KNOXVILLE -- Freshman safety Janzen Jackson hasn't specified the reason for his "administrative," one-game suspension in Tennessee's win over Memphis, but he's back with the starters and looking forward to returning Saturday at Ole Miss.
"It's nice to be back after having a week off for my legs and stuff," an optimistic-sounding Jackson said after Thursday's practice. "I kind of missed the guys while watching them out there on TV."
Jackson said his situation last Saturday was mildly comparable to being injured, but "a little bit worse ... because it was my fault."
"But it's in the past now, and I'm back to work," added Jackson, a recent Southeastern Conference freshman of the week award winner.
Jackson was he was "not supposed to talk about" the reason for his suspension, but he said Lane Kiffin and the rest of UT's coaches haven't dwelled on it since his Sunday night return.
"I appreciated that a lot," Jackson said. "You don't want your coaches mad at you for any reason, and you don't want that to linger. It's always about looking forward with these guys, and that's a good thing.
"It was a problem that happened in the past, so we had already gotten past it and just had to hit this bump in the road."
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt told local reporters Wednesday night standout defensive end Greg Hardy broke his wrist and would miss Saturday's game.
Nutt did not disclose when or how Hardy was injured, but the player practiced Tuesday.
Hardy, a Memphis native, has 6.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading five sacks despite battling health issues all season. He had offseason surgery to repair a broken foot, and he missed several weeks after spraining an ankle in Ole Miss's season-opening win over Memphis.
Kiffin noted recent improvements tailback Bryce Brown but hopes to see better consistency from the freshman.
Brown, who stills seems slightly bothered by a preseason camp hip injury, had 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches against Memphis.
"He's playing better," Kiffin said. "He needs to be more all-around and do all the little things. That comes with more playing time, and the way he got to stay in for a full series (against Memphis), instead of just individual plays. That shows up, so he needs to be more consistent. But he is running the ball well.
"Unfortunately, one of his longer runs got called back. Otherwise, his stats would have looked a little bit better."
STILL CRIB SEARCHING
Freshman tailback David Oku's quest for a kickoff return to the "crib" -- his slang for the end zone -- intensified this week after Memphis's last line of defense brought him down on Saturday.
Oku returned the Tigers' opening kickoff 69 yards but couldn't shake the last defender.
"If we'd have gotten past him, I think we would have gotten it," Oku said. "I've got to work on conditioning a little bit more, I guess. Cutting back across the field in college is a lot harder than in high school. It feels like you're running a 400 in track when you're cutting all the way across the field.
"We'll get one before the season's over, though. ... I'm seeing it a lot better now. I think I just have to adjust to the game speed. I wish it didn't take this long, but you just have to be patient with things."
Oku said the team's specialists have understood and agreed with Kiffin's criticisms, and they hope to earn his praise before season's end.
"Long returns are starting to come, and I think it's just about building more confidence," Oku said. "That's what we've done so far, and that allows us to do a lot better at it.
"We've found our identity on offense and defense, but we haven't found it on special teams. I guess we're finding it now."
Kick return has been the Vols' best special teams unit for most of the season, but Kiffin has frequently bemoaned the kick coverage, punt return and field goal teams.
Kiffin said he was glad when he saw Saturday's noon eastern and 11 a.m. local kickoff time.
"We've had two 12:21 kickoffs (Western Kentucky and Georgia), and we've outscored those opponents by 70 points combined, or something like that," Kiffin said. "And it's an hour earlier for them than us. We're on a different clock. I like it, especially going on the road to a place that could be very loud, and it's always harder for places to get going that early.
"I was glad when I saw the kickoff time."
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