Monthly Archives: October 2014

Darr named Ray Guy candidate

From UT sports info

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior punter Matt Darr was announced as a candidate for the Ray Guy Award, presented to the nation’s top punter. Darr is tied for the SEC lead in punts inside the 20-yard line with 20.

In eight games in 2014, Darr has punted 56 times for 41.8 average with 20 punts inside the 20-yard line and 13 punts of 50 or more yards. He leads the SEC and his second in the nation in most punts with 56. Continue reading

Notes from Wednesday

Keeping this brief because it’s obviously late and today’s focus went into the Corey Vereen feature. And also Game 7 of the World Series, but anyway.

Butch Jones said again on Vol Calls Wednesday night that senior quarterback Justin Worley isn’t quite game ready but is working his way back from his shoulder injury. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and the rest of the assistant coaches are loathe to discuss injuries without Jones present, but Bajakian did say that Worley wouldn’t be available if Saturday’s game against South Carolina were held tomorrow.

Bajakian said Joshua Dobbs is progressing at practice, though consistency in accuracy is still an issue.

“Ball location,” he said when asked what about him is inconsistent. “I go back to the game he had. He threw some really good balls right on target right on time. Then he had Marquez on the slant that he missed which was wide open for the touchdown potentially. We had to settle for three points. We also had another play down the sidelines when he was rolling out. He had, I can’t remember who it was exactly, I think it was Jason Croom down the sideline. And he missed him. We just need to improve on accuracy and ball location.”  Continue reading

Corey Vereen and the benefits of nerdiness

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An extended version of today’s feature on Tennessee defensive end Corey Vereen. 

Mike Rummel calls Corey Vereen the best defensive lineman he’s ever coached.

Listen to the former defensive coordinator of West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Fla., talk about his former defensive end/linebacker’s freakish speed, reaction time and anticipation skills long enough and you’ll start to believe he once coached one of the X-Men.

But there’s a non-physical characteristic of the Tennessee sophomore defensive end, Rummel said, that explains why he’s been successful in and out of football. Rummel doesn’t mean for it to sound like a middle-school lunchroom dig, but he can’t stop it from coming off that way.

“This may sound wrong,” Rummel said. “But he was kind of a nerd.” Continue reading

Spurrier praises Vols, Johnson

When South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier watched game video of Tennessee in preparation for the Gamecocks’ home game Saturday (TV: SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.) his eyes locked on to the Vols’ dreadlocked middle linebacker.

“I’ll tell you, that linebacker, is it Johnson? No. 45?” Spurrier asked a reporter on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference. “He’s really something. He plays at a faster pace than anybody on the field, it seems like. One play against Alabama, he blitzed off the left side and came clean, but the running back broke it off the other side. He chased him down and made the tackle about 30 to 40 yards down the field. I was just amazed. That guy’s a real ballplayer. I admire the way their whole team’s played.”

Tennessee coach Butch Jones obviously didn’t disagree with Spurrier’s assessment of A.J. Johnson. The senior leads the conference with 86 tackles, 14 more than any other player in the SEC. Continue reading

Worley “day to day” and other notes from Tuesday

The “final decision” that Tennessee coach Butch Jones spoke of Sunday on the status of injured senior quarterback Justin Worley apparently will not come this week.
Jones said after practice Tuesday that Worley and his injured shoulder instead will be monitored leading up to Saturday’s game (TV: SEC Network, 7:30 p.m.) at South Carolina (4-4, 2-4 SEC) and then into the bye week and beyond. Jones said that there’s a chance circumstances could dictate Worley be shut down for the season’s final four games — the balance of his college career — but he didn’t suggest that such a decision is imminent.

“With him, it’s day by day and kind of see now day by day, how does that equal out to over time and how it progresses?” Jones said. “… It’s how his body handles the rehabilitation. Does his body continue to improve — which it has shown a little bit, slowly, but it has shown — or does it not? Then you’re talking about surgery and other things like that. We’re trying to get him ready for this game. There is a chance that he could be, but you never know. It’s still early on in the week, so we’ll see. If he’s ready to play, he’ll play. We’ll see how that goes.” Continue reading

Jones: ‘No validity’ to Michigan rumors

Tennessee coach Butch Jones brushed off talk Tuesday about his rumored candidacy for the not-yet-vacant head coaching job at Michigan.
“It’s not even worth discussing,” Jones said. “There’s no validity to it. I’m not even going to waste your time or my time even commenting on that. I think y’all know how I feel.”
Brady Hoke is still the head coach at Michigan, but the Wolverines are 3-5 and it’s been widely speculated that he’ll be let go at the end of the season. In a report from 247Sports.com, Jones was said to be one of four names “floated” by sources as early candidates to be Hoke’s replacement. The others were Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and his brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Jones, who is 8-12 in his second year at Tennessee, grew up in Saugatuck, Mich., played at Ferris State and coached at Central Michigan.

A.J. Johnson named Butkus Award semifinalist

From UT sports info.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior linebacker A.J. Johnson has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the 2014 Butkus Award, as the nation’s top linebacker. He is the first Vol to be a semifinalist since Kevin Burnett in 2004 and just the sixth all-time.

Last week, Johnson was named a quarterfinalist for the 2014 Lott IMPACT Trophy.

