Poole vows to play

KNOXVILLE - Junior tailback Tauren Poole practiced Tuesday in a no-contact jersey because of a thigh bruise, but the University of Tennessee's offensive linchpin said he'll play Saturday against UAB.

"I'm doing good," Poole said. "This is just precautionary. We're getting there. That's what happens in this game of football. When you play hard and you play tough, you're going to get a little nicked up. You've just got to learn to play through it.

"I'm about 90 percent. Maybe about 91."

Poole said he injured his thigh in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to ninth-ranked Florida, but he "didn't really notice it" until after the game.

"It's kind of sore, but it's just a bruise," Poole said. "I'll be fine."

Poole entered last weekend as the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, but a 23-yard day against the Gators knocked him to sixth at 98.3 yards per game.

"It was tough, and it was a grind throughout the whole game," Poole said. "I didn't know my numbers until today, but it was tough. I kind of pride myself on being productive, and I wasn't very productive in that game, but I'm going to pick it up for this team and for this university and get back to where I need to be."

Tough love

Derek Dooley's frank comments regarding some of his players' poor performances have raised more than a few eyebrows, but UT's first-year head coach doesn't plan to change his methods.

"Y'all ask me how a guy plays, and I tell you. I don't really see it as calling them out," Dooley said. "I'm just trying to be honest with them. I think it's important that the players know because sometimes - and this happens a lot - a player thinks he played good, the coaches think he didn't play good and then they go on to the next week. And then there's no communication. It's just important to me that if they don't play well, we tell them, 'You didn't play well, and this is what you did wrong and we've got to correct it.'

"I don't really see it as calling them out as much as telling the truth of where we are and where we need to go."

This and that

Junior first-team center Cody Pope (concussion, stinger) practiced some on the side Tuesday and remains questionable for Saturday.

Senior Denarius Moore, UT's leading receiver, practiced in a no-contact jersey and is expected to play Saturday. He had an ankle injury earlier this season but is simply listed as "banged up" this week.

Dooley said he hopes to give freshman defensive ends Corey Miller and Ooltewah's Jacques Smith a more specified role in hopes that "they'll show a little improvement." The coach is still impressed with the young bookends and hopes to give them more playing time Saturday.

Contact Wes Rucker at wrucker@timesfreepress.com or 865-851-9739. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/wesrucker or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.