KNOXVILLE — First-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Monday afternoon that he wasn’t ready to announce his newest plan to solve the Volunteers’ recurring problem returning punts.
“Give me a day or two,” Dooley said. “I need to talk to the players. I mean, I have an idea, but I want to meet with them.”
That plan seemed to emerge during practice later in the day.
Dooley doesn’t speak with reporters again after practice, but senior wide receiver Gerald Jones did. And Jones said he’s back working with the punt-return unit and expects to start in that spot Saturday at Vanderbilt.
“They put me back there today, and I can’t lie ... I’m pretty excited,” said Jones, who returned punts earlier this season and portions of previous seasons. “I haven’t done it in a while, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just need to get in some extra practice, but I’ll be fine.
“If nothing else, I promise you I’ll catch the thing.”
Jones muffed and lost a punt in UT’s season-opening blowout win over UT-Martin — he didn’t know the Vols called for a block on the play and wouldn’t have anyone protecting him — but he’s generally been a sure-handed presence o returns in his career.
“The biggest thing is, first, just make sure you catch the ball,” Jones said. “We don’t need to mess up anything back there. ... We really need to get these two wins coming up.”
UT senior Luke Stocker on Monday was named one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award, given annually to the top tight end in college football.
The list also includes North Carolina State’s George Bryan, Missouri’s Michael Egnew, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ledarius Green, Idaho’s Daniel Hardy, Wisconsin’s Lance Kendricks, Iowa’s Allen Reisner and Arkansas’ D.J. Williams.
Stocker nearly left for the NFL after last season before ultimately deciding to stay with the Vols. He started slowly this season but has surged to third on the team with 28 catches for 306 yards and one touchdown. He has 74 career catches for 845 yards and seven scores.
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