Vincent Dallas easing his way into expanded role

Tennessee's Vincent Dallas hauls in a pass during the Vols' 24-0 win over MTSU on homecoming on Nov. 5.

Photo by Wade Payne, Associated Press

Tennessee's Vincent Dallas hauls in a pass during the Vols' 24-0 win over MTSU on homecoming on Nov. 5.

Vincent Dallas will do the dirty work.

That's increasingly leading to a few more chances for the Tennessee freshman to bask in a bit of glory.

In something of a break from the norm for a wide receiver, Dallas doesn't point to his hands, his route-running or his natural athleticism when pressed on what he can best provide for the Vols offensively right now.

Instead, he's focused on his skills as a physical, tenacious blocker on the perimeter — and lately that's led to him being rewarded with the football without really asking for it heading into a trip to Kentucky on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.).

"Growing up playing football, I was just always an aggressive player," Dallas said. "I was always taught that blocking is important in the receiving game, so I just try to execute that.

"I came here to play receiver, and blocking is one of the things that I have to do, so I just go out and execute whatever I have to do. I mean, I'm a good blocker and a real aggressive receiver, so I just try to wait on my number to be called and try to make a play."

After proving he could make them without the ball in his hands, the Vols (5-6, 1-6 SEC) have been dialing Dallas up more often in the passing game as he continues to prove his reliability in his first season with the program.

UT hasn't suddenly made him a regular target or leaned on him to take all the pressure off leading receiver Da'Rick Rogers as it prepares for the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6). But with a catch in each of the last two games, including a 22-yarder in a winning effort last weekend, there have been signs that Dallas might be getting called again to do more than just take on defenders on the perimeter.

"I think that's where you start," wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett said. "Everybody finds that niche that they can do and you try to get them in the game and get their feet wet, and Vincent did it. After a while they look at the film and say, 'Look at Vincent, every time he's in there, he's blocking.' But then he caught a pass on Saturday, so now we've got him going a different direction.

"I think the more comfortable he feels in there, which he will because he has some success, he'll do better. I think that's the way you get it going. But I tell you, he's come a long way. He has a lot of ability, and he's a tough kid. That's why we have him blocking."

Dallas is certainly capable of doing more than just that though, and despite his talent for blocking and willingness to use it, he did admit to occasional frustration when balls weren't being thrown his way.

After nabbing his first career reception against Florida, Dallas went six games without a catch before breaking through again two weeks ago at Arkansas. And now he's working on a new streak.

"I mean, it feels good," Dallas said. "Just going through practice and going through the motions, it's getting a little easier for me.

"I just know the hard work that I always put in, just going hard (is important). I know what my role is."

More work in it looks to be on the way, and it doesn't appear to all be dirty.

Bray's Day: Tyler Bray has again under the microscope as the Vols practiced at Neyland Stadium on Wednesday.

That's about what it would take for Derek Dooley to measure his quarterback's progress.

"He's getting a little better, but I wouldn't say its significant," the Vols coach said. "I think it's going to be a slow process getting back, and I'm sure the weather doesn't help. It just takes longer to warm up and get it loose.

"It's just a slow trek back, but he's doing fine, running the offense fine and I hope the biggest thing is he's shaking off the rust of not playing."

Bumps And Bruises: Both Prentiss Waggner (shoulder sprain) and Brian Randolph (mild concussion) continued to practice in green, non-contact jerseys. But both are still expected to play against the Wildcats and took the first-team reps at safety during the open portion of practice.

If necessary, the Vols could expand the role for backup Rod Wilks in the secondary. They're also giving Byron Moore some work at safety for the first time in a month.

After that, UT might really be in a bind.

"We're probably one play away from me playing safety," defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said.

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Comments » 9

Down_The_Field writes:

defense and kicking will win this game. i think the D-front will show up. i hope the kicking makes the trip.

givehim6 writes:

Hope Dallas and Arnett will be targets for Bray as well as Rorers.

Snapshot writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

defense and kicking will win this game. i think the D-front will show up. i hope the kicking makes the trip.

I think the def. will be ok. Who knows what those kickers are going to do, as inconsistent as they have been all year. The punting has really been mediocre, as anyone who as watched can see.

dvhill100 writes:

Defense has been playing pretty well, kept Vandy in check. Kicking has been marginal, but always hope for improvement. The offense definitely showed life with Bray back, Hunter getting his mojo on, and Poole running angry. We should be okay so long as we don't go in cocky. We are not nearly good enough for that attitude yet. Hopefully soon we will be.

frblalack writes:

With Da'Rick, Justin & Dallas, Arnett, & Rogers: we will return to WIDE RECEIVER U!!!!

Did I mention our All-Americans Clear & Downs!!!! Cameron Clear will be the best tight end since Witten! Brendan Downs will be the back-up who Rolls in the NFL! And Rivera is already a first-round draft choice...just got to get those sticky-fingers!

Future looks BRIGHT ORANGE!

tennessee'65-68

Go Big Orange!

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to frblalack:

With Da'Rick, Justin & Dallas, Arnett, & Rogers: we will return to WIDE RECEIVER U!!!!

Did I mention our All-Americans Clear & Downs!!!! Cameron Clear will be the best tight end since Witten! Brendan Downs will be the back-up who Rolls in the NFL! And Rivera is already a first-round draft choice...just got to get those sticky-fingers!

Future looks BRIGHT ORANGE!

tennessee'65-68

Go Big Orange!

No disrespect to Z. Rodgers, but he should not be mentioned under the "Wide Receiver U" title. To say Downs will Roll in the NFL.....while optimism is always welcome, I think with what little we have seen from him, this statement is an absolute pipe dream at best.

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to NoogaVol55:

No disrespect to Z. Rodgers, but he should not be mentioned under the "Wide Receiver U" title. To say Downs will Roll in the NFL.....while optimism is always welcome, I think with what little we have seen from him, this statement is an absolute pipe dream at best.

Easy now. Give Nooga room to let his imagination roam. It's good for the soul.

richvol writes:

Why is our punter so bad at kicking the ball when backed up in the endzone...he never kicks it farther than 30 yards. Pathetic...

tree_em_smokey writes:

Agree with that but in the same sense, why does our offense put him in that position. We'll be alright we just needed a spark and Tyler coming back was it. GBO!!!

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