Tag Archives: Justin Worley

Questions and answers about Vols-UGA matchup

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Georgia beat writer Seth Emerson asked me a few questions about the Vols’ this week. After a long delay, I finally responded. Here’s what I told him about the Vols:

1. How much has Butch Jones changed the culture around the program so far, and is it showing any tangible results?

Woodbery: I think he’s done a good job of reaching out to various constituencies that might have felt marginalized over the last five years — whether that’s former players, in-state high school coaches or just average fans. At the end of the day, however, it all comes down to wins and losses, and UT faces some challenges in 2013 and 2014.

He has done a good job of reinvigorating recruiting and a top-five or top-10 class in 2014 is very possible. But sustaining that momentum during tough years was something that Derek Dooley couldn’t do. The success of Jones’ tenure likely depends on it.

2. Tennessee’s passing game has obviously been a struggle. How much of that is Justin Worley, how much is that not having proven receivers, and what are the chances Worley and co. can turn it around quickly against an inexperienced Georgia secondary?

Woodbery: I do think that good receivers can make a quarterback look better, and vice versa. In that sense, Tennessee’s problems at quarterback and receiver have only fed off each other in 2013.

Worley has been victimized by drops, poorly run routes and some interceptions that could have been saved by a more aggressive receiver. But that doesn’t absolve him of blame entirely.

For a brief time last week — perhaps the first time all season — Tennessee’s offense really clicked. So that’s something to build on, but given the passing game’s struggles this year, I would be skeptical that it might suddenly turn around against the No. 6 team in the country.

3. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane are each averaging about six yards per carry, and Tennessee has an experienced offensive line. But the Volunteers didn’t run well at Florida (66 rushing yards, 2.9 yards per carry). What’s your read on the strength of Tennessee’s run game right now?

Woodbery: Florida’s defensive line was tough to run on, especially because Tennessee could offer no threat of a passing game. I think the offensive line has taken unfair criticism. It can dominate weaker opponents, and it can go head-to-head with tougher lines, but it can’t win the game alone.

Rajion Neal is coming off one of the best games of his career, but getting a healthy Marlin Lane back to act as a one-two punch is essential.

4. Now for the defense: Tennessee’s secondary is inexperienced (like Georgia), and its third-down defense ranks second-worst in the SEC (ahead of only Georgia). What can Tennessee secondary coach (and old friend here in Athens) Willie Martinez do to stop Aaron Murray and the pass?

Woodbery: I think this is a scary matchup for Tennessee, especially because Murray is an intelligent and experienced quarterback who can sniff out mismatches on the line of scrimmage. UT freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton has done well for essentially getting picked on every game this year. The Vols have struggled in nickel sets, and don’t appear to have any ready answers on the roster.

The third down defense took a step forward against South Alabama. The Vols were just killed on third-and-long against Florida and Oregon. Obviously, if UT wants to entertain upset hopes, the defense has to get off the field on third-and-long.

5. Tennessee’s front seven is filled with upperclassmen, but the Vols have struggled some in that area too (ranking 11th in the SEC against the run.) Tennessee’s cause may be helped by Todd Gurley’s absence, if he’s out, but what are the Vols’ chances against Keith Marshall and his backups?

Woodbery: I wonder how many of those rushing yards came from quarterbacks. That’s not an excuse, of course, but the Vols have struggled against mobile quarterbacks in each of the last three weeks. But the return of two speedy ends (Jacques Smith and Corey Vereen) has given coaches hope for improvement on the edges.

6. Finally, what would be the two or three key things that would have to happen for Tennessee to pull off the upset?

Woodbery: None of these answers are revolutionary, but I think the Vols will have to win the turnover battle. Not only must UT force a couple of Georgia turnovers, but they must also turn those mistakes into points.

The offense can’t get bogged down in a series of three-and-outs. Even if the Vols aren’t scoring, they have to keep the ball long enough to give the defense a breather.

Finally, a splash play in the special teams would be huge. The Vols coverage teams have been very strong, but the return game has lacked a game-changing spark play. That would help on Saturday.

The full link to the post is here: The view from Knoxville: Beat writer Q&A | Bulldogs Beat with Seth Emerson | Macon.com.

Vols offense lagging, but special teams offering a boost

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We’ll publish our weekly By the Numbers feature for News Sentinel subscribers later today and it should offer some really interesting data on the Florida game.

For now let’s take a big-picture look at Tennessee’s performance through four games this year.

I like checking out the weekly UPS/STATS Team Performance Index. You can view the details on the webpage, but it essentially tries to combine offense, defense, special teams and “miscues” and weigh that against the strength of the team’s schedule.

Tennessee's national rankings in parentheses.

Tennessee’s national rankings in parentheses.

As might be expected, the Vols fared well in special teams and “miscues,” but poorly against offense and defense. The rankings will become more meaningful as the season goes on. For now, they’re merely interesting.  And they confirm that South Alabama is no pushover.

Tennessee’s strength on special teams has more to do with the kicking and coverage teams than it does with any big returns.

On kickoffs, Tennessee is forcing opponents to start from the 24 or 25-yard line on kickoffs with an average net of just over 40.

Take away a blocked punt and the Vols have a very respectable 38.5 net average.

The return game has been more sluggish, particularly after an injury to Devrin Young.

On kickoffs, the Vols average 24.9 yards per return (boosted by a 58-yard return by Young in the opener) and an average starting starting field position at the 28 (based on kickoffs alone and not considering penalties).

On punts, the Vols have only attempted to return five times in 16 attempts. Opponents are netting 39.7 yards per punt.

Finally, it’s always worth monitoring tempo. For obvious reasons, the Vols haven’t gone as fast as coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian would like.

For comparison purposes, UT had 2.7 plays and 2.17 live-ball plays per minute in 2012. (Live-ball plays are

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Tennessee football practice: Vols prepare for No. 19 Florida

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — One day after Butch Jones reopened the race for Tennessee’s starting quarterback job, he also decided to keep any secrets from leaking out about who the choice might be.

For the first time in recent memory, media were not allowed to video or photograph Tennessee’s practice on Tuesday. Jones allowed reporters to watch a small window of practice, but it offered no clue about the Vols’ quarterback race.

Unlike last week, when freshman Josh Dobbs worked with the scout team, all four quarterbacks were working out with the main unit.

Dobbs and fellow true freshman Riley Ferguson are pushing for playing time against starter Justin Worley and redshirt freshman backup Nathan Peterman.

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Tennessee football practice: Vols return after a 2-day break

Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie at practice on Aug. 22, 2013. (Photo by Evan Woodbery)

Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie at practice on Aug. 22, 2013. (Photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After 48 hours away from the practice fields, players returned on Thursday to higher expectations from coach Butch Jones.

“Nice and fresh!” he yelled. “You oughtta be nice and fresh.”

We’ll find out later if Jones noticed any rejuvenation. For now, here are some post-practice notes:

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Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Scenes from this weekend’s scrimmage and practices

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Vols have pushed back Monday’s practice until the evening. Butch Jones has said it will be one of the most critical practices of camp, as Tennessee is only days away from shifting from training camp mode to game-prep mode.

We’ll have news, notes and quotes late this evening after practice. Then check back for video and photos.

The photos below include shots from Saturday evening’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium and the Sunday practice at Haslam Field. Click on the photo for caption information.

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Tennessee unveils new uniforms: Five styles to choose from, including new gray look (videos)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he wanted to honor the Vols’ football tradition while “embracing change” to boost recruiting.

The five uniform styles unveiled on Thursday included one major change — a “smokey” alternate gray look that Jones said the Vols will wear on one home game this year.

Jones showed a video of the uniforms being unveiled to the team this morning.

Players stood and cheered as linebacker Curtis Maggitt walked out in gray.

“To say they were excited, doesn’t say it,” Jones said.

Click on the photos to see the video:

More news from and links from today:

Tennessee football practice: Observations from Saturday morning scrimmage

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — There’s a nice symmetry to August. A bad performance by a unit one day is usually followed by a bounce-back performance the next afternoon.

Sometimes the coaches orchestrate the ups and downs. But on Saturday morning, the defense’s dominance appeared genuine.

In a wide-ranging, hour-long situational and special teams scrimmage at Haslam Field, the Vols defense clearly won the day.

Or at least the morning. There will be another scrimmage this evening at Neyland Stadium. Don’t be surprised if the offense looks better.

Plenty of meaty observations today…

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Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Vols prepare for 2-scrimmage day

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee football team will have its first two-a-day session on Saturday, later than most of its SEC peers.

The academic calendar at UT pushes the summer session well into camp, which makes two-a-days almost impossible until classes and exams wrap up.

Butch Jones and the Vols will make the most of their opportunities on Saturday, going with a special teams scrimmage in the morning session and a situational scrimmage at Neyland Stadium in the evening. Read all about it here.  We’ll have full coverage on the blog and GoVolsXtra.

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#PracticeGram: Scenes from Tennessee football this week

KNOXVILLE, TennesseeButch Jones says there are no off-days in August, which unfortunately proved true for me on Thursday.

But while the Vols had meetings and weight-lifting, they didn’t practice on Thursday.

Tennessee practices on Friday afternoon at Haslam Field. On Saturday, the Vols will have a morning session at Haslam before moving over to Neyland Stadium for a closed scrimmage in the evening.

We’ll have plenty of coverage to come down. In the meantime, here are some images from the last two practices.

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Tennessee football practice: Quick review of Monday’s session

Don Mahoney, Tennessee

Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney instructs players during practice at Haslam Field on Aug. 5, 2013, in Knoxville. (Photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee did some team work in the early session of Monday afternoon’s practice. The brief window offered few concrete details, but did reinforce how difficult it is for freshmen quarterbacks to win a starting job in August.

We’ll have more after we talk to coach Butch Jones and players later this evening.

* Among the notable plays from our view of the team work was a bad snap by third-string center Dylan Wiesman, a freshman, that sent quarterback Riley Ferguson scrambling after the ball.

Ferguson later threw an interception right in the numbers of safety Tino Thomas.

Co-third-team quarterback Josh Dobbs didn’t fare better, as he dropped a snap that hit off his hands in the last play we saw of the team drills before we had to leave for the evening.

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