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.