Tennessee football practice on Oct. 9, 2012
Jacques Smith has a problem. The numbers don't add up.
"Hell, I have like a million (quarterback) pressures now and no sacks," the Tennessee linebacker said Tuesday.
In 2011, interceptions and turnovers eluded the UT defense. In 2012, sacks are the white whale. The Vols have notched only six through five games.
"That's something I need to do — get sacks. It's not just me. It's our whole defensive line," Smith said.
Easier said than done. According to Smith, the Vols spent their off week prior to Saturday's meeting with No. 19 Mississippi State with two priorities — ramping up the pass rush and correcting what he called, "The Georgia mistakes."
After surrendering a humbling 560 total yards of offense to the Bulldogs, UT studied each of the numerous big plays on film and replayed them on the field.
"Every offensive coordinator takes what a team has mishaps on the previous week," Smith said. "I guarantee Mississippi State tries the same trends Georgia did."
Georgia, of course, scored 51 points.
Smith said the key will be getting to — and sacking — Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell. The junior has been sacked just three times this season, but has yet to face a front seven resembling UT's.
"If we get pressure it will change everything," Smith said. "They haven't had a team get in their face, somebody literally hitting the quarterback, all season."
After late-game turnovers marred quarterback Tyler Bray's stat line against Georgia, UT coach Derek Dooley continues to preach that a composed version of the quarterback will emerge. Dooley said Tuesday that it takes time to change "the core" of who Bray is because "he can do it nine times and do a great job, but it is that one play. There is no room for error because everybody is looking."
Saturday's 9 p.m. kickoff in Starkville has been a topic of conversation all week. Bray, however, is unfazed.
"We'll play in a Walmart parking lot," the junior quarterback said.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn