Derek Dooley on personnel changes
KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's personnel shakeup went beyond the starting quarterback Monday.
Freshman Marcus Jackson will replace James Stone at left guard when the Volunteers host No. 14 South Carolina on Saturday night in Knoxville.
"He's a little more developed physically than James," coach Derek Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday. "He's a bigger, more powerful player. It's kind of sad to admit this, but when he got here in February, he benched more than anybody on our whole O-line. That's where we were from a development standpoint."
Stone had started 11 consecutive games at center before switching to left guard in the 37-6 loss at No. 2 Alabama last Saturday. Alex Bullard moved from left guard to center and earned the Vols' offensive player of the week honor. Stone, a 6-foot-3, 308-pound sophomore from Nashville, had two false-start penalties against the Crimson Tide.
Dooley some of Stone's problems are mental, but the coach attributed most of it to his slower physical development.
"He didn't train in high school the way some of these guys in different programs trained. That's just a fact," Dooley said. "You can see it when he hits guys. He doesn't play to his weight the way he needs to, and he just needs to develop. He's one of those guys that needed a redshirt and sit out [his freshman year], but we just didn't have that luxury. In some ways, I feel bad for him because we threw him out there before he was really ready, and we had no choice.
"Nobody invests more and works harder than James Stone and has a better attitude. He's just an incredible young man. But it's not personal."
The 6-2, 326-pound Jackson enrolled at UT in January out of Vero Beach High School in Florida, and the former four-star recruit has played in every game this season either in mop-up duty or on protection for field goals and extra points.
"He's got the stature; he's got the explosive power; he's got the physical tools," Dooley said. "Now what he hasn't impressed us with is his consistency, but again, we're not getting the performance we need so we've got to make a change. I don't know. It could go the third series, we put James back in. We'll see."
The quarterback and left guard positions were the only new changes Dooley announced Monday because the secondary shuffling will continue as it has all season.
"We're just not playing as good as we need to be," Dooley said.
Izauea Lanier and Prentiss Waggner will continue to start at cornerback, but freshman Justin Coleman, who had a pass breakup against Alabama, will get more time. Byron Moore has earned UT's nickel back spot and could play more. Brent Brewer and Brian Randolph remain the starters at safety, but Rod Wilks will take some snaps from Brewer at strong safety.
With much of the focus in the last three games on stopping the run, UT's corners have been torched when left in one-on-one coverage.
"We've been playing the run as well as you can play it against great teams," Dooley said. "We probably played Georgia's back, LSU's back and Alabama's back better than any team that's played them all. You've got to hold on in the secondary, and we haven't done that. They've run by us and they've executed it.
"We've got to do a little better job of knowing what are not our strengths back there and try to play a little more technique."
Jacques Smith has yet to have the kind of impact the Vols were hoping for when the season started. The sophomore defensive end from Ooltewah has just 22 tackles this season after a zero-tackle performance against Alabama. Smith has just half a sack this season and has made just one tackle behind the line of scrimmage the past four games.
"Not much," Dooley said of Smith's impact. "He's struggling, not playing disciplined football. He's freelancing a little bit, and that's one of our issues on defense. It shows up in the second half. We start feeling like we have to make a play instead of just playing the defense and the plays will come. He's not giving us the consistency we need."
Dooley said he didn't know why Brewer has struggled this season. The sophomore had 30 tackles in the last seven games last season, when the coach said he wasn't playing "lights out." Brewer was invisible against Alabama with no tackles despite playing near the line of scrimmage most of the game.
"Brent's still our safety," Dooley said. "I think he probably had a little higher expectation, which is what happens to most guys. They get a high expectation of who they are and he's in year one and a half, really. He just needs developing and he'll get his confidence, but he's not playing as fast as we'd like him to and that's just from not being confident and trusting what you see and going."
The Vols have nothing noteworthy in terms of injuries, but Dooley did say UT has "a ton of guys that are banged up" and will need to heal during the week. ... UT's homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 5 will kick off at 7 p.m. and be televised by Fox Sports Net.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...