KNOXVILLE — One of the few positives coming out of Tennessee's 15-9 loss to South Carolina on Saturday was the Volunteers' offense going a full game without turning the football over for the first time since the season opener.
On the flip side, South Carolina also protected the football, as the Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) failed to force a turnover.
Tennessee's total of six forced turnovers this season ranks 111th among 128 teams in the country.
The defense did its part to keep South Carolina in check, but coach Butch Jones wants to see more big plays from every unit on the team, defense included, as Tennessee enters the second half of the season.
Secondary coach Charlton Warren said Monday that the coaching staff tries to emphasize hunting the ball in practice every day.
"It's a lot of coaching the technique and the mindset of the defense to go after the football and know the techniques to do it," Warren said. "Then in the game when the opportunity presents itself, the first guy there has to tackle and the second guy has to rip the ball out."facebook
The Vols helped themselves in the opener by forcing a Georgia Tech fumble in the second half and generated a pair of second-half turnovers in a 26-20 loss to Florida, but they have intercepted just two passes this season.
Scouting the Tide
Tennessee opened the week as a 34-point underdog against Saturday's opponent, No. 1-ranked Alabama, which has won 10 straight in the series.
Jones said Alabama is probably the most complete football team he's seen "in a number of years."
"All you have to do is look at their body of work through this season already," Jones said before rattling off a list of statistical categories in which the Crimson Tide lead the conference or the nation.
Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop referred to Alabama as "the red army" on Monday.
"There aren't a lot of weaknesses," Shoop said. "They run the ball well, they throw the ball efficiently and they don't turn the ball over and they don't make a lot of mistakes."
Jones said senior kicker Aaron Medley will be out an "extended period of time." Medley missed the South Carolina game with mononucleosis. Freshman Brent Cimaglia will continue in a starting role after he took over field-goal and kickoff duties against the Gamecocks and made all three of his field-goal attempts.
Jones said safety and kick returner Evan Berry was expected to practice Monday. Berry has not played since the season opener. When he returns, it will be a boost for a Tennessee secondary that is relying on true freshmen Theo Jackson and Cheyenne Labruzza to back up starting safeties Nigel Warrior and Micah Abernathy.
"I know Evan has worked extremely hard to get back," Jones said. "Does that mean he'll be available for Alabama? I can't tell you that right now. But we're very encouraged."
Defensive end Darrell Taylor, who was suspended indefinitely before the South Carolina game, will remain suspended for the Alabama game, Jones said.
"He's still working through all the criteria that has to be met," Jones said.
Kentucky game at 7:30
Tennessee's game at Kentucky next week will be played at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network, the league announced Monday.
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.