Derek Dooley talks about wide receiver Justin Hunter
Team comments on Alabama loss, public negativity
Curt Maggitt constantly wears a winsome smile.
How the Tennessee linebacker has kept it intact this season is anyone's guess.
His sophomore season has faded into the fog of nagging injuries.
"I'm not where I want to be, but I'm doing the best I can do," said Maggitt, a 2011 All-SEC freshman team selection.
Maggitt dropped his head when asked Tuesday about a prolonged battle with turf toe and some newfound problems with his shoulder. There were hopes earlier in the season that he'd heal up.
Those are all but extinguished.
"I'm pretty much comfortable with the fact that I have to get used to (playing injured)," Maggitt lamented, adding that his turf toe is "still hanging around."
Though derailed, Maggitt has ached through six games, registering 19 tackles and a sack. His injury is magnified by the Vols' leaky defense. Maggitt, if healthy, would be key against pass plays over the middle and rush plays off the edges.
Instead, he's "not able to make the plays I normally would."
"I'm just not 100 percent myself," Maggitt said.
A healthy Maggitt would come in handy Saturday (TV: ESPN, noon) against South Carolina .
Someone needs to stay in front of quarterback Connor Shaw. Despite the junior's struggles of late, notably being benched in last week's drubbing at Florida, his feet make him dangerous.
Shaw has rushed for 278 yards this season. Nothing extraordinary, but good things often happen when he leaves the pocket.
"It's like they get to run two plays," said UT coach Derek Dooley, talking about Shaw's ability to elude the pass rush.
"The best way to avoid that is to keep him in the pocket," Dooley said.
Done in by a second-quarter ankle injury against Alabama, right guard Zach Fulton is "doubtful" for Saturday, according to Dooley.
Just as he did against the Tide, junior Alex Bullard will take the bulk of Fulton's snaps.
"I'm the next man in so we don't go down or anything," he said. "Alabama was a great team, I wasn't perfect by any means, but we always have to be ready."
Bullard will be spelled by sophomore lineman Marcus Jackson, who also saw time against Alabama. Jackson has only played a reserve role in 2012 after starting the final five games of last season.
He said being stripped of starting duties was "tough to swallow," but added, "you have to get used to it and push hard."
Even though Van Morrison says everybody feels "warm and right" in the moonlight, all UT has done recently is play poorly at night.
At last, relief comes in Columbia, S.C.
"Us having a (noon) game, I think a lot of guys are looking forward to this," said defensive end Maurice Couch. "We've pretty much had a bunch of night games. We usually just sit around bored in the hotel, sleeping around and anxious to play. We'll be up and ready in the morning."
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn