Secondary shuffle remains ongoing, uncertain

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.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 21

GetSimmsandTeagueout writes:

I think the secondary is just horribly coached. The players have talent but they don't play with good basic fundamentals and don't know who to cover.

CoverOrange writes:

Ah, wasn't it just three+ years ago we were complaining about poor pass defense letting us down after good run defense stopped the opposition cold? Especially on third down. Just like the good ole days.

Bigger_Al writes:

We've been b1tch1ng bout pass coverage since we've been old enough to b1tch.

florida-volfan writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Ah, wasn't it just three+ years ago we were complaining about poor pass defense letting us down after good run defense stopped the opposition cold? Especially on third down. Just like the good ole days.

well it could be because we have an ex baseball player coaching our secondary, lol.

flatrock writes:

in response to GetSimmsandTeagueout:

I think the secondary is just horribly coached. The players have talent but they don't play with good basic fundamentals and don't know who to cover.

Classless and Gutless name...The secondary would be greatly helped by an occasional pass rush from the front four.

bigdaddypop writes:

in response to GetSimmsandTeagueout:

I think the secondary is just horribly coached. The players have talent but they don't play with good basic fundamentals and don't know who to cover.

Love your username..not. That's classless. Can't blame everything on Simms and Teague. The first half Teague played, got burned for sure but the game was tied 6-6 at halftime. Who got burned for the other 31 points scored in the second half?

jack_2222#231746 writes:

They had to outlaw the bump and run in the NFL. In college, contact is legal anywhere before the ball is thrown. You can push, shove, forearm, block. Maybe just get the receiver offstride and disrupt timing. Anything but the current punching bag approach.

VolMan126 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Ah, wasn't it just three+ years ago we were complaining about poor pass defense letting us down after good run defense stopped the opposition cold? Especially on third down. Just like the good ole days.

Now that man has one of the top defenses in the game...again...just not at the school he loves...now its just a job. Its about the jimmys and the joes no doubt...but would you trade what we have now for what we had then....I WOULD! GO VOLS!

CrankE writes:

Off topic, but Oklahoma got torched for 441 yards passing Saturday by TT and TT. I heard that Oklahoma's secondary coach was none other than Willie Martinez. Boy do I miss him being at Georgia!

ACWLY writes:

A time for the coaches and players to step up, if they can coach then coach , play then play. We must to see positive changes in our long ball pass defense or all our team efforts will be in vain.

tntorbett writes:

I've said it before & I'll say it again, Teague was much better at WR than he has been at CB; I say it's time to move him back over to the offense...

Vol_in_Mich writes:

Rod Wilkes is still there & not playing? Good grief, no wonder we can't stop the pass. Put him in coach, don't you know he was suspose to be superman.
Honestly, I don't think even Rod Wilks can help this team. Makes me want to puke.

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

WHAT? We had our second interception of the year last weekend. We dont need to change a thing in our secondary. Bah ha ha ha! Maybe we can pick up our 3rd this weekend.

VolsUpsetYetAnother writes:

In looking at the depth chart we have 21 DB's (some may be off the team now not sure). None of them however are listed as RS's. It looks like CDD et al has put the "bigger" DB's on the field. OK yeah makes sense you would think the bigger the DB the harder they could lay the wood. Well... havent seen much hard hitting from our DB's to date. And i would rather have the FASTEST DB's on the field than the ones that can hit harder (if thats why they are in fact out there). We need stride for stride guys with quick hip flips that can bat down the balls. With 21 DB's to choose from we have to have a few that can run fast. They WR's are blowing by everyone they have lined up with to date! What gives???

rockytopatl writes:

in response to tennvolsman19651965:

WHAT? We had our second interception of the year last weekend. We dont need to change a thing in our secondary. Bah ha ha ha! Maybe we can pick up our 3rd this weekend.

That was a linebacker who made the pick, not a defensive back.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to bigdaddypop:

Love your username..not. That's classless. Can't blame everything on Simms and Teague. The first half Teague played, got burned for sure but the game was tied 6-6 at halftime. Who got burned for the other 31 points scored in the second half?

It's probably just PPO (Jeffy) or Miserable Merl(OT) with yet another screen name. These jokers could give the movie character Sybil a run for her money with their personalities.

MemphisHog writes:

Aside from quarterback, cornerback is the most difficult position to play on a football field. Most cornerbacks need at least a couple of years of playing time to figure out how to prevent an SEC quality receiver from catching passes on them. The biggest problem is obvious; you can't defend the pass without being guilty of interference if you don't turn your head and find the ball while it's in the air. Trust me, that's not something that freshmen and sophmores come into the SEC knowing how to do. So, bottom line, if you're starting 1st and 2nd year guys in your secondary, you are going to have problems. And just like with the coach, you have to give the DBs time to learn and improve.

WereComing writes:

Gordon looks to me as he needs to play Safety. He's not really fast but he is very physical. They need to quit shuffling Waggner around. He's our Best Corner Period.... Randolph is ok but needs to get more physical an more time in the weight room. Teague should just go back to the Offense. LOL Everytime a pass is caught me an my buddy say yep thats Teague an shore enough 95% of the time it is....

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to MemphisHog:

Aside from quarterback, cornerback is the most difficult position to play on a football field. Most cornerbacks need at least a couple of years of playing time to figure out how to prevent an SEC quality receiver from catching passes on them. The biggest problem is obvious; you can't defend the pass without being guilty of interference if you don't turn your head and find the ball while it's in the air. Trust me, that's not something that freshmen and sophmores come into the SEC knowing how to do. So, bottom line, if you're starting 1st and 2nd year guys in your secondary, you are going to have problems. And just like with the coach, you have to give the DBs time to learn and improve.

Best post on this thread by far!!

Smokey says good job..

VolGrad writes:

in response to MemphisHog:

Aside from quarterback, cornerback is the most difficult position to play on a football field. Most cornerbacks need at least a couple of years of playing time to figure out how to prevent an SEC quality receiver from catching passes on them. The biggest problem is obvious; you can't defend the pass without being guilty of interference if you don't turn your head and find the ball while it's in the air. Trust me, that's not something that freshmen and sophmores come into the SEC knowing how to do. So, bottom line, if you're starting 1st and 2nd year guys in your secondary, you are going to have problems. And just like with the coach, you have to give the DBs time to learn and improve.

And add to that the lack of pressure on the QB by the front 7 along with too many 3 and outs by the offense..., and you have the makings of a defensive collapse all the way around... even with an experienced secondary.

Go Vols!!!

MemphisHog writes:

To ProwlinAndGrowlin and VolGrad: Looking forward to playing you guys in a few weeks up on the Hill. The wife and I are taking a couple that are die-hard Vol fans with us; should be a great game and a lot of fun.

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