Derek Dooley talks about getting a better pass rush
With four starts under his belt, Tennessee's freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil earned his first session with the media Tuesday morning.
He admitted it's been a struggle.
"It was very overwhelming because I never came from a system like this,'' McNeil said. "But I'm glad I came to a system like this because it's making me stronger and making me better.
"The most frustrating thing is when you feel like you've got everything down, you've got the play right, you've got everything good and you mess up.
"The coach yells at you but you've got to keep moving on.''
Coach Derek Dooley understands the load McNeil has been asked to take on. The challenge goes beyond the mental and physical realms.
"The emotional pressure you feel,'' Dooley said, "because there's a lot of pressure on how much we're depending on him to hold up back there.
"It has hit LaDarrell for a couple of weeks but he's got a great attitude. He's got a big-time future. He's going to be a great football player, I believe that.''
*Offensive tackle Tiny Richardson said he will have fluid drained off his left knee before the Vols take on Missouri on Saturday (TV: WVLT, 12:21 p.m.). Richardson injured the knee against Alabama on Oct. 20, but has played on.
"It might be a meniscus deal, where I have to go in there and just (surgically) clean it up a little bit,'' he said. "Hopefully it doesn't get any worse so I can make it through the rest of the season.''
Richardson, who protects Tyler Bray's blind side, said it affects him sometimes when he plants his left leg.
"That's my post leg, where my power comes from,'' he said.
*One of many topics of discussion in the defensive meeting room is how to juice up the pass rush. The Vols have backed off being as aggressive, which has resulted directly in fewer sacks and indirectly in fewer hurried throws that might turn into interceptions.
"Sometimes you can be more concerned about pushing the pocket and keeping the quarterback (hemmed) in,'' said Dooley. "That slows down a pass rush. And when you're losing your edges in the run game, that slows it down.
"We'll try to pick some times when we can let 'em pin their ears back and come.''
*Quarterback James Franklin, injured or not, is the best known Missouri player to a new audience of SEC fans.
But defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and return specialist Marcus Murphy have been the two Tigers that have jumped off the videotape in scouting sessions.
Richardson could "be starting anywhere,'' Dooley said. Tennessee guard Dallas Thomas also mentioned Richardson as a challenge.
Murphy's four return touchdowns this season (three punts, one kickoff) lead the nation.
"I'm not sure there's a more dangerous player in this league,'' Dooley said. "You've got the guy at South Carolina (Ace Sanders) and CP (Cordarrelle Patterson), he's one of those guys. But this cat, he's really good.''