Willie Bohannon on the pressure by the defense
When James Stone lost his job at center, it didn't cost him a spot in the starting lineup.
After just one game at left guard, the Tennessee sophomore lost that, too.
But rather than sulk about his shrinking playing time or assign blame elsewhere for his shrinking responsibilities, Stone instead simply put the spotlight on himself and looked at the film.
A player widely praised for his intelligence already knew there were issues with his snaps, but he also could see a few other technical problems. And a guy also known for his work ethic went right back to work trying to correct them and make a push for either one of those jobs he once held as the Vols prepare for a trip to No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.).
"I hadn't really been getting the job done as well as I could have on the field," Stone said. "I felt like I needed to focus not on who's starting, but really focus on why I'm not starting and why I'm not performing the way I need to perform.
"I just handled it like I always handle it. Just keep coming out, keep trying to improve, keep trying to get better, trying to elevate my game wherever I'm at on the field or wherever I am on the practice field."
That has apparently yielded some positive results over the past two weeks since he was replaced by Marcus Jackson at guard, a move that came one game after Alex Bullard took over at center to try to give UT's quarterbacks a more consistent delivery.
Instead of complaining about having to watch the first play from the sideline for the first time in 12 games, Stone turned in perhaps some of his finest practices of the season in his reserve role. And that quickly led to a return to action as he shared time with Jackson last week at guard to give the Vols (4-5, 0-5 SEC) another viable option as it continues to develop depth on the line.
"James is a super-intelligent kid that watches the tape, has very high expectations of himself and when he's not playing that well, he understands what is going on," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "We think he works his butt off and he earned the right on the practice field to get back on the field a few snaps.
"Marcus brings a little more girth, a little more butt to push people around a little bit better. James brings a bit more experience and probably makes fewer mental mistakes. Any given thing, you have pros and cons with both of them. We like both the kids, it's just trying to find some harmony with both of them."
After using both of them in the win over Middle Tennessee State, Chaney didn't address any specific plan for how they'd be used against the Razorbacks (8-1, 4-1) — though Jackson is again slated to get the starting nod.
Bullard also will be out there for the first snap, and is still in charge of getting it to the quarterback for the Vols in place of Stone. But if the situation calls for help at either spot, UT won't have to look far to find somebody with experience.
"At the end of the day I just want to be on the line anywhere on the field and I just want to play," Stone said. "(Starting) isn't really my focus.
"My focus is just improving as a football player and as an offensive lineman."
Razor Sharp: One after another Justin Wilcox rattled off the weapons his defense has to try to stop this weekend.
Obviously, as he broke down an attack that leads the conference in scoring, the UT defensive coordinator had a long list.
"Well, they're explosive across the board," Wilcox said after practice Wednesday. "I mean, obviously, their skill players, their wideouts, tight ends, they beat people all year. The running backs are very skilled. They're good in the run game, and they're good in the pass game. They use them a lot of different ways, so it's a very dynamic offense.
"And the quarterback throws the ball as good as anybody we've seen, and probably better."
Bumps and Bruises: Linebacker Austin Johnson (elbow) and tight end Mychal Rivera (foot) were again in green, non-contact jerseys during UT's workout Wednesday morning. Neither injury is considered serious, and both starters are expected to play.
The Vols also are anticipating having Michael Palardy back to full strength for the trip to take on the Razorbacks after missing last week's game with a leg issue. Backup Chip Rhome, however, doesn't appear likely to contribute — which will mean another game in uniform for walk-on Derrick Brodus.