Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said an off-week devoted to analyzing the defense found some bright spots, but also hammered home the importance of eliminating big plays.
"There are some encouraging signs,” Dooley said Monday during his weekly news conference. “We're probably a little better than the stats are reflecting. But the stats are who you are."
The Vols (3-2, 0-2 SEC) play at No. 19 Mississippi State (5-0, 2-0) on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
Why is the defense surrendering big plays?
"There are some trends that we see, schematically and personnel-wise,” Dooley said. “Most of the plays start with an alignment error and then not playing the blocks very well and then not being able to get the guy down in space."
Dooley said nose guard Daniel McCullers would continue to play more, including in nickel packages. Despite his size and his skills as a run-stuffer, Dooley said McCullers could also be an effective pass-rusher.
"Our challenge is to see how much we can play him before he hits a dip,” Dooley said. “He brings a different kind of pass rush because he can push the pocket, which is just as effective sometimes."
There was no announcement Monday on the kickoff time for Tennessee’s game against Alabama. CBS has placed a six-day hold on the game. The game could be played on one of the ESPN networks at noon, 7 p.m. or 7:45 p.m., or on CBS at 3:30 p.m.
Read more of Dooley's comments here: Evan's Eleven