Tennessee kicker Derrick Brodus kicks the extra point to take the score to 51-6 over Georgia State in the fourth quarter at Neyland Stadium last Saturday. Coach Derek Dooley said Monday that Brodus will handle the place-kicking against Florida instead of Michael Palardy.Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Derek Dooley discusses winDerek Dooley talking about the Georgia State win and the decision to change kickers.
KNOXVILLE -- Derrick Brodus won't be napping on his couch if Tennessee needs him to kick an extra point or a field goal Saturday.
The Volunteers are opting for an early-week decision instead of the last-minute emergency call that made the walk-on a fan hero last November.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley announced at his news conference Monday that Brodus would handle the 23rd-ranked Vols' kicking duties in the showdown with No. 18 Florida ahead of junior Michael Palardy, who missed a field-goal try and an extra point against Georgia State.
"He's made every kick every time he's been out there," Dooley said of Brodus. "He kicks it high. He's got a nice calm about him, but we'll see."
A junior from nearby Alcoa High School, Brodus was asleep when Tennessee needed him to kick against Middle Tennessee State last season after Palardy was injured and backup Chip Rhome got hurt in pregame warmups. The left-footer made three extra points and one field goal that night. The stage is much larger this time.
The 105-player limit and the desire to evaluate freshman George Bullock forced Brodus to work on his own during training camp, but Dooley told him he was still the Vols' No. 2 kicker. Brodus made a 25-yard kick when called upon in the fourth quarter of Tennessee's win Saturday.
Dooley said he'll "see how the week goes" before determining Brodus' range on field goals.
"I have confidence to kick Derrick," the coach said. "I wouldn't name him the starter if I didn't. I'm not going to really view our decision to kick a field goal this week any different than I did last week."
Palardy will continue handling kickoffs after putting seven kicks in the end zone for touchbacks in two games.
Jacques Smith is not a doctor, but he did provide an update on fellow linebackers Herman Lathers (shoulder) and Curt Maggitt (turf toe).
"They did everything," the former Ooltewah star said. "They're not limited anymore. They're ready, full-go -- that's what the training staff's been saying."
Dooley called the duo questionable for Florida and said their availability would be day to day. The coach said he liked how Willie Bohannon and Dontavis Sapp have filled in for the regular starters. The Vols will need Lathers and Maggitt against the Gators, though.
"Those guys are doing a good job, but we're better with the other two, too," Dooley said. "Any time you lose two players like that on defense when you're already thin at 'backer, you're not feeling good, and it's not because you don't feel good about Willie B. and Dontavis. We're a lot better with everybody healthy."
Linebacker Christian Harris, a redshirt freshman who tore his ACL in the spring, and freshman receiver Alton Howard (foot) are available, but how much either will play is uncertain.
"Not saying [Harris is] going to play or be ready, but he's now out there, he's working with the defense and we need him because we're so thin at inside 'backer," Dooley said. "We'll see how much we can get out of [Howard]. We need him, especially in the slot."
'Blossom' in middle
With Lathers sidelined, A.J. Johnson has assumed most of the responsibility for making calls for the Vols' defense. The sophomore was near the ball quite a bit against Georgia State, and his talent has been evident from his first day on campus last season. Now he's adding to the mental side of his game and becoming more vocal in the middle.
"He's really starting to blossom a little bit as a Mike linebacker," Dooley said. "I think the reps are giving him a little more confidence that he knows it better than he probably did, but he's a really good football player. He just finds his way to the football just like every good Mike linebacker does.
"The better you understand, the more your instincts can put you in a position to make a play, and that's kind of what's happening. You look at last year: He was instinctive but didn't really know what was going on out there. Sometimes he didn't look very good, but he's playing at a high level right now."
Florida lost two defensive starters during its 20-17 win at Texas A&M. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins, the Gators' third-leading tackler in 2011, broke his thumb and had surgery Monday, while cornerback Cody Riggs suffered a foot fracture. Both players are expected to miss a month.
Tailback Mike Gillislee (groin) and safety Josh Evans (shoulder) practiced Monday after suffering injuries against the Aggies. Star linebacker Ronald Powell hit what Florida coach Will Muschamp called a "speed bump" in his recovery from an ACL injury that could force him to redshirt. Offensive tackle Matt Patchan remains out with a strained pectoral.
Antonio Morrison, a freshman who was a four-star recruit, made six tackles in relief of Jenkins against the Aggies, and middle linebacker Jon Bostic can play outside if necessary. Jaylen Watkins will start in Riggs' nickelback spot, and Marcus Roberson, Louchiez Purifoy and Watkins will handle the two corner spots. De'Ante Saunders will return after missing Florida's first two games for unspecified reasons.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ...