August 16, 2012
Trying to create tight end depth
Sophomore tight end Brendan Downs wants no sympathy and acknowledges that everyone is tired in the middle of fall camp. But the Bristol native has gotten more than his line share of the work load 13 days into the pre-season because of the knee sprain that has senior Mychal Rivera limited.
"Physically we are all wore down," Downs said. "Going into stage 3 of camp it's going to get a little easier and with Mike coming back it's getting a little easier, but yea I'm pretty beat down.
"It was definitely good (to get the extra reps). It was real good for me. I don't get those opportunities every day so it definitely helped being in there with those guys."
Depth is a concern for tight ends coach Charlie Coiner. The injury to Rivera was only magnified by the dismissal of Cam Clear back in May. It has forced the offensive coaching staff to try and develop depth. To do that head coach Derek Dooley moved Joseph Ayers from defensive end to tight end and freshman Justin King has remained on offense full time as a wildcat quarterback and tight end. Coiner admits developing depth can be difficult, but it's much less painful to try and do it now than during the season.
"Bart and Brendan have carried a work load and we have tried to be careful there," Coiner said. "What happens is there's always a danger that if you have someone out for a couple of weeks then there is the danger of overworking those left and then you look up and you have three guys who are out for a month. We have really tried to take that time while Mychal was healing up to try and bring on some guys. A guy like Justin King. Tried to bring on Joe Ayers and take a look at them. That's painful at times because they don't know the offense as well as the other guys and they are going to make mistakes. I will take the pain now instead of the pain in September or October.
"We are finding out about Ayers and King. We have three in Bart, Brendan and Mike. After that we are just trying to find out. We may. It feels like we have been in camp 3 weeks. We have more practice to go we may still find one of those young guys who can help us out. We know right now that we have three guys who can line up right now and help us."
Three guys who Coiner feels are much improved from where ended spring practice.
"I think they are a lot better. I give credit to them for what they do in the summer on their own. I think it's incredible what they do. I do believe the natural understanding
and when you understand the game you play faster. I think of a Brendan Downs when I think of that. He has a long way to go. He is still a long way to go, but I look at him and he's growing up everyday. Bart has come a long way as an in line player next to the tackle. He was pretty much a backfield guy before. So we are happy with that. You see improvement and that's what football is all about."
Coiner, who also serves as Tennessee's special teams coordinator, likes where the Vols are personnel wise in the kicking game. Coiner said he was "very comfortable" with his coverage units and his return units. What does still seem to be an unknown is how to handle kickoffs. With the ball moved up 5 yards this year and a touchback not giving teams the ball at the 25 yard line, coaches are left with options and decisions.
"Do you have a guy who can bang it out or do you want to hang it up there, let it drop inside the five and see what they do with it?," Coiner asked. "Once again, your thinking about what you are going to do, but you are also looking at who you are going to play and what do you think they are going to do. Are they going to come out and try to knock it through the endzone or are they going to come out and pin us in there. There's a lot of strategy there. What I think is going to happen is people are going to go through the first year and they will see how everyone plays it then they will formulate their opinions and strategy and go from there.
"Obviously it's an 11 man deal. If you have a kicker who can put it back in the corner and pin them and have a coverage unit that's good at doing that then you tend to let them play. But at the same time there's something to be said for kicking that thing and letting it come out too, put it on the 25 and let's go."
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