Alabama is neither nameless nor faceless
Tennessee Stat Book
On the field, the bad memory has to be ignored.
Put a catchable ball on the ground? Forget it, move on and focus on the next one.
Off the field, the same bad memory is pretty difficult to dismiss.
Drop a pass in the game? It's going up on a board in the meeting room for all to see, providing a reminder for Tennessee wide receivers throughout the rest of the week.
It can be a difficult balancing act for position coach Charlie Baggett as he tries to get the Vols to not dwell on mistakes while at the same time stressing how important every ball thrown their way is in games like the one at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:15 p.m.). But there might not be anything that bothers Baggett or can disrupt an offense more than receptions slipping away at the last second, and he's not going to pretend like they didn't happen.
"I don't think there is (anything worse), and we expect to catch every ball," Baggett said after practice Wednesday. "But reality is that a lot of guys drop balls — and drop easy balls. You know, we try to minimize them and we try to eliminate them, but when it does happen, I think the best thing you can do that I learned over the years, all you can do is tell them to forget about it and move on, catch the next one.
"But we do keep track of them, and I put them on every Sunday. It's up for everybody to see in our meeting room. These guys know how many they've dropped, how many they've caught, how many were thrown to them. We use them as a motivating force."
The Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) put a
couple more on the board in a loss last week to No. 1 LSU, with starters Da'Rick Rogers and Zach Rogers both mishandling some throws that slowed down a passing game struggling to find a rhythm.
Against the best defenses in the nation, like the talented, complex unit Alabama (7-0, 4-0) has at its disposal, those mistakes are often magnified. Even one drop can prove costly, driving Baggett and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney crazy.
"It's a confidence deal," Chaney said. "They've got to believe in themselves and they've got to believe Matt (Simms) is going to deliver the ball to them. We've worked on that all week, we've talked a lot about confidence with our kids, being able to go out and make the play when you're called upon to make the play.
"They understand that, and they're trying their butts off to do better at that. We don't accept the drops, we don't want that, but occasionally it happens."
Ideally the coaches would just eliminate them completely, and they certainly make an effort to emphasize the fundamentals and get the receivers to take some extra reps on the JUGS machine after practice.
And in some cases, it's also up to the quarterback to help make it as easy as possible for his targets.
"I mean, stats don't lie," Simms said. "But nobody really knows what the ball looked like or how it came out of my hand or whatever. I mean, the stats were what they were.
"Obviously it hurt to have drops like that on third down and stuff like that. But that's out of your control sometimes, and against a good team like that, we had to stay on the field to keep their offense off the field and that running attack at a minimum. We didn't do that, and that falls on my shoulders."
But if the ball falls out of somebody's hands on the other end, it's still going on Baggett's board as a reminder.