Vols get tough on defense

Vols get tough on defense

August 21st, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports

KNOXVILLE -- There are more new parts, but now there are more options, too.

The University of Tennessee football team's defense will rely on a handful of new and inexperienced players when the seasons starts in less than two weeks, but coach Derek Dooley doesn't feel that will limit what the Volunteers and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox want to do.

"I think we have a lot more players who have different skill sets, so it allows us to package some things," Dooley said after Saturday afternoon's scrimmage at Neyland Stadium. "You've got guys with different skill sets that can do multiple things. Some guys do things well and other things not so well, so when he's in the game let's do this and when he's in the game let's do this.

"We've done a lot on defense. We've seen about every blitz and front you can see. It's been tough on our offense, [but] that will prepare us."

After two scoring drives by the first-team offense under normal circumstances, UT's defense stopped the offense twice in a pair of two-minute situations.

Progress report

Preseason camp is coming to a close for the Vols, who take today off before practicing Monday and Tuesday in advance of Wednesday's mock game walk-through. They'll get next weekend off as preparations begin for the Sept. 3 opener against Montana.

"For the most part it's been a very competitive, equally competitive camp, and that's what you want," Dooley said. "The deeper we get as a team, the better recruits we keep bringing in on offense and defense, that's what you're going to have."

The added depth has been a constant positive for Dooley throughout camp, and it's gone according to Dooley's plan by creating competition. That doesn't mean reservations are gone for the coach.

"I'm a little nervous because of our youth and inexperience, but I feel like that we have a competitive talent level," he said. "It's not where it needs to be to be a championship football team -- doesn't mean we can't win one -- but we've got some holes. I think we're a lot better than we were a year ago. I think it's fair to say that.

"It doesn't mean we're going to win more games because the other teams might be all better too. We forget that. They can improve too. We improve and everybody goes, 'Hey, we're a lot better, that means we're going to win this many games.' Well the other teams are improving too, so we better improve just to keep up."

Couch conditioning

From battling through his asthma to the adjustment from junior college, Maurice Couch had a tough welcome to UT. The defensive tackle has improved, though, and the Vols will need him to be a contributor at both three-technique and nose guard spots.

"I've got real bad asthma," said the 305-pound Couch. "It's like a genetic thing. They always tell me to be careful with it, so I make sure that I take all my meds and stuff. I'm getting it under control."

Couch added he's more comfortable with the system thanks to Malik Jackson and Daniel Hood. The asthma, though, limits him in terms of stamina and affects his conditioning.

"Some days it doesn't bother him and then every now and then it flares up and you can't even get anything out of him," Dooley said. "That's probably set him back more than anything."

Little plays vs. big plays

UT's defense limited the offense's big plays for the second straight scrimmage, but the Vols' offense converted four third downs during the normal part of the scrimmage. Gerald Jones was the Vols' security blanket on third down last year, but receivers Justin Hunter and Vincent Dallas and tight ends Mychal Rivera made first-down catches Saturday.

"I think it's better when you can throw it to anybody," Dooley said. "Our defense is not getting gutted [and] that's a good sign. They're in cover position, they're making you work on offense and they're making you convert. We've given up a lot of long drives, so we've got to keep looking at third down."

Odds and ends

Former Calhoun quarterback Nash Nance threw a touchdown pass to Anthony Anderson, who practiced at receiver for the first time on Friday after switching from cornerback ... tailbacks Marlin Lane and Tauren Poole combined for 77 yards on 20 carries, and Dooley was encouraged at the Vols' running game during the normal part of the scrimmage ... Prentiss Waggner, who played cornerback and safety last season, has settled in as the Vols' most consistent cornerback, and Justin Coleman and Marsalis Teague are battling for the other spot ... Jackson, tailback/receiver Rajion Neal, tailback Tom Smith and linebacker Greg King all missed the scrimmage with knee injuries ... receiver Zach Rogers wore a red non-contact jersey, but freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett, who missed Friday's practice, did return.