Tennessee freshman Daniel Gray struggles in debut

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) makes a catch over Troy linebacker Eli Canton (47) and carries it in for a touchdown at Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. Tennessee defeated Troy 55-48. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee running back Rajion Neal (20) makes a catch over Troy linebacker Eli Canton (47) and carries it in for a touchdown at Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. Tennessee defeated Troy 55-48. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee freshman cornerback Daniel Gray had a bumpy debut Saturday against Troy in his first career start. By the second quarter, senior Prentiss Waggner had returned to his normal role as right cornerback.

Gray was called for pass interference, flagged for a personal foul and beat for a 51-yard touchdown in man coverage — all in about a quarter-and-a-half of play.

Coaches gave Gray another chance in the second half, using both the youngster and the veteran with little effect.

"We started Dan. And then Dan struggled. That's why we put Prentiss back in. And then he struggled," coach Derek Dooley said.

***

Running back Rajion Neal was eased back into action as he recovers from a bum ankle. While Marlin Lane got the bulk of the carries, Neal carried seven times for 32 yards and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass.

Offensive guard Zach Fulton also returned to action after missing last week with an ankle injury.

***

Sophomore running back Devrin Young, who is one of two kick returners and the primary punt returner, missed the game after suffering a concussion this week in practice. Justin Hunter handled punts, while Alton "Pig" Howard took over Young's role on kicks.

"They did a good job," Dooley said.

***

Freshman cornerback Deion Bonner, who was listed as a suspect in a campus cellphone theft by UT police, dressed out but did not play. Bonner has not been charged or arrested in the case. The athletic department has had no comment on his situation.

***

Hunter was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty in the fourth quarter as he ran into the end zone for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Although the 15 yards turned out to be meaningless, the play could have been costly if Michael Palardy had missed the extra point that tied the game at 48.

Hunter said he was told that officials thought he was blowing a kiss. Hunter said he was removing his mouthpiece.

***

Entering the game, Troy coach Larry Blakeney was 68-4 when his team scored at least 35 points. He said the 1,439 combined total yards on Saturday were evidence of a game that has changed dramatically in his 22-year career.

"This game is headed in a new direction," Blakeney said. "It's a lot different from what it was in years past."

Many of Blakeney's criticisms of his team will sound familiar to Vols fans.

"We didn't have a lot of calls," Blakeney said. "We kept it pretty simple and we still messed up stuff."

***

While Tennessee was struggling against Troy, the Vols' next opponent was hanging tough with No. 8 Florida.

Missouri (4-5, 1-5 SEC) lost to the Gators 14-7 after a last-gasp comeback effort fell short. Missouri plays Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.)

***

The 103 points scored were the most scored in a Tennessee game since the Vols beat American University 104-0 on Oct. 7, 1905.

American University disbanded its football team in 1941.

***

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, a Knoxville native and Austin-East high School graduate who played at UT (1981-1984), was honored as the Vol Legend of the Game ... A Daring Affair, a Tennessee walking horse, circled the field before the game, part of a long-standing Tennessee tradition ... Smokey X made his Neyland Stadium debut after the first quarter. He officially will take over for the retiring Smokey IX in 2013.

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Comments » 41

jack4444 writes:

The first game on defense was the best. The last was the worst.

Ironcity writes:

Might be time to turn back to Teague. He can't tackle a lick but at least he can run with the receivers. I can't help but wonder how we ruined that poor guys career. He was a starting receiver as a freshman and now he is a 3rd string DB for the worst secondary in the country. What a shame.

DavidB writes:

Hunter got called for spiking the ball not for blowing a kiss

6972 writes:

Tough day for a true freshman...can't blame him to much. He did as well as the upperclassmen did.

abnerPeabody writes:

Hunter,you were not taking your mouth piece out. You threw a kiss right there on tv for everyone to see. There was a close up shot of you doing the kiss throw. The mouth piece never left your mouth.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to DavidB:

Hunter got called for spiking the ball not for blowing a kiss

The ref didn't say he spiked the ball. The TV announcer said that.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Hunter,you were not taking your mouth piece out. You threw a kiss right there on tv for everyone to see. There was a close up shot of you doing the kiss throw. The mouth piece never left your mouth.

Yep. Wasn't even in the endzone yet and had his hand up to his facemask.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

First McNiell is going to be the new solution and this week it's Gray..Give me a break!!! They are all pitiful!! Iam not sure how the secondary goes from average last year to absolutely embarrassing.Whoever is teaching these guys coverage skills should resign out of pure embarrassment

deadskins writes:

That guy Sunseri ,can't fool me,I know Buddy Hackett when I see him.

tomkats3242 writes:

He was no worse than the rest of the defensive team. All defensive coachs need to resign along with dooley. It will never get better with what we have. BGO

Titan writes:

83 points scored? Uh - math here is nearly as bad as the defense. 55+48=103

pingkr62 writes:

Never ever be critical of a player. They are still, after all, YOUNG men. Being critical of the coaching staff on the other hand is acceptable since it is their job to prepare these young men. As we can see, the coaching staff apparently cannot do what they are being paid to do.

govols0463 writes:

I can't believe someone could have the authority to write this article and not even know that the 15 yd penalty was marked off on the kickoff and not the extra point. That's as sad as our defense. Speaking of which, after watching Alabama and LSU play defense, I can't believe we play in the same conference. Man, do I miss Chief.

Orangepuddinskin writes:

Teague needs to stay in. Gray shouldn't be expected to push a senior out. Too much pressure for this kid, even if it was Troy.

nocleats writes:

Seems to me if I were a Great HS DB who wanted to play and start immediately on an SEC ballteam.... TENNESSEE! Nuff said.

knoxcarr writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Hunter,you were not taking your mouth piece out. You threw a kiss right there on tv for everyone to see. There was a close up shot of you doing the kiss throw. The mouth piece never left your mouth.

are you people blind?he spiked the ball! no mouthpiece.no kiss.anybody who knows the rules called it immediately.the ref did and so did i.

tenndave writes:

in response to pingkr62:

Never ever be critical of a player. They are still, after all, YOUNG men. Being critical of the coaching staff on the other hand is acceptable since it is their job to prepare these young men. As we can see, the coaching staff apparently cannot do what they are being paid to do.

AMEN

CoverOrange writes:

in response to knoxcarr:

are you people blind?he spiked the ball! no mouthpiece.no kiss.anybody who knows the rules called it immediately.the ref did and so did i.

Not a question of rules. Questioning the statement by Hunter. Read the article before you post.

crappieking writes:

FIRE DOOLEY!

66Volunteer (Inactive) writes:

Changing defensive coaches is not the answer. Without talent, you can have the greatest coaches in the world and still not get it done. Why do you think Wilcox left? I'm not criticizing our players, but without talent... you won't win. Like trying to make chicken salad out of chicken s###

Razzle writes:

in response to pingkr62:

Never ever be critical of a player. They are still, after all, YOUNG men. Being critical of the coaching staff on the other hand is acceptable since it is their job to prepare these young men. As we can see, the coaching staff apparently cannot do what they are being paid to do.

Right on.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to knoxcarr:

are you people blind?he spiked the ball! no mouthpiece.no kiss.anybody who knows the rules called it immediately.the ref did and so did i.

Yes,he did spike the ball.However,if you weren't so blind or simply turned your head away after he crossed the goal linne,you would have seen him throw the kiss. If you recorded the game,simply rewind and see for yourself.The refs only called un sportsman like conduct.They did not say what the conduct was.Thank you for knowing the rules. As for me being blind,not yet but I am getting there.

hikerdude writes:

Does anyone have any reliable information on why Wilcox left? Did Dooley run him off or did he leave voluntarily?

Voltman writes:

WTF is going on with Deion Bonner? Please don't have mmade a mistake Deion. We were all willing to give you a second chance man are you an idiot? You were more promising than Daniel Gray was.

RockVegas writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Might be time to turn back to Teague. He can't tackle a lick but at least he can run with the receivers. I can't help but wonder how we ruined that poor guys career. He was a starting receiver as a freshman and now he is a 3rd string DB for the worst secondary in the country. What a shame.

I know other schools change players original position sometimes,but it seems like U.T recruit a good player that plays one thing and always change their position.I use to wonder why back in the day D.Rogan never got to play offense because he was a damn good back in high school,and Teague was one of the best receivers in the state.That's another reason most in-state guys always go somewhere else and play college ball.

RockVegas writes:

in response to 66Volunteer:

Changing defensive coaches is not the answer. Without talent, you can have the greatest coaches in the world and still not get it done. Why do you think Wilcox left? I'm not criticizing our players, but without talent... you won't win. Like trying to make chicken salad out of chicken s###

Most people don't understand that.You have to get those 4 and 5* players,that can play.I watched those freshman for Alabama play like they been in college 4years last night.Hell if they win it this year everybody else might as well roll over in the years to come.Tennessee We Have A Problem,somebody please help us,I'm sorry for that,I had to let it out.....GBO.

kazoo writes:

It's not just talent on defense, people. Wilcox had this same group, with less experience and less depth, and put together a much better defense. Sal has been a DIS-AS-TER.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

I don't think Gray was UT's main problem. First of all you don't leave a Freshman out on an island covering speedy receivers without over the top safety help..What moron is coaching our safety's?? They are the last line of defense and should have been able to help Gray in at least 2 of those bad plays. Good safety play in CFB makes up for marginal corner play, and if they had helped the corners on several post routes UT gets at least one interception and stops at least 3 scoring drives..JAT&GBO!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

The ref didn't say he spiked the ball. The TV announcer said that.

Still, spiking the ball in CFB is taboo (stupid, but taboo). I remember Curt Watson spiking the ball in the 70's after a great run and many people whined about how that had no place in CFB..Yadda Yadda..

Ironcity writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

I don't think Gray was UT's main problem. First of all you don't leave a Freshman out on an island covering speedy receivers without over the top safety help..What moron is coaching our safety's?? They are the last line of defense and should have been able to help Gray in at least 2 of those bad plays. Good safety play in CFB makes up for marginal corner play, and if they had helped the corners on several post routes UT gets at least one interception and stops at least 3 scoring drives..JAT&GBO!

I have an idea. IF we line up in press coverage, we should press the receiver. This line up one yard a way and then bail out and let the guy blow off the line is as stupid as it gets. gray did it every time and they just kept running fly patterns at him.

utclyde16 writes:

in response to Orangepuddinskin:

Teague needs to stay in. Gray shouldn't be expected to push a senior out. Too much pressure for this kid, even if it was Troy.

I agree Teague should stay in. As far as too much pressure for Gray I don't agree with. Look at all the freshman starting on teams like Alabama, Oregon and other top notch teams. They are handling it and he can and will handle it.

RockyMtnVol writes:

The offense is great, a few bumps, but they put up the numbers with everyone, except Alabama........who has? You can tell CDD really worked hard on the Offense, but the D lacks talent and experience.....and every team is going to take advantage of our DBs. Next year will be like night and day......Go Vols!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I have an idea. IF we line up in press coverage, we should press the receiver. This line up one yard a way and then bail out and let the guy blow off the line is as stupid as it gets. gray did it every time and they just kept running fly patterns at him.

No doubt, Bama doesn't allow WR's to go untouched off the line..Is this some new strategy that Sal has implemented? Whatever it is there is a 5 yard zone you can physically hit/jam the WR's and try and knock them off their routes..Good point.

Ironcity writes:

in response to RockVegas:

Most people don't understand that.You have to get those 4 and 5* players,that can play.I watched those freshman for Alabama play like they been in college 4years last night.Hell if they win it this year everybody else might as well roll over in the years to come.Tennessee We Have A Problem,somebody please help us,I'm sorry for that,I had to let it out.....GBO.

I will say this. Rogan could play a good corner and we had some RBs at the time. I have no problem with a player switching positions but how does a starter on offense turn into a 3rd string CB? Especially when you remember how bad our WR were last year after the injury to Hunter. This team doesn't have enough good players to have some sit on the bench. I hate to say this but had Teague gone to UF he would be their top receiver and they would all love him. Instead Dooley ruined the kids potential pro career and has him relegated to 3rd string on what is a historically bad secondary.

tomnncvol writes:

in response to Ironcity:

I have an idea. IF we line up in press coverage, we should press the receiver. This line up one yard a way and then bail out and let the guy blow off the line is as stupid as it gets. gray did it every time and they just kept running fly patterns at him.

I have a better idea. If the defensive line had put any pressure at all on the QB, he wouldn't have had time to pick on Gray and the rest of the defensive backs.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

No doubt, Bama doesn't allow WR's to go untouched off the line..Is this some new strategy that Sal has implemented? Whatever it is there is a 5 yard zone you can physically hit/jam the WR's and try and knock them off their routes..Good point.

these guys have shown all year they cant tackle--Byron Moore is the worst of many-----they probably cant bump either

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Hunter,you were not taking your mouth piece out. You threw a kiss right there on tv for everyone to see. There was a close up shot of you doing the kiss throw. The mouth piece never left your mouth.

Beg to differ. Replays were clear in showing him removing his mp. I thought he was hotdogging until the replay proved it was a mouthpiece.

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to DavidB:

Hunter got called for spiking the ball not for blowing a kiss

Hunter should be suspended a game for spiking the ball after scoring against a team from the SUNBELT CONFERENCE.

So pathetic.

EIGHT

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to yabadabadoo1026:

these guys have shown all year they cant tackle--Byron Moore is the worst of many-----they probably cant bump either

True they are slow and miss tackles, but what is Sal teaching them besides nothing?

Ironcity writes:

in response to tomnncvol:

I have a better idea. If the defensive line had put any pressure at all on the QB, he wouldn't have had time to pick on Gray and the rest of the defensive backs.

Thats a novel idea. Wish our DC had thought of it.

volbob writes:

The defense is just horrible all the way around. Even the "good" players are consistently out of position and/or can't read the offense. Try a corner blitz? QB just flips the ball over the corner's head for an easy screen. LB blitz? Open across the middle. Press coverage? Would require actually pressing or, at a minimum, making contact at the line with the receiver. DB's can't press since they immediately turn and run. Below average (for SEC) players with piss-poor position coaches. Wilcox probably saw what he had to work with, looked at Dooley's situation in year 3, and decided to hightail it somewhere with slightly lower expectations. The rest of the defensive coaches (weren't there a ton of "losses" of position coaches in the spring?) took the opportunity to find other employment. Ol' Sal wasn't ready to be a DC. Might have been passable as a linebacker coach. Really sad. With any semblance of defense this team could have been good. Now, UT is like Baylor last year - hope the offense can score enough to offset the yards/points the defense will give up. Without major coaching changes on defense, next year and years to come will be more of the same. What recruit would want to come to UT to play under Sunseri? Dude looks as lost as a little boy at the mall who can't find mommy. Pathetic.

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