Tag Archives: Marlin Lane

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.

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 practice: Quick review of Monday’s session

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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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Tennessee football practice quick hits: Shells on and intensity heats up

Alex Ellis, Tennessee

Tennessee tight end Alex Ellis looks in a pass from the JUGS gun during a practice drill on Aug. 4, 2013 at Haslam Field in Knoxville. (Photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee players wore shells (shoulder pads and helmets) for their third practice on Sunday, so while full-pad hitting is still a couple of days away, there was room for a little more contact.

We’ll talk to players and coach Butch Jones when practice ends this evening. For now, here are some quick observations from the media viewing period.

* The first of several one-on-one competitions at midfield featured running back Alden Hill against linebacker Kenny Bynum. Because these scrums are surrounded by a wall of players, we didn’t see who won.

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Tennessee football scrimmage: Saturday’s view from the sidelines

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The biggest news out of Saturday’s scrimmage came afterwards, when coach Butch Jones confirmed that Lane was out for “disciplinary reasons.”


Jones did not give a timetable for Lane’s possible return.


After Lane missed a practice last week, Jones said he was dealing with an illness in his family. After he missed practice on Thursday, coaches were more evasive about his status, and today’s announcement by Jones seems to cast doubt on Lane’s future with the team.

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Vols return to the practice fields: Quick observations from the sidelines

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KNOXVILLE, TennesseeTennessee worked outside for only the third time this spring on Tuesday, returning to the practice fields after a 10-day layoff for spring break.

It was brisk but sunny, and the fields looked pristine — better than I’ve ever seen them during my time at Tennessee. The decision to work inside on wet days certainly helped UT’s ground crew.

Compared to the practices immediately before spring break, there were fewer hits and team sessions (at least in the portion we were allowed to view), so the video might not be as compelling today.

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Tennessee football 2013 spring preview: The running backs

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee’s first spring football season under new coach Butch Jones begins Saturday.

In the days leading up to the start of practice, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Vols as they embark on a new season.

The running backs include two players  — Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane — who had turnaround seasons last year and could be on the cusp of big things if they can stay healthy.

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In 2nd scrimmage, Tennessee seeking to clear up remaining questions

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The second and likely final full scrimmage of the season is this evening at Neyland Stadium.

Many of the starting positions have already been sorted out, but there are a few races still remaining. The scrimmage should also help coaches sort out depth behind the first team.

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