Tennessee concluded its second week of spring practice Saturday and kept the focus on special teams. That seems to be a point of emphasis under first-year head coach Derek Dooley.
“We have a lot of work to do on special teams,” Dooley said. “I wish we had 15 more practices. There are a lot of new techniques, a lot of new schemes — very different, I think, than what they’ve been accustomed to. So it’s going to take us awhile to really get an understanding for that.”
The Vols have only nine practices remaining this spring before the Dish Network Orange and White Game, set for April 17 at Neyland Stadium.
Saturday’s work at Haslam Field included short-yardage and goal line installations, in addition to the special teams play.
“We got a lot of work on all those phases,” Dooley said. “They are very important phases of the game. They don’t happen a lot, but when they do happen there’s a tremendous impact either way.
“All those things we’re working on and making a lot of progress.”
Quarterback play has been positive thus far despite the graduation of 2009 starter Jonathan Crompton. Dooley says that so far, senior Nick Stephens and junior Matt Simms have taken the lead.
“Nick and Matt have been rolling with the ones. Tyler Bray’s showing some good progress, and he’s been getting all his reps with the twos.
“Matt’s showing a lot of progress and he’s got good competitive spirit. I think he’s got good command. He’ll continue to have more and more command as he learns the terminology, the plays and the reads. But he’s very confident in his abilities, which is important at quarterback, and I think he has a bright future.
“Until you really have a great understanding of the plays to where it’s like you’re not even thinking, then the decisions and accuracy always get better. Those are the two big things — decision and accuracy — and we’re going to measure that over time.”
UT’s coaching staff also is taking the time to emphasize the need for maintaining composure during the heat of competition.
“It was a good, spirited practice today, with a lot of effort and a lot of toughness,” Dooley said. “Learning how to channel some of the spirit and keeping it between the plays is going to be important — not getting emotional when things get a little physical.”
Tennessee practices again Tuesday afternoon.
DOOLEY PRAISES BASKETBALL VOLS: Dooley took a moment after Saturday’s workout to offer his well-wishes to the UT men’s hoops squad.
“Let me start by congratulating Coach Pearl and the basketball team. What a phenomenal game that was. It’s a great example of the importance of effort, toughness and belief — of out-working a team. I was really proud to watch them and all they’ve gone through to get where they’ve gotten. Congratulations to them. It’s good to be a Volunteer.”