Johnson has had a stellar senior campaign on Rocky Top. Through eight games, Johnson leads the SEC in tackles with 86 and tackles per game with 10.9, which ranks 14th nationally. In the Vols’ game at #3 Ole Miss on Oct. 18, he became Tennessee’s all-time career leader in assisted tackles as well as becoming the fourth Vol with 400 career tackles.

He has 410 career tackles, ranking third all-time at Tennessee, and is first in assisted tackles with 199. He also has 30 tackles for loss. Johnson has 22 games with double-figure tackles in 44 career games. He has a chance to become first Vol to led team in tackles for three consecutive season in program history. Continue reading

Butch Jones toeing line with praise, criticique of Josh Dobbs

Saturday’s Alabama game seemed destined to be a drag on the morale of Tennessee and its fan base. The Vols were clearly overmatched against the No. 4 Crimson Tide to begin with and they were playing without their starting quarterback and standard-bearer in Justin Worley. The Tide jumped out to a 27-0 lead and Vols fans appeared destined for three quarters of lamenting just how far they were from being nationally elite.

Josh Dobbs play turned the evening on its ear, giving the Vols hope into the fourth quarter before they fell 34-20. Suddenly, Tennessee fans had reason for optimism for the season’s last four games — winnable contests against South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt — and the future when Worley moves on. The Vols will lose very little on either side of the ball this offseason — Worley, senior linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive tackle Jordan Williams are the major losses — and the biggest question facing the 2015 squad was whether it would have a competent quarterback to lead that attack. With 192 yards passing and two touchdowns, plus 75 rushing yards against one of the nation’s best defenses, Dobbs suggested strongly that they do.  Continue reading

Some brief thoughts from game film

This is obviously pretty late, and there weren’t a whole lot of revelations that I noticed on film that weren’t evident Saturday, so we’ll keep this brief.

Butch Jones said last week that Tennessee would find it much harder to lock cornerback Cameron Sutton on to Amari Cooper than it was for the Vols to get Sutton on Ole Miss’s Laquon Treadwell. He was right. Not sure if there were things the Vols could’ve done schematically to change this or if it would’ve been worth it to alter the scheme to make sure Sutton was always on Cooper, but of Cooper’s nine receptions, I counted just one on which Sutton appeared to be defending Cooper. That was the 41-yard touchdown pass — Cooper’s second TD reception of the game — but it came because Sutton fell down on the coverage.

“I lined up with him a couple of times throughout the course of the game,” Sutton said Monday. “You know, like I said, their offense does a good job of moving him around throughout the slot with different formations, outside and inside. They work their offense around him and try to get him the ball and they’re really good at it.”

The Vols rarely covered Cooper in straight man-to-man, usually having a safety over top to help out. Alabama exploited that by finding Cooper just as he found the seam in the zone. On multiple occasions, Alabama’s Blake Sims hit Cooper with a pass just as a cornerback was passing him off to a safety or linebacker.

His 80-yard touchdown run, of course, wasn’t one of those occasions. The Vols were still getting adjusted after a late substitute brought Alabama wide receiver Chris Black on to the field. Cooper ran across the backfield behind the line of scrimmage, took the pass off a bootleg from Blake Sims and simply beat everyone down the field. There wasn’t much chance for anyone to cover him, and the Vols looked foolish in their attempts to tackle him.

Other notes from film.

— It’s impossible to quantify how much of the offensive line’s success was a product of having Joshua Dobbs behind them. However, it was obvious the line that played Saturday was the most effective one they’ve had all season. There were still missed blocks, but those appeared to be fewer and further between. Dobbs was able to escape pressure, but he didn’t see as much as Justin Worley had anyway. Redshirt freshman Brett Kendrick seemed especially effective in his return to the starting lineup.

— Dobbs had some misfires as Jones said. The throw behind North in the end zone was more egregious on tape than it was from the press box, and it would’ve taken an astounding play for North to flip his body and haul that one in. Still, Dobbs also had some gems, especially the post route to Pig Howard for a 28-yard pass on which he was hit as he threw. The touchdown pass to Josh Malone was also especially nifty because of the required timing.

 

Jones press conference transcript

From the Tennessee media relations department.

(Opening Statement)
“Good afternoon, just a brief recap on Alabama and moving onto South Carolina. Obviously not the start we wanted, started very slow. I think our competitive character showed though, resiliency, being down 27-0, a lot of teams would have folded, our kids kept believing. We never panicked, we didn’t waiver, and we kept playing. So I am proud of them in regards to that. We will talk about the slow start in a minute. Bill Walsh once said it, and I believe it in, the most challenging aspect of probably of being a football coach is seeing progress while you are losing. I don’t take to losing as you all know, the fan base doesn’t as well. I don’t want our players or anyone within our organization ever accept that. But I do see progress, I do think our program is starting to work in terms of mentality, passion, a toughness, I see those strides being developed each and everyday. I think you know there isn’t anyone who internalizes more than myself and it bothers me, obviously, when we don’t perform the standard that we have created here in certain areas. But we are a work in progress, we are who we are. I have said that from day one, this comes at no surprise. All you can do it work to keep getting better and better and live in the moment and continue to work to be a better football team and recruit and develop. Continue reading