:

As expected idiot fans make idiot statements.
Make ridiculous statements about combined "sec years" or comparing our football team to a pinto. The FACT is Dooley has never proven with any team he is anything more than an average coach.

So who would you hire Luke?? Saban? Miles? Chucky?
Bottom line is, things were left in such a mess, we hired who we could, not necessarily who we may have wanted. Did we settle? Sure we did, but you gotta crawl before you can walk.

writer#358485 writes:

In a couple of years, our freshmen and sophomores will be juniors and seniors, and probably with a lot more game experience than those on other teams since we had to start them so young. Dooley is an excellent coach with an excellent linage. He will bring us back to the top.

These same clowns who wanted us to fire Fulmer after a couple of down seasons now want to fire Dooley before we've had a chance to see what he can do. I wish they would go somewhere else to spread their bile.

Rebuilding is tough and we were way down after Lamebrain did his disappearing act. This team is very young, but also is showing signs of being very disciplined and beginning to look solid. Recruiting also is looking good under Dooley. The process is under way, all we need now is time.

I look for us to play solid against Arkansas, even if we lose. Go Vols! Get lost naysayers! Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is a championship football team.

springtx_vol writes:

in response to volsxsnos:

So who would you hire Luke?? Saban? Miles? Chucky?
Bottom line is, things were left in such a mess, we hired who we could, not necessarily who we may have wanted. Did we settle? Sure we did, but you gotta crawl before you can walk.

And would you really rather have Muschamp right now? Living in Gainesville, I can tell you that there are lots of Gator fans who are questioning that hire right now. Complaints that I hear?

- Why are our freshman QB's more ready to play?
- Why isn't Gillislee and Brown playing more?
- Why don't we go back to the spread, that is what our personel was recruited for.
- What are we going to do next year when we lose Rainey, Demps, Brantley, and most of our OL?

I have repeatedly said, for UT, UF or fans of other schools, you can not judge a head coach (and thus coaching staff) until they have been at a school for three or four years. They need time to get their programs in place, their kids in place, and their systems in place.

We will know in 2012 and 2013 how good a hire Dooley and Muschamp is for the SEC. Until then, I wish everyone would stop typing before they think!

luke255#536431 writes:

in response to VolGrad:

He stated his facts in context and you called it "ridiculous statements." Then he used an apt analogy to try and convey those facts in a way that even the most ignorant should be able to understand which you also labeled "ridiculous." And you deduce that he is an idiot.

Then you throw a FACT out there that is as much subjective opionion as anything else without any context at all. And we're supposed to think maybe you're an expert or something?

Be careful when you call others idiots as you may remove any doubt about your own intelligence level in the process.

Fact is, we have a true lack of junior and senior leadership on this team as compared to all the other SEC schools. Interpretation: we are a young team with a very real dearth of depth and experience - guys who can show the younger ones the "ropes" and hold them accountable. Fact is, we have lost several guys that we started the spring with and on whom we were relying, and especially as of late those in the key skill positions such as QB and WR. The most recent resulted in us playing a true freshman at QB. How many of the schools we have played thus far have faced the same type of issues? Now when you consider all that on top of the FACT that we have (according to the alleged experts) one of the most difficult schedules in the country with Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and LSU all ranked in the top 15... well, that "pinto analogy" seems to pretty much be on target.

Go Vols! BBQ those hawgs!!!

VolGrad complain much? All you do is throw out
Excuses while the proof is in the pudding. Have you seen any improvement from first to second year? What game did our great coach win he shouldn't have? Great coaches take WHATEVER talent they have and coach them to the most of their ability. Not saying we should win ALL the games but see a SIGN our program is going in the right direction. Unlike yourself I did play
Football. I'm not a coach but don't claim to be either, you say Dooley is not average based on what? Try answering a single question without crying and throwing out excuses!

trubleoj#657755 writes:

I don't give a damn about you whiny dip wads. I will be there in Arky giving my all for Tennessee. It is sold out (they didnt even sell out the last week against no. 12 USC) The Big Orange has to represent. Look for me row 8 10 yd line.
Go Big Orange.

Volunatic writes:

in response to trubleoj#657755:

I don't give a damn about you whiny dip wads. I will be there in Arky giving my all for Tennessee. It is sold out (they didnt even sell out the last week against no. 12 USC) The Big Orange has to represent. Look for me row 8 10 yd line.
Go Big Orange.

Awesome. Yell extra loud for me, too.
GO VOLS!!!

VolGrad writes:

in response to luke255#536431:

VolGrad complain much? All you do is throw out
Excuses while the proof is in the pudding. Have you seen any improvement from first to second year? What game did our great coach win he shouldn't have? Great coaches take WHATEVER talent they have and coach them to the most of their ability. Not saying we should win ALL the games but see a SIGN our program is going in the right direction. Unlike yourself I did play
Football. I'm not a coach but don't claim to be either, you say Dooley is not average based on what? Try answering a single question without crying and throwing out excuses!

What complaints? What excuses? If you can't see the obvious when it is clearly pointed out to you, then there is nothing more I can say. You are either too stupid to process and integrate well documented facts within their proper context or you choose to simply ignore them for your own opinions.

I have clearly stated the improvements this team has made, and you can look it up. I'm not going to bother putting it down again only for you to ignore it. If you REALLY want to know, then ready my previous posts until you find it. But then again, if you can't already see how this team has improved, it is only because you don't want to see it.

You ask me what game our "great" coach has won that he shouldn't have? Well, I have never called him a "great" coach, and you only did that in derision. And the question is one that is stacked to begin with: I won't explain that 'cause you'd refuse to accept it anyway and just claim I was making more excuses. But here is a better question: what game has Dooley lost this year that he should have won?

You say "Great coaches take WHATEVER talent they have and coach them to the most of their ability." OK. That is a nice sounding generalized statement, but by itself - how does that relate? I could also say that "Great coaches are not born overnight." Big freaking deal. So, you're "not saying we should win ALL the games but see a sign our program is going in the right direction. Well open your eyes, and don't ignore the stuff that doesn't gel with your apparent personal agenda.

You say, "unlike yourself I did play." Who the heck do you think you are? ...a prophet? Well, for what it is worth I did play football though I fail to see in this case what the heck that has to do with this discussion.

Where did I say "Dooley is not average?" ...again, whatever the heck that means. You also said "try answering a single question instead of throwing out excuses." What are you referring to with that? What questions?

As for crying, you are the one doing all the whining and complaining. You must be hearing an echo. I was defending the previous poster from your accusations.

Clear thinking. Try it.

MemphisHog writes:

in response to trubleoj#657755:

I don't give a damn about you whiny dip wads. I will be there in Arky giving my all for Tennessee. It is sold out (they didnt even sell out the last week against no. 12 USC) The Big Orange has to represent. Look for me row 8 10 yd line.
Go Big Orange.

The game was not a sell out because South Carolina sold less than 2,000 of the 5,000 that the visiting team is alotted. It was a capacity crowd other than those absent Carolina fans. I was there and it was a great crowd.

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