Vols seek self-improvement during bye
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — With no opponent, no game plan and nothing on the schedule this weekend, Derek Dooley’s Tennessee football team is taking time this week to focus on itself.
Tennessee’s players each set personal goals of self-improvement for this week’s open date, in which the Vols will have three practices before taking the weekend off to recover.
“We set goals yesterday to come out and set two goals per person, and just come out and work on those goals and get better at every day,” linebacker Herman Lathers said. “And I think we got better as a team (Tuesday).
“We got two more work days, then we get a rest period. So we have two more work days to work and get better, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Getting better includes getting back to basics for a Tennessee team that’s been exposed by big plays through its first five games this season.
“Open week is always a time to go reevaluate your fundamentals,” Dooley said Tuesday, “and what you’re not doing as well, as good as you need to.
“And of course the tackling, and open field tackling, space tackling, is a real, major concern where we need to make some significant improvement.”
The Vols gave up touchdown runs of 51, 72 and 75 yards in last week’s 51-44 loss at Georgia. Florida scored on an 80-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard touchdown pass in the second half of its 37-20 win over Tennessee in September.
Defensive breakdowns led to big first and second quarters, where Georgia scored 42 of its 51 points — scoring 21 in each quarter. The defense didn’t change, Lathers said, the Vols just corrected the fundamental mistakes in the second and fourth quarters and executed their base defense the way it’s designed to be executed.
“It was definitely tough, just to see the same plays we gave up, or that we got the same play later on in the game we played perfect,” Lathers said of watching the Georgia game film.
“It’s just mental errors and alignment errors. It’s fundamental errors we have to fix this week, (we’re) working everyday to fix it.
“We didn’t change a thing. We played the same calls. Played our fundamentals and our techniques right. When you do that, we’ve got a good defense and a great team, and we’ve got to clean those up this week.”
Tennessee will start preparations for No. 20 Mississippi State next week for its Oct. 13 trip to Starkville. Until then, time on the practice field and in the film room is all about self-improvement.
“It’s so important that these guys learn how to have a purpose every day,” Dooley said. “And I told them, ‘Everything happens before it happens.’ That you have a goal, you know what the challenges are to reach that goal, and then you prepare to do certain things to overcome those challenges.
“If we can all stay focused on defining a purpose for this week, then we’ll come out of it a lot better football team.”
limited experience: A turf toe injury has limited Curt Maggitt since Tennessee’s season opening win over North Carolina State on Aug. 31, but it’s a lack of experience and a new position that has hurt the sophomore linebacker more than anything.
“... He shows a lot of flashes, where he’s making plays,” Dooley said. “But I think Curt’s biggest issue is, he just hasn’t played a lot. It’s a new position for him, on the line.”
Maggitt was credited with five tackles, inclduing an 18-yard sack and a forced fumble that turned into a safety, before suffering the injury against N.C. State. He sat out the Goergia State game to rest the toe before again making five tackles in the loss to Florida.
Dooley said Maggitt’s struggles, playing at the sam linebacker position, haven’t come without in-game adjustments and improvement.
“All the play recognition, you’ll see him early in the game screw it up, then they run the same play later in the game (and) he plays it beautifully.”