Injury could create opportunity for Tennessee's Dontavis Sapp

Lathers' injury might impact choice

Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers (34) and Tennessee defensive back Brent Brewer (17) stop North Carolina State running back James Washington (24)during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers (34) and Tennessee defensive back Brent Brewer (17) stop North Carolina State running back James Washington (24)during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

Recap: Tennessee plays N.C. State

Knoxville, TN - linebacker Dontavis Sapp #41 of the Tennessee Volunteers during photo media day. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Photo by Donald Page /Tennessee Athletics

Knoxville, TN - linebacker Dontavis Sapp #41 of the Tennessee Volunteers during photo media day. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers (34) and Tennessee defensive back Brent Brewer (17) stop North Carolina State running back James Washington (24)during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers (34) and Tennessee defensive back Brent Brewer (17) stop North Carolina State running back James Washington (24)during the Chick-Fil-A Kick Off Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL STAFF)

Dontavis Sapp saw plenty of action in last Friday's win against North Carolina State, and his performance may have earned him an encore.

The reserve linebacker could be in position to make the first start of his Tennessee career against Georgia State on Saturday (TV: Pay-per-view, 4 p.m.). Tennessee senior starting linebacker Herman Lathers was in a sling Friday night, suffering a shoulder injury in the opener after enduring an injury-riddled August.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Lathers' shoulder was "dinged" and he wouldn't know how serious the injury was until later this week. On his weekly TV show, Dooley said the injury to Lathers comes at a position — inside linebacker — where the Vols can least afford it.

"We've got a real good starting group, but we're really thin, so we've got to stay healthy," he said.

Dooley and players will talk to reporters today at Tennessee's regular media day. Even if Lathers' injury is not serious, coaches could decide to rest him against an overmatched Georgia State team to ensure he will be ready for the Sept. 15 showdown against Florida.

If Sapp starts — either out of necessity or choice — he has already had an encouraging audition.

He was only credited with one tackle against N.C. State, but it was a big one. Sapp buried a Wolfpack ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage on a screen pass.

"I remember him making that play on the screen," said cornerback Prentiss Wagger. "You know, Sapp is a real consistent guy. All through training camp, he's been consistent. He's been playing numerous roles for us. And I think

today he came out there and stepped up real big."

A native of Valdosta, Ga., Sapp was largely a special teams player in 2010 and a reserve in 2011, when he made 20 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. He got plenty of action in August as Lathers nursed other injuries.

At 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, he's one of the smaller linebackers on the squad, but said attention to detail can overcome size mismatches.

"Technique is key," he said. "If you use the right technique, you can overcome a lot of things. That's what I try to do. You know, I'm faster than a lot of linebackers, so I try to use that to my advantage."

Sapp said the defense felt confident under new coordinator Sal Sunseri.

"We know what we have to do, we know why we have to do it, and we know how we do it," Sapp said. "I think we opened a lot of people's eyes."

Settling In: On his weekly film review show, Dooley said he felt the Vols "settled in" and had an "awesome second half" after some bumpy moments in the first half.

"They were going no huddle, but even though we worked on it all (August), it's hard to simulate," Dooley said.

He said NC State put the Vols "on their heels" in the first half. He also said there was poor "body language" and the players looked fatigued late in the third quarter when the Wolfpack drove to cut the lead to 32-21.

Official Statement: Dooley said he wasn't surprised that replay officials didn't award the Vols a touchdown just before halftime when Tyler Bray fumbled as he tried to push into the end zone.

"We've just got to be able to score there," Dooley said. "I didn't expect them to overturn it when it's close like that. It's our job to get it in and we didn't do it. But I was proud that our team didn't let it affect them. We're always preaching that some plays aren't going to go your way, and it's how you respond that matters."

Team Investment: An extra day off should help with recovery, but otherwise this will be a "normal workweek," Dooley said.

"It's critical that players understand why we played so well," he said. "We played well because we had so much investment in that game. We have to learn that if we have the same investment every week, we'll keep having success."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 26

Orangeblood13 writes:

I say rest Lathers, we need em against the Gators

Bless that kid, he can't get healthy

AtopTheHill06 writes:

Glad to see how much trust and confidence the defensive players have in Sal. Get well soon Herman.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I think we'll be fine this week and maybe even against Florida where Lathers is concerned. But we DO need him in there if he can heal!

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

By gosh Saap looked good didn't he?

willblitz4bacon writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

By gosh Saap looked good didn't he?

