Vols coaches, players talk WIldcats, NFL, more
TAMPA, Fla. --- Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek says it can be maddening. Preparing for a bowl game and pouring over a season of an opponent to put a game plan together.
As the Vols prepare for Friday's game kickoff against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl (noon ET, ESPN2), Jancek finds comfort in the unknowns thanks to a defense that has the ability to adjust on the fly.
[rl]"I'm really pleased with our guys ability to do that," Jancek said. "They come to the sideline and we can say here's what they are doing, here's what we want to do and make adjustments. I think that's why you don't see the consistent plays continuing to hurt us. You get hurt on a play here or a route concept there. We have always been able to fix it and I'm just really proud of our guys and our coaches for being able to see it recognize it and correct it with our players."
One the reasons for the ability to just on the fly according to Jancek is senior safety Brian Randolph's ability to make things right.
"He means so much to our defense. He makes so many checks and solves so many problems for us," Jancek offered. "He's been a joy to coach. We are going to miss him. He does a fantastic job back there."
Senior left tackle Kyler Kerbyson said that Randolph's experience and smarts is something everyone leans on.
"He is very, very smart. Not many people realize that," Kerbyson said. "Brian is a 4.0 student almost every semester. He's very smart. That helps him in the back end and that helps him coach the younger guys too letting them know what they need to do. On Friday's when the DB's have tests, they are all coming up to Brian and asking him questions."
Randolph and the veterans on defense could be in full adjustment mode on Friday. With the Wildcats offense that oftentimes features a couple of tight ends and a down hill run game, Jancek's unit could be forced into a base defense look as opposed to the nickel package that the Vols have played mostly this season.
"We are going to have the ability to do both," Jancek said. "I'm comfortable with base personnel groupings. It's going to depend a lot on what they are doing. It's almost like a first game in that you have so much time for preparation. It's really like another first game of the year. They can change things. They can do different things. A whole season that you pull plays from as a defensive coach can kind of drive you crazy. You have to adjust again on gameday.
"Bowl games have a different flavor," added veteran linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. "A lot of teams come out with some trick plays or some things you haven't seen before. We have all our rules in place. We just have to make the right checks and the right adjustments and settle down when they hit some big plays on us and we will be fine."
CONTINUING TO GROW
One of the biggest bright spots for the Vol defense this season has been the growth of freshman linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr.. The true freshman has settled in nicely at middle linebacker racking up 60 tackles including 31 the last five games to go with an interception, a fumble recovery and 2 tackles for loss.
"I'm really proud and pleased with Darrin in that he takes so much pride in not only knowing the middle linebacker position but he's trying to learn the WILL," Jancek said. "What are the safeties doing? Where are the defensive ends fitting in on certain plays. He just has a real hunger for knowledge for not only his position, but for the entire defense. And that's what you need. He has made great progress from day one. He takes great pride in being the middle linebacker. It's a badge of honor for him."
Reeves-Maybin gave up his number 34 to help land Kirkland last winter as the Vols beat out the likes of Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas. Reeves-Maybin admits even he is surprised at how far Kirkland has come in just one season.
"I knew it would be a long-shot," Reeves-Maybin said of the two playing side by side. "I know it's hard for any freshman to come in and play mic linebacker. They are basically the quarterback. He stepped in. He worked hard at it all year. It's been fun to watch him grow. He's no where near what he's going to be. He's going to be a great player and I'm just excited to watch him."
Tennessee's trio of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Alvin Kamara and Cam Sutton all have submitted paperwork for the NFL Draft advisory board as draft-eligible third-year players, as VolQuest.com first reported two weeks ago.
Reeves-Maybin, whom sources indicated is examining every possible facet of a potential jump toward pro football, acknowledged he had submitted the necessary paperwork but deflected talk of Friday's game potentially being his last as a Vol.
"You are around your teammates and it's not really a topic of discussion," he said. "We just are focused on each other, focused on having fun and getting a win."
DEBORD SEES 'COMPETITIVE' DORMADY
A day after he was praised by wideout Josh Smith, freshman quarterback Quinten Dormady also drew a compliment from his offensive coordinator.
"I just like what he brings every day; I like his consistency in the meeting room and practice field and his play," DeBord said. "He really, what I like, too, he's a competitor. If he doesn't make a play or doesn't put a throw where he wants to, he's mad at himself. I love that about him. I've been pleased with everything he's done."
Along with Steve Stripling as the Vols' veteran-most coaches, DeBord said he's long preferred to his team's offensive plan set before departing for the bowl site.
"All my experiences with bowl games, we've always had it done before we got to the bowl site because of all the things you have to attend as a coach or with the team, whatever it may be," DeBord said. "There is some time right now, we'll go back and look at the film. But then after that, we don't have a lot of time after that. It's basically just getting the game plan ready early and then once we get here, refining it."
Tennessee has its healthiest offensive line, perhaps of at any point since pre-season camp opened in early August, and DeBord said all players have been getting reps.
"Well we're just rotating them," DeBord said of a unit that has started eight different players this season. "We're rotating them, Jashon (Robertson) gets in and gets some snaps. Mack Crowder gets in and get some snaps, Brett Kendrick gets in and gets some snaps. We're just going through the rotation.
"It's like the season, you never know who's going to be in there. … Coach Mahoney does a great job of rotating them in practice and getting them different reps."