October 2, 2012
'Camp-like' practice launches Vols' off week
Derek Dooley didn't give his team a chance to slumber through its first open-week practice Tuesday morning.
Nor did the Volunteers' third-year coach afford his players an idle mind. Instead, Dooley and his coaches tasked every player with areas to improve and launched their Mississippi State preparations with some spirited one-on-one, full-contact drills. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) is off this week and travels to face the nationally-ranked Bulldogs Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. (ESPN2).
"We had a pretty intense practice. It was a lot similar to camp, so it was good to see competition out there," said senior fullback Ben Bartholomew.
Tyler Bray said the practice also reminded him of pre-season camp, but the Vols' junior quarterback also made clear he felt the team responded better than it had two weeks earlier on the heels of the 37-20 loss to Florida.
"We didn't go against the scout team. We went against our defense, so it's almost like training camp," Bray said. "So it is a little tougher than a normal practice would be.
"Everyone wasn't down. I do remember us being really down after the Florida game. No one really wanted to be out there. No one really wanted to practice. This week everyone is just trying to move forward and move on to the next one."
But Dooley wants the players focused on improvement this week before moving wholly into game preparations.
"Just something I've always done, even as an assistant; because you can't really accomplish anything if you don't have a purpose, if you just go practice without an objective," Dooley said. "During game week, your purpose is you're learning this game plan and you're working the plan to go. You're really focused on what we're working on.
"When you go out there during an open date, it's really easy to say how long is this practice going to be and you don't really accomplish anything. And you get worse when you do that. Just really trying to focus on self-improvement. And you know what, the practices don't go
they're not as bad when you're focused on something like that."
Coming off just the second three-interception game of his career, Bray said coaches implored him to help the team by making better decisions and sustaining drives.
"Just finishing. Me personally, just making
throwing the ball away. There were times in the Georgia game I forced it and it cost us the game," Bray said. "First down, instead of throwing a jump ball and getting picked off just throwing it out of bounds and going to second down and third down."
Dooley noted he was pleased with the team's leadership in the face of adversity this season and that the key as the Vols worked to move forward was simply getting the job done.
"Yeah, I think it's been really good. We haven't had any problems," Dooley said. "There's been no real negativity in any game. No negativity, no finger-pointing, no complaining. That's not the issue. We've just got to learn to go execute in crunch time."
That can be aided, Bartholomew said, when the team's leaders have accepted the off-week challenge.
"You know I think leadership is very important in the bye week," Bartholomew said. "Teams kind of take it both ways. It's either a time to kind of just rest and get ready for the next week or it's a time to get better.
"I think our leaders have tried to step up and make sure our team is getting better."
MAGGITT NEEDS TO PLAY
Dooley said the turf toe injury through which Curt Maggitt is playing isn't hampering Maggitt's production as much as simply gaining experience is key. Maggitt is adjusting to a new position and also dealing with practice limitations due to the toe injury, which is expected to linger through the season.
"We can't minimize that. He had 15 (spring) practices where everybody was working a new defense and new position and he missed every one of them," Dooley said. "That hurt him coming into fall camp and he's been dinged up with his toe. He needs to play."
Dooley, however, was quick to praise Maggitt's ability to adapt during games and show improvements from the first snap to the last one.
"Yeah, that's what good players do. They learn how to survive and they start making adjustments throughout the game," Dooley explained. "They come to the sideline, 'You played it wrong, this is how you've got to play that' and next time they run it, boom. Plays it perfect.
"You can teach it on the chalkboard and you can run it against scout team, but there's no better way to improve as a player than to go out there and play."
LET'S KICK IT
Dooley reiterated that placekicking duties would likely return to the left foot of Michael Palardy, but the Vols' third-year coach took a minute to defend both Palardy and walk-on Derrick Brodus.
While much has been made of Tennessee's four missed point-after kicks through its first five games, Dooley said, too little has been noted of the Vols' eight made field goals.
"Nobody's really said I'm the guy [at kicker]. The one thing that's interesting, and I made this comment too, we're 8-for-10 on field goals. Knock on wood. There's not many coaches in college football that wouldn't take that," Dooley said. "I think we're third in the league in field goals. The problem is that we've missed (four) PATs. That's what leads to the 'We're the worst kickers of all-time.' Both are true. We can't miss (four) PATs because it's going to incite furor by everybody, including my kids. Then when you look and we're 8-for-10 in five field goals, that's pretty good. That's 80 percent. But we never say that."
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