KNOXVILLE — As Montori Hughes did barrel rolls after Tuesday’s practice, one reporter asked Tennessee coach Derek Dooley if that meant the sophomore defensive tackle’s ankle was good enough to play against Alabama on Saturday.
“No,” Dooley replied. “Not at all, because it requires no ankle flexion to roll. None whatsoever. He’s limited.”
Hughes, UT’s biggest and best defensive tackle, isn’t the only starter Dooley isn’t counting on for Saturday.
Redshirt freshman left guard JerQuari Schofield (foot) and senior kicker Daniel Lincoln (upper leg muscle) also are considered doubtful at this point, though it seems like Schofield has at least a decent shot to play.
“It’s the same way I felt on Monday. It’s gravy,” Dooley said. “I’m counting them as if they aren’t going to play. They’re real limited in what they’re doing in practice. They are out here and they are moving around, but ...”
But he’s not counting on them. Sophomore left tackle Dallas Thomas is a starter who seems close to 100 percent, though. The bum ankle he hobbled around on at Georgia has looked much better coming off the off week.
“He’s doing better,” Dooley said. “He’s a little bit more in the thick of things, so we are expecting him to go.”
Dooley said it’s too soon to judge whether versatile senior offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw’s experiment at center will work.
Shaw, who has started at guard and tackle in his career, began working at center this week.
Junior starter Cody Pope is expected to miss another week after suffering a stinger and concussion Sept. 11 against Oregon. Sophomore Darin Gooch, who played at a junior college last season, has been the only real option.
“He has obviously a bigger physical presence in the middle,” Dooley said of the 6-foot-4, 331-pound Shaw. “He’s a senior. Of course, what comes with that is the risk of the shotgun snaps, as we all have seen. We’re still in the early stages. You know, hey, it’s probably something we’d have done three weeks ago had we known Cody’s injury was the way it was, but I just felt like we need to do something.
“It’s really a physical presence. He’s doing a good job as being kind of our utility guy.”
Dooley, who recently started calling Shaw “Shawdog,” joked that UT would move the senior from position to position in hopes of confusing Alabama’s defense.
“We’re moving him around, so they’ll never know where Shawdog is — like a wideout,” Dooley said. “He looked at me. He wasn’t sure what that meant. I just said, ‘They’ll never know where you are, Shaw. It’s going to screw up all their checks ... we hope.’”
Shaw doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of his new nickname.
“Chill it out, bro,” Shaw tweeted Tuesday night to The Times Free Press. “I hate that. LOL.”