KNOXVILLE - One bad play can't lead to another bad play.
That's where the University of Tennessee offense struggled during practice on Thursday morning, and Derek Dooley noted that not letting one play affect the next is going to be something his young team will struggle with this fall.
"Every day elements of our youth show up in different areas," the Volunteers' second-year coach said, "and I think the biggest challenge we're going to have as a team is when things aren't going our way, do we have the maturity to pull out of it? Things went bad early for the offense, the defense poured it on and we just need to learn how to be a little more solution-oriented.
"It's the old line, 'Don't curse the darkness. Light a candle.' We get all the excuses out, we quit worrying about the last play, and we start focusing on what our job is the next play, we'll execute our way out of it. That's going to be our big challenge this year."
Dooley's speech was mostly directed at the offense, which is starting eight sophomores, including a quarterback with just five career starts in Tyler Bray.
"There's just not a lot of calm leadership, so to speak, and when things aren't going good, because we're young we have a tendency to want to make a big play to get us to come out of it," Dooley said. "To me, that's the worst thing you can do. I talked to Tyler about that today. That's not the time to be shooting the ball 60 yards down the field when everybody's frustrated. That's the time to drop it down to the checkdown. Let's get five yards. Let's hand the ball off, let's get four yards. Settle it down, focus on execution.
"That, to me, is just a maturity thing that we have to learn. When things aren't going good in a game, which they're not going to go good - we're going to go through some stretches where we look bad - we've got to learn how to play out of it. That's a mark of a real confident, mature team, and we're not even close to that right now."
Odds and ends
Receiver Zach Rogers was in a red non-contact jersey as he battles through a deep bruise on his tricep. Linebacker Dontavis Sapp returned to practice after a 10-day absence following surgery to fix a fractured finger. Defensive end Ben Martin and defensive back Prentiss Waggner both fully practiced on Thursday.
Linebacker Greg King (knee), tailback Rajion Neal (knee), defensive lineman Malik Jackson (knee) and tailback Tom Smith (knee) all did not practice.
More coverage online and in Friday's Times Free Press. For more continuous updates, follow Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter.