Derek Dooley reviews the UT-LSU game
Players back Simms; Dooley says he can do better
Vols coming out flat in second half?
Consider it an appropriate step toward recovery, not a setback.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray had a metal plate inserted in his hand Monday to help his broken thumb heal properly.
The procedure was anticipated and does not affect the six-week recovery period that was originally presented shortly after he suffered the injury earlier this month against Georgia, coach Derek Dooley said.
"They have to let the swelling go down and the plate is in only so the bone doesn't grow, so it doesn't heal crooked," Dooley said at his weekly news conference. "The plate's only to help the healing. The scar tissue heals but it can move. If it moves and then it heals, then you've got a crooked thumb. We certainly don't want that with our quarterback."
Former UT wide receiver Gerald Jones underwent a similar procedure last season.
With Bray out until mid-November, senior Matt Simms remains the Vols' starter and freshman Justin Worley is the No. 2 option heading into the game Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:15 p.m.) at No. 2 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC). When asked if Worley would only enter in an emergency, injury-related situation, Dooley said it was too early to speculate.
"Matt's our quarterback," Dooley said. "He's played one game, so I just think it's a little premature right now."
Simms completed just six of his 20 attempts for 128 yards and two interceptions in his first start of the season. Afterward, he described his performance as "terrible."
Dooley didn't completely disagree with the assessment.
"I think it's fair to say that he didn't play the way he's capable of playing and made some mistakes that really hurt us in the game," Dooley said. "He knows that. We need better play out of the quarterback position for us to compete against good football teams. Really to compete against anybody.
"If you can't get good quarterback play you're not going to beat anybody."
Big Talk: From top to bottom, Dooley and the Vols (3-3, 0-3) nearly ran out of positive adjectives when describing No. 2 Alabama.
Defensive tackle Daniel Hood said Alabama's offensive line, which has spearheaded the way to 241.5 rushing yards per game, was a tougher matchup than No. 1 LSU's was Saturday.
"It looks like Alabama's offensive line is exponentially more physical than LSU's," Hood said. "Of course, they've got the great running back who's probably the best one in the SEC right now. It's going to be a tough game."
That great running back, junior Trent Richardson, is coming off the best game of his career, as he ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns against Ole Miss on Saturday.
When asked to compare Richardson to former Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who won the 2009 Heisman trophy, linebacker Austin Johnson said Richardson was better.
"They're different backs, but Trent Richardson kind of developed into his own pretty early," Johnson said. "He brings a little bit more than what Mark Ingram did. Mark Ingram is obviously an unbelievable back, first-round pick, but I think Trent Richardson is going to be that top back for them."
Dooley focused on the Crimson Tide's defense, which was promptly ranked among elite company.
"This is Nick (Saban's) fifth year, it's his best team," Dooley said. "Probably as physically a dominating a defense as I've seen in the modern era of football. I know that's a strong statement but I believe it. You catch yourself watching them and not studying them.
"Incredible talent at every position, great coaching and just a relentless, physical, dominating style of play."
Safety Dance: Though nothing official was presented in the latest depth chart, changes could be on the way in UT's secondary.
With freshman safety Brian Randolph playing his best game to date Saturday against LSU and with cornerbacks Marsalis Teague and Izauea Lanier struggling to generate turnovers or break up passes, safety Prentiss Waggner could see more playing time at his natural position of cornerback.
"We may not have a choice but to do that," Dooley said. "We need to play better at the corner position. So we're going to keep moving it around.
"We put Prentiss out there in the game and he does some things a lot better. But then there's other things. It's getting a lot of snaps. Brian's got to handle the load at safety."
UT is one of five teams in the country with only one interception. The Vols are tied for 115th in total takeaways with five and have not produced a turnover in the last two games.
Rivera Honored: Junior Mychal Rivera was one of 25 players in the country Monday slated on the mid-season watch list for the Mackey Award, which honors college football's top tight end.
Rivera is second on the Vols with 19 catches and third with 248 yards.
Players of the Week: In Dooley's weekly awards, running back Tauren Poole (19 carries, 70 yards, touchdown) and right guard Zach Fulton were named UT's co-offensive players of the week; defensive tackle Malik Jackson (eight tackles) and linebacker A.J. Johnson (11 tackles) garnered defensive recognition and cornerback Anthony Anderson was singled out for his performance on special teams.