Pre-snap communication issues part of growing pains on defense

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) runs the ball as Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore (3) and linebacker Jacques Smith (55) defend in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders (1) runs the ball as Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore (3) and linebacker Jacques Smith (55) defend in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Do you approve of the job Derek Dooley is doing as coach of Tennessee?

See the results »

View previous polls »

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

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 58

BigOrangeDan writes:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

Prostar writes:

Let's see if I have this right. We're spring practice, summer camp and 9 weeks into the season (counting the bye week) and we're still have pre-snap communication problems? Heck, we're not even ready to go when the other teams offense starts to line up. I'm just waiting to see one of our defensive players punish an opposing player for daring to cross the line of scrimmage.

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

He's resigning after the Kentucky or fired?

Rumblefish writes:

"pre snap"??? The defensive calls from the get go have been wrong.

This coaching staff continues to put lipstick on a pig, and the entire nation is seeing through the facade.

Vol_in_Mich writes:

in response to Prostar:

Let's see if I have this right. We're spring practice, summer camp and 9 weeks into the season (counting the bye week) and we're still have pre-snap communication problems? Heck, we're not even ready to go when the other teams offense starts to line up. I'm just waiting to see one of our defensive players punish an opposing player for daring to cross the line of scrimmage.

Kinda like a Chinese Fire Drill, huh?

LovinMyVols writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

Not too suprised to hear the Gruden news (if in fact it is true). I am really interested in who his short list of co-ordinators will be though.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Word of advice to Coach Dooley, don't let Conklin near a microphone or anyone with a pen again.

He doesn't have the canned BS speeches and euphemisms for terrible coaching down as well as you.

Retiredvol writes:

Ain't gonna happen!
Dooley will be back for one last season and we will suck next year too.

Rumblefish writes:

in response to LovinMyVols:

Not too suprised to hear the Gruden news (if in fact it is true). I am really interested in who his short list of co-ordinators will be though.

too much candy tonight???? Heard it here second...."Gruden not coming to UT"

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

Gotta call a truck load of horse**** on that one Dan. I bet you have brown eyes because you are so full of it.

eb502us#225637 writes:

The pre-snap confusion is exactly why both Sunseri and Dooley need to be fired. I could understand confusion a few games into the season, but at this point it's truly pathetic.

Sunseri should be fired for sheer incompetence and Dooley should be fired for letting it continue.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

in response to BigOrangeFever76:

Gotta call a truck load of horse**** on that one Dan. I bet you have brown eyes because you are so full of it.

Hey Fever, Dan got just what he wanted, to stir up a hornets nest. He probably knows less that the custodial crew at West Town Mall. The best way to silence a moron is to not respond.

6972 writes:

in response to Vol_in_Mich:

Kinda like a Chinese Fire Drill, huh?

Chinese fire drill, well okay. But I was thinking more like the Keystone Cops.

Orange_Power_T writes:

I hate to break everyone's heart, but......my son is a clapper/loader for an ESPN film crew and they just renewed the budget for Grudens QB Camp. One season, 13 episodes. Kinda hard to be a head coach and film a TV series for thirteen weeks at the same time.

6972 writes:

in response to Retiredvol:

Ain't gonna happen!
Dooley will be back for one last season and we will suck next year too.

Well as long as we are wishing, I'm still holding out for Tom Landry or Vince Lombari. And as a side note, I am holding out for John Madden to replace Kessling on the radio.

6972 writes:

in response to Prostar:

Let's see if I have this right. We're spring practice, summer camp and 9 weeks into the season (counting the bye week) and we're still have pre-snap communication problems? Heck, we're not even ready to go when the other teams offense starts to line up. I'm just waiting to see one of our defensive players punish an opposing player for daring to cross the line of scrimmage.

Maybe we should put a cell phone in their hand and they could text each other the signals.

VolMoment writes:

Wake up you idots who don't know football. Tennessee got three game impact bad penalities and one no call game impact. Yet our team (for the true Vol fans)kept fighting in the second half and out played S.C. 21 to 10 in points. What idoits we have here who are so negative they resent that their mother gave them birth. Get a life. I am looking forward to next year with this young team and second year in a new defense.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Wake up you idots who don't know football. Tennessee got three game impact bad penalities and one no call game impact. Yet our team (for the true Vol fans)kept fighting in the second half and out played S.C. 21 to 10 in points. What idoits we have here who are so negative they resent that their mother gave them birth. Get a life. I am looking forward to next year with this young team and second year in a new defense.

