LaDarrell McNeil faces pressure as a freshman starter for UT

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) makes a catch for a first down as Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) defends at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) makes a catch for a first down as Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) defends at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Derek Dooley talks about getting a better pass rush

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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.''

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 7

wononta writes:

McNeil is the first of the new UT db's who are learning the 3-4 defense from day1. Better days are coming.

VolGrad writes:

We need this defense to come into its own very, very quickly now to help us maintain and secure recruits, especially in the defensive backfield and linebacker. They've got to start turning it around and showing improvement in this scheme.

Go Vols! Beat Mizzou!!!

Olddogsrule writes:

I'm excited to see LaDarrell get this opportunity as a freshman. He's got a great attitude and has the potential to become a household name among Vol fans. He is positioned to be among the Vols who bring the D back, and up to the level of play we are seeing the offense display. The offense is there now. Has pretty much been there all season, LaDarrell will help the D grow into it, and then, Whoa Nelly!

Sir_Spanky writes:

In addition to poor coaching and poor play, there is one other thing I've noticed all season with the secondary. Some of them need to understand it would be best to let the officials be the ones responsible for signaling incomplete passes. Senior, Prentiss Wagner, looked like a total ding-a-ling out there the other day doing one of his dramatic impersonations while a yellow flag was making a perfect arc in the air behind him because of his pass interference. It looked really pedestrian. DD needs to get his arms around stuff like this because it's really embarrassing to watch, especially when the defense is getting out-coached, out-played, and basically mopped up and down and all over the field.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Isn't this the same story I read yesterday..Come on KNS time to stop rehashing the same old stuff

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to Sir_Spanky:

In addition to poor coaching and poor play, there is one other thing I've noticed all season with the secondary. Some of them need to understand it would be best to let the officials be the ones responsible for signaling incomplete passes. Senior, Prentiss Wagner, looked like a total ding-a-ling out there the other day doing one of his dramatic impersonations while a yellow flag was making a perfect arc in the air behind him because of his pass interference. It looked really pedestrian. DD needs to get his arms around stuff like this because it's really embarrassing to watch, especially when the defense is getting out-coached, out-played, and basically mopped up and down and all over the field.

That all sounds good but,you see, instilling discipline in his players is a 5-6 year project.

Sarcasm intended.

This team is as undisciplined as I have ever seen at UT.

davemanthevolfan writes:

in response to JonGrudensAgent:

That all sounds good but,you see, instilling discipline in his players is a 5-6 year project.

Sarcasm intended.

This team is as undisciplined as I have ever seen at UT.

Let's see how many boring negative posts we can put on here today.

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