Derek Dooley on defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri
Tennessee's pre-snap defensive routine has often resembled an airport landing strip this season.
Arms waving. People pointing. Danger looming.
In the Vols' case, though, many planes have crash landed into the end zone.
Referring to UT's defensive deficiencies Monday, coach Derek Dooley admitted, "We are a little bit of a mess before the ball is even snapped."
The Vols are, of course, eight games into the season.
How is pre-snap communication and execution still an issue?
On Wednesday, safeties coach Josh Conklin explained, "That's part of being on a new staff, part of being a new defense. That's part of the growing pains."
Pre-snap confusion has contributed to a defense ranked 99th nationally. Conklin called it a "problem (that) compounds week after week if you don't get it fixed."
It's yet to be fixed.
*Looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Troy (TV: noon, FSTN), Conklin said the Trojans mix complex run schemes with a vertical passing attack to "put a little pressure on" opposing defenses.
"You want to put an extra body in the box … but do that and you're robbing Peter to pay Paul."
*Receiver Vincent Dallas "grinded through" learning the UT offense last season, according to his position coach Darin Hinshaw.
Then in the fall he was shifted to defensive back.
Once the season began, he was shipped back to the offense.
After some unexpected detours, the offseason yo-yoing is now paying some dividends. Dallas posted a career-high three receptions and 78 receiving yards, and hauled in his first touchdown catch as a Vol last weekend.
"When he went over to DB at fall camp, it was actually really good work for him to understand what the DBs are trying to do," Hinshaw said.
*Speaking of explosive performances, will Zach Rogers' three-touchdown flare-up against South Carolina shift some more targets in his direction?
"I don't see anything changing one way or the other," said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Sounds like a no.
*Chaney was noncommittal in assessing injured running back Rajion Neal's status this weekend.
"We'll make that decision on gameday." Chaney said of Neal, who has missed back-to-back games with a sprained ankle.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn