November 5, 2012
Dooley shakes up defensive operations
The numbers are jaw-dropping. In nine games, opponents have amassed 4,349 yards against Tennessee's defense. That's already more yards than the Vols have given up in four of the previous five seasons. They are on pace to shatter any previous record for passing yards surrendered.
Entering the season head coach Derek Dooley talked about how he wanted his defense to affect offenses and not just bleed to death allowing opponents to drive the length of the field. Nine games into the season, the Vol defense is hemorrhaging giving up 60 plays of 20-plus yards for 2,091 yards and 19 touchdowns.
"Bleeding to death looks good right now," Dooley said. "That's what I'm getting to. I would love to bleed. We ain't bleeding. We are zahaaa (gestures of getting gashed with a knife). We need to go bleed a little bit. It's what I hated it, but we also didn't have an offense scoring what we were scoring last year. So we needed to create.
"We had an offense that we were talking about like how we are talking about the defense right now. What are you going to do to help the offense? Well we need to create more on defense. Right now it wouldn't be bad to bleed a little bit."
In an effort to bleed and not need a tourniquet, Dooley said he is making significant changes as his team looks for its first SEC win against Missouri (12:21pm est, SEC Network) Saturday inside Neyland Stadium.
"First of all and maybe I should have done this earlier, but I'm coming out of the offensive room and putting my attention on defense," Dooley offered. "Just sitting in trying to help create solutions. We are going to do some things different schematically to help take some of the pressure off some of our players to give them a better chance and to reduce some of the space that gets created. Certainly as we game plan there is a lot more input from everybody on what we need to do and where the stress-points are making a decision on what we are not going to do.
"And we will do some things differently on game day. How we implement it, call it and where. All of that stuff. We are going to do a lot of changes. There are no easy answers when you are playing the way we are playing. Of course the easy solution is you just get rid of people. The only thing I can tell you is that everything I'm doing going forward is for one reason and that's to do what we can to give our players the best chance to beat Missouri and that's all I'm really focused on."
Schematically, Dooley admitted that they just aren't capable of doing what they had envisioned when installing their defensive system no matter how simple they have made it.
"So much of what we do in zone coverage is we let things sort out and then you go cover a guy. It's a different philosophy," Dooley explained. "It's something that I believe in. It's why we are doing what we are doing, but it also requires good match-ups. It requires stress up front sometimes. It requires stress on the corners sometimes. At some point you have to say let's quit trying to put a square peg into a round hole and maybe do some things to maybe take some of the pressure off the kids and that's what we are going to do."
After giving up 123 points, and 1,499 yards in three games the month of October, the question is why until you surrender a school record 721 yards before making significant changes.
"It would have been probably reactionary if I had done it four weeks ago. But then you look back and maybe I should have," Dooley said. "I'm not there saying I'm the guru. I'm not. I'm just there watching, listening, resolving any conflict and if I don't think we should do something I'm saying we shouldn't do that. I'm getting a little more involved and a little more dialogue with individual players on specific things. It's just another set of eyes and ears and another voice. It will give me a little more comfort in saying I don't want that."
In terms of changes to how the defense is handled on game day, Dooley wasn't ready to get specific but indicated nothing was off the table including coordinator Sal Sunseri moving to the coaches box.
"That's something we are working through as a staff. How we call it. Who's where. We are probably going to make some gameday changes to help," Dooley said.
PILING UP SNAPS
Sure, Tennessee's defensive unit was on the field an astounding 99 snaps Saturday in the Vols' come-from-behind win against Troy.
But sophomore defensive back Justin Coleman took matters a step further. Coleman logged more than 100 plays between his work as a Vols' starting cornerback and on special teams.
"I think I played 102 snaps," Coleman said. "I wasn't too sore; I mean, a little nicked here and there."
Dan McCullers also has seen his snap-count increase in recent weeks. After playing more than 50 snaps last month in a season-high effort, McCullers added more than 40 this week.
"I think it was 45 (snaps)," McCullers said. "I played 51 two games ago. I was sore and tired, but we've got to keep moving on."
On the flip side, because of all the extra defensive back packages against Troy's spread offense linebacker Herman Lathers played just 24 snaps on Saturday.
Trevarris Saulsberry did not practice Monday and donned a large brace to help with a sprained MCL. The Gainesville, Fla., native is not expected to play this week.
Justin Hunter also was limited Monday, while Devrin Young returned but wore a red, non-contact jersey.
Rajion Neal returned almost in full while Zach Fulton also continues to progress. Both players had sprained ankles.
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