He sure did.

Simply_Orange51 writes:

Watched the game from the end zone in the Georgia Dome - mezzanine deck - it was great to see a good start to the year. I was impressed by what looks to be some playmakers on offense - they will make a difference if everyone stays healthy. On the first touchdown, Bray had two receivers open - makes a big difference when more than one guy can get open.I would say the run game on short yardage still needs work but they had enough speed to get to the corners on NCSt. Their defense was supposed to be pretty good but I thought TN made them look bad at times.

Assessment of TN defense - I would agree that they were better in the second half than in the first. A couple of busted assignments netted two big plays for NCSt. Seems to me they got more comfortable as the game progressed. Another fan sitting next to me said it pretty good, "Looks like their leading rusher is going to be their QB." Stopping the run and making four picks were the game changers in my opinion. I think the pass rush was there as well - several hurries - and one blind side sack that was a thing of beauty. The safety in the first quarter couldn't have come at a better time either - thought the defense gave NCSt all they wanted most of game. The picks were a welcome change - can't remember the last time we've had four in a game of this magnitude.

I thought UT's punter made some great kicks - good hang time and gave our guys time to get there plus the distance was good - one punt was so long that the kick returner had to back up about 10 yards just to catch it. Was a little disappointed in the first half when CDD elected to go for the first down instead of kicking the field goal. Kicker was booming them through the middle in warm-ups but I guess it might have been border-line on the range.

I was a happy camper going back to the hotel. I saw a lot of NCSt fans headed to the exit early. By the time the game was over they were all but gone. I think Vol fans out-manned NCSt by maybe as much as two to one - that's a guess however. Put all that together and the result was a win. It's great to be a TN Vol.

GBO

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Was'nt that Sapp laying a big blindside hit on State QB.

oldster writes:

I am rooting for Lathers probably more than any other Vol. He should have been a hurdler. He would have been world class given the way he has overcome obstacles so far in his life.

The problem is that UT has a long history of getting injuries in the thinnest postition on the team. Even when they get few total injuries, they seem to all be where there is little quality backups.

Sapp has talent, but I wonder how many other people remember the last guy named Sapp to play football at UT. His first name was Theron and played running back or fullback. He played little for the varsity, but did place on the JV team when they played the first game UT ever played against Notre Dame. It was in 1971 or 1972. Theron's claim to fame came with a bruising, tackle busing TD run against the Irish which brought the fans to their feet and a victory over the most storied program in football history (although it was just their JV team). Go Sapps!

orangeintampa writes:

in response to TNORANGEDOGDAD:

Was'nt that Sapp laying a big blindside hit on State QB.

Yes it was Sapp with the blindside hit maybe Woodbery was in the bathroom during that hit.Get well Herman we need you against FL. GO VOLS

brokendownoldvol writes:

Move King back to linebacker why waste him at 4th string linebacker on the sidelines? Where is Fugate?

UTbassdrummer writes:

Sapp's hit on Glennon was almost identical to the UK hit the knocked out Tebow. Remember that? I was glad to see Glennon get up. Seems like a good kid. I was wayjust MORE glad to see our guys delivering some devistating hits. Inspire some fear.

Pompey writes:

in response to oldster:

I am rooting for Lathers probably more than any other Vol. He should have been a hurdler. He would have been world class given the way he has overcome obstacles so far in his life.

The problem is that UT has a long history of getting injuries in the thinnest postition on the team. Even when they get few total injuries, they seem to all be where there is little quality backups.

Sapp has talent, but I wonder how many other people remember the last guy named Sapp to play football at UT. His first name was Theron and played running back or fullback. He played little for the varsity, but did place on the JV team when they played the first game UT ever played against Notre Dame. It was in 1971 or 1972. Theron's claim to fame came with a bruising, tackle busing TD run against the Irish which brought the fans to their feet and a victory over the most storied program in football history (although it was just their JV team). Go Sapps!

....I hope for Lathers too but we can't get our hopes up too high. I watched killer middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, Dan Morgan, throw his body into every play. His mind was super linbacker, but his body could not take it....he is now out of football....lets keep our fingers crossed.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

Move King back to linebacker why waste him at 4th string linebacker on the sidelines? Where is Fugate?

I have to think the coaches are considering this for practice this week and possibly beyond. We were a little surprised on D in a coupla spots against a very good NCST offense. But I hope we're ok with Lathers and it's just temporary.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to oldster:

I am rooting for Lathers probably more than any other Vol. He should have been a hurdler. He would have been world class given the way he has overcome obstacles so far in his life.

The problem is that UT has a long history of getting injuries in the thinnest postition on the team. Even when they get few total injuries, they seem to all be where there is little quality backups.

Sapp has talent, but I wonder how many other people remember the last guy named Sapp to play football at UT. His first name was Theron and played running back or fullback. He played little for the varsity, but did place on the JV team when they played the first game UT ever played against Notre Dame. It was in 1971 or 1972. Theron's claim to fame came with a bruising, tackle busing TD run against the Irish which brought the fans to their feet and a victory over the most storied program in football history (although it was just their JV team). Go Sapps!

LOL. We got a JV???!

harleycat32 (Inactive) writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

LOL. We got a JV???!

I don't think they do anymore. They did have one in 1986. I used to watch the games between classes. Moses Collins was the QB.

Tenspeed32 (Inactive) writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

LOL. We got a JV???!

I don't think they do now. The last time I paid attention was in 1986. I used to watch the games between classes. Moses Collins was the QB.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Tenspeed32:

I don't think they do now. The last time I paid attention was in 1986. I used to watch the games between classes. Moses Collins was the QB.

well we got UTC, UTM, ETSU? Etc. At least we've sent them a few players...at times.
Seriously we can't have a JV when we're all freshmen and sophs. almost

johnlg00 writes:

in response to UTbassdrummer:

Sapp's hit on Glennon was almost identical to the UK hit the knocked out Tebow. Remember that? I was glad to see Glennon get up. Seems like a good kid. I was wayjust MORE glad to see our guys delivering some devistating hits. Inspire some fear.

I know what you mean. I thought Glennon's neck could have been broken from the way his head whip-lashed from that hit. He was pretty tough to just get right back up and keep playing.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Pompey:

....I hope for Lathers too but we can't get our hopes up too high. I watched killer middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, Dan Morgan, throw his body into every play. His mind was super linbacker, but his body could not take it....he is now out of football....lets keep our fingers crossed.

I hear you. Lathers is just a bit small for a big-time LB. Not to say that all great LBs need to be monsters--Sam Mills and Zack Thomas come to mind--but those big hits can wear a guy down eventually, whether he is giving them or receiving them. I thought of Raynoch Thompson. He put everything he had into every hit, but he just couldn't hold up in the NFL, only lasting about four years and out with injuries half the time he was there.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Tenspeed32:

I don't think they do now. The last time I paid attention was in 1986. I used to watch the games between classes. Moses Collins was the QB.

JV squads are relics of the days when there was no real limit on how many guys you could have on a team but freshmen weren't eligible to play. Some big college teams had over 100 guys on the squad; you can't have over 85 these days and freshmen are eligible to play on the varsity.

Tenspeed32 (Inactive) writes:

I did not know until I looked, but Tennessee had JV games in 2008. I would not say it is a relic yet.

http://tennesseefootballvsm3.blogspot...

lstbodeanvol writes:

Go Sapp play like Warren Sapp did @ Miami..GO VOLS !!!!!! GET HEALED UP MR. LATHERS WE NEED OUR TEAM LEADER ON THE FIELD !!!!!

oldster writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

LOL. We got a JV???!

We did in the 1970s. Freshmen were not allowed to compete with varsity. At least in the early 70's. Mike Edwards, for example, did not get to play for the varsity in basketball his freshman year, but by the time Bernard King got here, in 1974, he was allowed to play as a freshman. Football was the same, I think.

oldster writes:

in response to Tenspeed32:

I don't think they do now. The last time I paid attention was in 1986. I used to watch the games between classes. Moses Collins was the QB.

Now that I think about it, it was not the JVs, it was the Freshman team.

oldster writes:

in response to Tenspeed32:

I did not know until I looked, but Tennessee had JV games in 2008. I would not say it is a relic yet.

http://tennesseefootballvsm3.blogspot...

Well, yes and no. There have not really been organized freshman or jv teams for 30 years or more. The JV team that has played from time to time is just a group of players that do not get to play with the varsity much, if at all, and are put together to play a Jr.College that UT wants to get players from.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Tenspeed32:

I did not know until I looked, but Tennessee had JV games in 2008. I would not say it is a relic yet.

http://tennesseefootballvsm3.blogspot...

Well, you learn something new every day! I haven't lived in K'ville in some time, so I was not aware that there still was a JV squad as late as '08.

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