Game summary: UT vs. Alabama
Dooley tinkers with personnel, most notably with the QB position
On paper, the hierarchy remained the same, but the stability in Tennessee's secondary remains in flux.
The Vols, who were torched for 294 passing yards Saturday, haven't made dramatic changes in the defensive backfield yet, but more players will receive opportunities Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:15 p.m.) against No. 14 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) to prove their case why there should be.
With Marsalis Teague already out of his starting role and others clinging to their first-team jobs, freshman cornerback Justin Coleman and safeties Byron Moore and Rod Wilks are all expected to see more playing time Saturday, Dooley said.
"We're just not playing as good as we need to be," Dooley said.
Strong safety Brent Brewer's struggles haven't been as obvious as the ones afflicting Teague, who was victimized on long passes in three consecutive games, but his non-existence on the stat sheet is a direct reflection of his lack of production.
Brewer has just 18 tackles through the first seven games. In his seven starts as a freshman last season, he had 30.
"I think he probably had a little higher expectation, which is what happens to most guys," Dooley said. "He just needs developing, and he'll get his confidence. But he's not playing as fast as we'd like him to and that's just from not being confident and trusting what you see and going."
Coleman had the Vols' first pass breakup since the Georgia game during Saturday's fourth quarter. The Vols (3-4, 0-4) have six as a team over the past four games.
That's made the margin of error thin for UT's front seven, which has held up fairly well against the run during this three-game losing streak. The Vols held Georgia's Isaiah Crowell (58 yards), LSU's Spencer Ware (80) and Alabama's Trent Richardson (77) well below their respective season averages.
"We've been playing the run as well as you can play it against great teams," Dooley said. "You've got to hold on in the secondary and we haven't done that. They've run by us and they've executed it."
Seeing Double: Malik Jackson called his first sack of the season Saturday a "breath of fresh air."
Now, he said, the hardest part is out of the way.
"I feel like once I got that now I can kind of stop harping on myself about getting sacks and just go out and play football," Jackson said. "I'm really happy. I just got to be consistent."
Though his sacks are down from the team-high five he managed last season, Jackson's overall production hasn't been an issue. Facing regular double teams, Jackson is third on the team in tackles (35) and is tied for the team lead with 5.5 tackles for loss.
"They let me do one-on-one blocks (last year) because they didn't know who I was," Jackson said. "This year, I've kind of made a little name for myself so I guess they want to block me.
"I don't try to worry about that. I feel like it's what they want to do and it's what they're going to do, so I just got to beat it."
Bumps and Bruises: Dooley didn't single out any players, but he said a number of Vols are "banged up" after back-to-back games against No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama.
"We've got to get these guys healed and fresh and ready to go, but we also have to practice," he said. "So that's going to be a little challenge this week, getting our guys healed."
Players of the Week: Alex Bullard, who made his first career start at center, linebacker A.J. Johnson (13 tackles) and kicker Michael Palardy, who connected on field goals from 40 and 52 yards and executed a fake punt pass for a first down, were named the Vols' players of the week.