KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee is playing inside the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium on Saturday. The volume level of the music blaring on the Haslam Field loudspeakers Tuesday evening suggested the Volunteers were preparing instead for a road trip.
After some communication issues have flared up in recent weeks, Tennessee's defense is using practice to work on communicating amid a loud crowd, which the Vols expect for Saturday's visit from Kentucky.
"When we're communicating and all on the same page, it's hard to get anything on us," cornerback Cam Sutton said after practice. "We've just got to come in and approach this week like any other week. We've got a chip on our shoulder. We're playing in our back yard, and we pride ourselves on winning at home."
Tennessee is seeking its first SEC home win of the season, and until Alabama rolled up 469 yards of offense in Knoxville three weeks ago, the Vols were allowing just 252 yards per game at home.
After being victimized by Crimson Tide receiver Amari Cooper and South Carolina wideout Pharoh Cooper and allowing 18 plays of 20-plus yards, Tennessee's defense is eager to revert to its early-season form, when it was limiting big plays and leading the SEC in third-down efficiency.
"Any other week leading up to a game, it's just another opportunity for us to go out there and showcase ourselves," Sutton said. "As a defense as a whole, we're just going to do our job, execute our defense and play with '63' effort, as we say in our program. We pride ourselves on playing at home.
"(We're) definitely going to get the crowd into it, definitely play for each other and hope to come out with a win."
After Josh Dobbs underthrew a deep pass to receiver Von Pearson during the routes-on-air portion of Tuesday's practice, Tennessee coach Butch Jones barked at his quarterback about the need for consistency.
It's a daily message Jones and his coaching staff send to Dobbs, who is aware of the improvements he can make.
"Obviously everyone has room for improvement, so I'm working on that every day," the sophomore said. "My goal, as I said, is to stay consistent and continue to make the plays when they're there and continue to execute.
"Coach Jones obviously wants to push me every day, push me to be the best quarterback as I can be. That's his job, so I'm thankful for that, and I'm just doing that every day."
Dobbs said he appreciates his coach's motivational tactics.
"That pushes me to continue to work hard," Dobbs said. "It's definitely a tough game, and it changes every week, so you can't get complacent. With him pushing me, it keeps me from getting complacent and keeps me on my toes, which I have to be to play quarterback in the SEC."
If Georgia can ...
Tennessee's open date allowed some players to watch some football last Saturday, and many of the Vols tuned in to see Kentucky suffer a 63-31 rout at home against Georgia.
In addition to a pair of special-teams touchdowns, the Bulldogs ran up 559 yards of offense, averaged more than 9 yards per play and never punted against the Wildcats.
"As we were watching the game," Vols left tackle Kyler Kerbyson said, "I thought to myself, 'Wow, if Georgia can do this, I'm sure we can.' I know Georgia's offense is good (because) we've played them before, and they were missing two of their running backs and were still able to do that. A lot of the stuff came down to Georgia's special teams, too."
Inserting Dobbs at quarterback has injected new life into a Tennessee offense that was stagnating, and the Vols totaled 383 yards against Alabama, the second-highest output the Crimson Tide have allowed this season, before rolling up 645 against South Carolina.
"It gives us a lot confidence in our whole offense," Kerbyson said. "We've got some real playmakers behind us that can make us right when we're wrong. We can score a lot of points if we need to."
Tailbacks Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane and receiver Marquez North all were in noncontact jerseys for Tuesday's practice.
With Hurd it's precautionary, but neither Lane (ankle) nor North (shoulder) finished Tennessee's win against South Carolina before last week's open date.
Jones said he's seeing "less and less lingering effects" of the injury from Lane and expects both to play Saturday.
"I wouldn't see anything why they wouldn't play Saturday night," he said.
Derrell Scott has been "set back a little by a thumb injury," Jones said, and the freshman tailback, who has not gotten a carry since the fourth quarter of the Ole Miss game, will be available Saturday but will wear a small cast.
Offensive tackle Dontavius Blair has taken "tremendous strides" with his strengths level the last few weeks, Jones said, as the junior college transfer and former four-star recruit redshirts this season. ... Jones said he's been "very encouraged" by how defensive tackle Kendal Vickers has practiced the past couple of weeks, and the redshirt freshman could see an uptick in playing time this week. ... Jones said Tennessee won't wear any gray jerseys on Saturday and made it sound unlikely the Vols would at any point this season.
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