At the very least this group has earned the benefit of a doubt.......bad as the record reveals. I've never seen so much impatience in light of absurd circumstances that have faced UT. Dooley's going to be around through next year.....as long as the Vols win these last four games. As for those of you who've taken the bait regarding Dan's unsubstantiated claim: Look! There's something shiny! Pick it up! Just kidding.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

too much candy tonight???? Heard it here second...."Gruden not coming to UT"

Good post Rumblefish. BonzaiVol

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to 6972:

Well as long as we are wishing, I'm still holding out for Tom Landry or Vince Lombari. And as a side note, I am holding out for John Madden to replace Kessling on the radio.

another good post....how about Bill Walsh, Sid Gillman, Mike Ditka.......or Barry Switzer. BonzaiVol

TheStupidPolice writes:

TOTAL B.S.! We're not getting beat by fancy formations with lots of shifts and motion. We're lost and out of place against basic sets. I would love to sit in on all of practice and film study to see what exactly is going on. I played safety in college. By this time of the season there is NO excuse to be confused by a basic 4 wide spread set or even worse a 2 wide I formation set. Thank goodness we don't play Oregon this year. With their system, they'd hand 100 on UT.

66Volunteer (Inactive) writes:

I think the truth is exposed. Sunseri was brought in to bring the 3-4 defense. We lack the personnel to run the 3-4. But, install the defense and we'll work on developing the personnel. WELL. it just doesn't happen overnight. No speed in the secondary coupled with some players who continue to unable to recognize what is in front of them. It ain't x's and o's folks, it's a personnel problem.

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

What kind of "candy" did you get into?? Gruden is NOT coming to UT...IF,

UT is 4-0 the remainder of the season, Dooley stays

UT is 3-1, who knows???

UT is 2-2 or less??? Gone like yesterday...

JMO

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to snafu14u#241639:

another good post....how about Bill Walsh, Sid Gillman, Mike Ditka.......or Barry Switzer. BonzaiVol

Hold your horses everbody!!!!!!!1
Chuck Knoll is coming to Knoxville as the new HC of the Vols!!!! Gruden will be the OC and Dungy the DC!!! This is awesome....

(sarcasm written all over this one, I couldn't resist)

GatorHater1998 writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

there's no way you heard that from a reliable source

volaholic45 writes:

Watching LBs & DBs cluelessly holding their hands up, gingerly stepping about hoping they wander into a correct position, and all the while Buddy Hackett on the sidelines yelling and waving his arms - and all of this eight games in (8 games in!) - is one of the most disheartening aspects of this team. Of course, being the worst defense since '98 is right up there too (that's 1898).

volaholic45 writes:

"Pre-snap communication" is coach-speak for "no one knows what the h3ll they are doing."

volaholic45 writes:

IOW, our defensive coordinator isn't so good on the coordinating part, or for that matter on the defending part either.

JDX47 writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

I have heard it from good sources that Randy Sanders is being looked at to come in as the Head Coach. He is bringing his innovation and ideas back to his home!!! I also heard he is planning to keep Sal to allow his plan to flourish to its full capacity.

TooDlems writes:

Things aren't going well post-snap either.

CrankE writes:

in response to 6972:

Well as long as we are wishing, I'm still holding out for Tom Landry or Vince Lombari. And as a side note, I am holding out for John Madden to replace Kessling on the radio.

While we're dreaming, here's one:

I was reading about Lombardi and that he really wanted to be a head coach in the late 50s, but nobody was offering. So what if...

What if UT in the late 1950s hires Vince Lombardi to coach the Tennessee Volunteers? The single wing disappears a few years sooner (which is a good thing.) The Packer Sweep becomes the Tennessee sweep. Tennessee gives as good as they get with anybody in the conference or the country throughout the 1960s. And while Bear Bryant revives Alabama, they do not become the lone superpower of the SEC. I wonder what the head to head record would have been between Bryant and Lombardi. Whoa!

The expectation for Tennessee to win championships remains strong. So when/if John Majors returns to Tennessee, two things are true; 1) The program is not a wreck. 2) The expectation is to win. Now. Which Majors probably does.

With Lombardi at the helm and the success he'd have, he imparts a tremendous influence over a lineman from Winchester, Tennessee. He might even recruit a certain QB from Johnson City and have a tremendous impact on him too.

What General Neyland was to single platoon football, Lombardi is to the modern game. As good as UT has been without him, I can only imagine how much better UT would be had they hired him.

volsrfiguy writes:

I hear all this talk about the secondary being sooo slow, well if Coach Dookey comes back next year..here is what he will say when we are still close to last in FBS in defense: "well you know we are playing freshmen in our secondary and will need a couple of years so they won't have Tennessee to kick around anymore" ....

tulelakevol writes:

Pre, post, PITIFUL!!

Vol86 writes:

If we have to worry about the Troy offense than we just should through in the towel. This whole thing got broken. A six yard punt followed by a fifteen yard punt. I know it took me a long time to admit it but this staff can't win.

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Wake up you idots who don't know football. Tennessee got three game impact bad penalities and one no call game impact. Yet our team (for the true Vol fans)kept fighting in the second half and out played S.C. 21 to 10 in points. What idoits we have here who are so negative they resent that their mother gave them birth. Get a life. I am looking forward to next year with this young team and second year in a new defense.

Bad luck follows bad teams.

I wonder how the defensive calls allow for all the wide open receivers and RBs running untouched?

We'll see over the next four games. We won't be playing any Top 20 teams.

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

too much candy tonight???? Heard it here second...."Gruden not coming to UT"

I wouldn't be too quick to make light of that statement, Rumblefish. I have a pretty good source that is telling me the same thing. And, I mean a darn good source. GBO!! Wear the Trojans er...uh..I mean beat the Trojans!!

Vol_in_Mich writes:

Know what left over Halloween candy & Dooley's $5 million buyout have in common?
You EAT 'em!

GBO - Wait Till Next Year

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Pre-snap comm: Don't tackle anybody? Are you sure that's what he said?

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

in response to GatorHater1998:

there's no way you heard that from a reliable source

"Reliable source" = Magic 8 Ball

Ichabod writes:

Grease fire.....
A year from now, remaining players will be quoted in the press talking about what a total and complete mess this staff created.
Better days ahead, because it CANNOT be any worse.

usafvol writes:

in response to TooDlems:

Things aren't going well post-snap either.

Good one! lol

LovinMyVols writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

too much candy tonight???? Heard it here second...."Gruden not coming to UT"

Mmmmm....I like Candy. :)

Who knows if it is true? I think there is a better than even chance of a coaching change. If there is, I would sure bet that Gruden's phone will ring. For $6.5 million, he might do it.

My question was: IF it is true, who would be on Gruden's short list of co-ordinators?

LovinMyVols writes:

in response to Ichabod:

Grease fire.....
A year from now, remaining players will be quoted in the press talking about what a total and complete mess this staff created.
Better days ahead, because it CANNOT be any worse.

I personally heard one of the backup linebackers talking to a friend of his on campus last week that things are not good at all. He was telling his friend that he decided to transfer after the season. Maybe it was that he just had sour grapes over playing time, but it sure didn't sound like it.

SummerfieldVol writes:

Do our players not speak or understand English or do they speak a foreign language? Defense set # ? is called or relayed in. This is a coaching problem that can be fixed by rotating someone in on every down with the denfense that is to be run. Then when someone doesn't do the job it is not hard to see the problem, take that player out until he knows the defensive plays. This use to be called a Skull session, where the coaches keep going over the plays untill everybody knew them by heart, no doubt as to what to do and when you are and when you are not ot be on the field. It is just a matter of pounding it into their head. If they don't know the plays they don't play. That way everybody is on the SAME PAGE. Best of luck.

sameolvolalum writes:

"Rumors" was a Fleetwood Mac album (remember those) in the 70's; a Knoxville night club in the 80's; unsubstantiated implications otherwise and, in the case of this site.....most of this verbiage. Win out and Dooley stays. Lose even one and Hart will need to execute whatever's he's brewing up. No sources revealed = b.s.

pcorange writes:

in response to BigOrangeDan:

Heard it here first. Jon Gruden coming to coach the Vols. 6.5 million per year full rein over the football program. Reliable source from UT. CDD to step down after Kentucky game.

No offense, but I'll believe this when I see a press conference with Dave Hart announcing it. Too many wild rumors flying, and everybody says, "Heard it here first." I think an announcement would come sooner rather than later to get a head start on recruiting if this were truly the case.

pcorange writes:

in response to VolMoment:

Wake up you idots who don't know football. Tennessee got three game impact bad penalities and one no call game impact. Yet our team (for the true Vol fans)kept fighting in the second half and out played S.C. 21 to 10 in points. What idoits we have here who are so negative they resent that their mother gave them birth. Get a life. I am looking forward to next year with this young team and second year in a new defense.

Maybe I am an idiot, but I know a bad defense when I see one. Youth and inexperience was not the problem this year. We returned 9 starters on defense, so quit using that as an excuse. Three years in, it's time for the excuses to stop.

BigOrangeDan writes:

WOW! What was in the candy! Hang on a few weeks and you'll see.

Classof72 writes:

Derek Dooley admitted, "We are a little bit of a mess before the ball is even snapped."

This is unacceptable and inexcusable at Tennessee.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features