KNOXVILLE - The frustration was evident for Tennessee's offense.
It went beyond the players on the field, though.
Jim Chaney, the Volunteers' offensive coordinator, admitted after Wednesday morning's practice that he didn't call a good game in UT's loss to Georgia last week. The Vols gained a season low 269 yards and scored just 12 points, which 25 below their average in the season's first four games.
"I don't know, I sense frustration in everybody, including myself," Chaney said. "I had a hard time as a playcaller finding any rhythm in that game. Long fields early, the second half didn't start the way we wanted, it was a difficult time. It doesn't surprise me that some of our young players lost a little composure, as I did too at times. It was a tough deal. We move on from it, we learn from it."
Coach Derek Dooley called Chaney's honest self-assessment "fair" and noted the importance of the coaching staff in staying patient, especially with a team full of young players.
"We all need to catch our breath," Dooley said. "Everybody wants to win; everybody wants to win now; everybody wants to have our players play perfect and we forget sometimes the journey involved in that. When we show a lot of frustration, it doesn't help the players.
"They're looking at us just like parents. We stay composed, we motivate them and develop them and teach them and we don't get too down when they make a mistakes. Correct it and move on. We can all do better."
Staying the course
Matt Simms's role as backup quarterback kept him off the field, but not by much. With Tyler Bray (broken thumb) out for an estimated six weeks, the senior reassumes the role he had last season, and his coaches remain positive about his abilities.
"You see Matt Simms on the sideline during the games, and he's always almost on the field," quarterback coach Darin Hinshaw said. "The guy is always competing, he's always going in his mind, he works his tail off and that's exactly what Matt Simms is. He came in last week and was prepared and made some plays and got us in the end zone. He's got to do that this week."
Dooley called Simms and Bray "very different quarterbacks," but Chaney suggested Simms' time on the bench behind Bray has helped him better understand defenses.
"It's always tough initially," he said. "You learn from it and move on, and he's been diehard loyal to our program and he's worked hard to develop his own skills. Matt does things a lot better in some issues and other things maybe he doesn't do as well as Tyler. We've got to tilt the thing to him and give him a chance to be successful."
Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand made his displeasure evident in his post-practice meeting with the media when he was asked about the different explanations for the line's struggles earlier in the week. Some of the linemen diagnosed communication as the problem, but Dooley said it was an issue of physicality.
"You guys [the media] are beautiful, I tell you what," Hiestand said.
"We have to block people," he continued. "We're not blocking well enough, period. Fundamentally, they understand it. We're out here working, we're drilling, we're doing extra, we're doing all we can do and that's all we can say. Proof comes in the games, and we're not getting it done so we need to continue to work on it and that's what we're doing. The players are very clear [on] what they have to do."
Eric Gordon had disappeared for three games, but the redshirt sophomore defensive back reemerged as a factor against Georgia, when he was the Vols' nickelback and made two tackles for loss. UT likely won't play much nickel against top-ranked and run-heavy LSU, but the matchup more suits Gordon.
"Obviously Eric's probably a little bit better against the run than he is against the pass right now, and for a game last week I thought he played well," defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said. "I thought he was active, and I thought he was physical as far as re-routing those guys in spread formations. If we can see some spread this weekend, he'll be the guy that can go in there and help us too."
Tailback Tauren Poole (hamstring strain) practiced on Wednesday, and Dooley said he expects the senior to be ready for Saturday. ... Middle linebacker Austin Johnson wore a non-contact jersey for the second consecutive practice, though Dooley said it was simply precautionary.