Derek Dooley previews the matchup against Cincinnati
- Vols coach Derek Dooley talks about DB Rod Wilks and WR Justin Hunter
- Vols defensive end Marlon Walls talks about Cincinnati's spread offense and simulating a mobile quarterback
- Vols linebacker Daryl Vereen talks about his role in the nickel defense and senior leadership
- Derek Dooley on the fumbles, interceptions against Montana
- Ben Martin on Lance Thompson's coaching style
- Daniel Hood on his switch to defense
- Prentiss Waggner on Brian Randolph's performance
- Mychal Rivera recaps Montana and looks ahead to Cincy
Jacques Smith didn't believe his eyes when he saw how many snaps he played in Saturday's season-opener against Montana.
In the sophomore defensive end's mind, there was no way he was on the field that much.
Smith's muscles weren't aching as much as they should have been and his brain certainly wasn't fried. This wasn't how he was supposed to feel after his first career start, especially one that came against a fast-paced spread offense such as the Grizzlies'.
Of any of the nine defensive linemen who saw a decent chunk of playing time Saturday, Smith probably was on the field the most, but even he wasn't as heavily relied upon as those who were in his position last season.
It's yet to be seen if the Vols are better on the defensive line, but they certainly appear to be deeper — for now, at least.
"That just goes to show we're doing a great job in our substitutions," Smith said. "That's something that is going to help us in the long run this year."
Even after a Week 1 tuneup against the Grizzlies, the Vols already are seeing just what the ruthless grind of "life in the trenches" can do to a previously healthy defensive line.
Junior-college transfer Maurice Couch is nursing a sprained MCL and is "day to day." Defensive end Ben Martin said he wasn't hurt, but was icing down his ankle during the final quarter of Saturday's victory.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson missed Tuesday's practice with a stomach virus.
"When those lights come on, you just get in a different zone," defensive end Marlon Walls said. "You focus on your job. You don't try to count the plays or how many series you play. You focus in on the game and what you've got to do."
When asked about the means behind the madness to UT's defensive line rotation, defensive tackle Daniel Hood, who swapped in and out with Couch and Joseph Ayres against Montana, couldn't help but laugh.
"I think Coach (Lance) Thompson was just doing it based on his head count," Hood said. "I'd be in three or four plays, I'd come out and get a drink of water. Mo would go in, then he'd come out and Joe would go in.
"I think it's just how he felt during the game."
Of course, there's more to it than just head counts. A lot more.
"It just depends on a lot of things," coach Derek Dooley said. "What the offense is doing, tempo of the game, number of plays, lot of things. It's still early. So we're kind of seeing how these guys perform.
"Lot of new faces in there."
Those new faces will see a similar, sped-up tempo that Montana used when it faces a physically enhanced version from Cincinnati on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.). It's expected to be a steep test for UT's defense as a whole, but especially the defensive line, which will have to be wary of quarterback Zach Collaros' mobility and a running game that produced 387 rushing yards in its season-opening romp against Austin Peay.
The onus goes beyond the starting line of Smith, Hood, Jackson and Martin. Players such as Miller, Ayres, Couch, Walls, Willie Bohannon and even linebacker Curt Maggitt, who plays on the defensive line in UT's pass-likely nickel package, all will have a hand in trying to limit an offense that Dooley has heaped endless praise upon throughout the week.
"You've got to have at least eight guys ready to go into battle each week," Miller said. "We have to prepare ourselves and be ready to work."
Even after a performance where the defensive line put a steady dose of pressure on Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson and didn't surrender much of anything on the ground, Dooley said he wasn't ready to anoint UT's group as one that can be relied upon week in and week out.
There's strength in numbers, sure, but numbers, alone, don't always mean that it's a strength.
"It helps us to have a lot of guys, but part of the reason we do that is because we don't have a lot of really good guys," Dooley said. "It allows you to play more. Especially with these spread teams, there's so much lateral running and chasing the ball.
"You've got to keep fresh guys in there."