Tennessee players on facing #1 Alabama
Trying to stave off cracks in the team's unity after an 0-3 SEC start, Tennessee veterans called a players-only meeting Sunday after returning home from a 41-31 loss at Mississippi State.
Linebackers Herman Lathers and A.J. Johnson helped organize the meeting.
"We pulled some of the guys together and we said, 'If you don't want to play, go down to the scout team. We're tired of losing here and things are going to change and things are going to change this week,' " Lathers said Monday. "Guys that weren't doing it right, we're going to kick them off the field."
The Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) have lost 10 of their past 11 SEC games and are a big underdog to No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) at Neyland Stadium on Saturday (TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.).
Several players expressed support on Monday for coach Derek Dooley, whose record against ranked opponents fell to 0-13 after Saturday's loss.
The Rock on Tennessee's campus was painted with a message calling for Dooley's firing. It was quickly painted over.
Offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson said the team would block out the distractions.
"We love Coach Dooley," he said. "There's no other coach I'd rather play for."
Dooley said the criticism reflects the passion of the Tennessee fan base.
"You can't have it both ways," Dooley said. "You can't have 102,000 screaming fans and not have an expectation of results. But what I tell players is you can't read it or listen to it. But more than anything, you have to define who you are. Not anyone else. You can't let somebody else define who you are."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.