Freshman Wide Receiver Embracing Opportunity
KNOXVILLE – It’s no secret that Tennessee has relied heavily on its true freshmen this season, playing the third-most of any school in the FBS (16).
One of those freshmen, wide receiver Vincent Dallas, is starting to settle in.
“He’s getting a little more in the rotation,” head coach Derek Dooley said after Tuesday morning’s practice at Haslam Field. “He’s developing a better understanding of the offense. I think that’s increased his confidence a little bit. It’s allowed him to play a little faster and it’s allowed him to make some plays out there. The faster he plays, the more confident he plays and the more ability he shows to make plays, the more we integrate him into the offense. He’s done good.”
Dallas, who went into the Vanderbilt game with a pair of catches for 15 yards, hauled in a career-long 22-yard catch against the Commodores, more than doubling his freshman receiving yardage total.
The Ellenwood, Ga., native is finding different ways to contribute as he continues to grasp his role.
“Everybody goes at a different pace when they’re in their first year,” Dooley said. “Everyone learns differently. Everybody has different skill sets. Everybody comes with a different background of being good. I didn’t have any expectations one way or the other. I think he’s done a good job for us.
“What Vincent also brings is he’s a good physical presence on the perimeter. He’s probably our best perimeter blocker and I think that’s helped us a little bit in the run game.”
Calling blocking his ‘biggest strength,’ Dallas is well aware that part of his position doesn’t show up in the final stat book.
“Growing up playing football, I was always an aggressive player,” said Dallas, who spoke with the media for the first time following Tuesday’s practice. “I was taught that blocking was important in the receiving game. I just try to execute that. It’s tough stat-wise, but it’s part of being a player.”
Dallas attributes part of his development to his decision to enroll at Tennessee in January.
“It helped me a lot,” Dallas said. “I got the rhythm of the game. I learned a lot of stuff. CB (Charlie Baggett) is a really good coach. He taught me a lot of stuff that I didn’t know and helped me become a better player. It was real exciting (coming early) because I was still really a high school student coming to college. I watch these guys on TV and just coming to play with them was real fun.”
THUMBS UP FOR BRAY
After returning to action with a win against Vanderbilt, sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray continues to feel more comfortable in his return from a broken right thumb on his throwing hand. The pain is still present, but Bray is battling through doing all he can do for Tennessee.
“It’s always going to hurt,” Bray said. “It’s just something you have to fight through and try to contribute to the team. I think it’s a comfort level, I think it’s all mental, just getting used to being able to throw it like I used to, knowing it’s still hurt.”
Bray threw for 189 yards with two touchdowns vs. Vanderbilt just five weeks after breaking it against Georgia on Oct. 8.
“(It was) nothing where I was sitting there saying ‘I can’t play any more’ you just have to fight through it,” Bray said.
Dooley knows the Vols have to keep a close on their quarterback who is 8-2 all-time in regular-season starts.
“We have to keep managing him,” Dooley said. “He’s not even close to 100 percent. One week doesn’t get that thumb back to where it was. It showed today. He was really rusty. He doesn’t throw the way he’ll get to where when it’s 100 percent. We have to keep managing it, keep warming it up properly stretching it and rehabbing it.”
Dooley said Bray continues to make progress.
“It’s a lot better than it was a week ago,” Dooley said. “Today he looked like about what he looked like in the game. Not a lot happened over the weekend.”
Bray said the thumb was sore after the game, but is able to deal with that.
“I figured it would be a little sore,” he said. “I threw a bunch during the game and a bunch during that week. Just getting back into it, just getting the muscle back to where it was. After that I should be fine.”
Bray said he will not wear a glove in Saturday’s game at Kentucky, despite expected rain, making conditions slick.
“He has a good positive attitude,” Dooley said of Bray. “We need him to think that way. Only time will tell.”
WILLIE-BO GETTING MO’ PLAYING TIME
Consistency. The Tennessee coaching staff talks about it all the time and apparently Willie Bohannon has been listening.
The redshirt junior defensive end has started at defensive end in each of the past two games, accumulating five tackles and three quarterback hurries.
“Willie Bohannon has been a really consistent performer,” Dooley said. “He plays with a lot of discipline, he’s where he’s supposed to be and that’s good.”
For the season, the Mobile, Ala., native has already equaled his career tackle total entering the year with 23 stops, in addition to recording a pair of sacks and 1.5 tackles-for-loss.
The key to his increased consistency and improved play against the run is a simple one.
“Just listening to Coach Thompson,” Bohannon said. “He’s been teaching us how to play the run very well and has been coaching us to a ‘T,’ so I’ve just been listening to what he’s been telling us to do and just doing it. Nothing special.
“When you get a ‘good job’ from (Coach Thompson), you actually did something good. He’s not one of those people that is going to sugarcoat anything. After the Montana game, I played really bad and he sat down and talked to (me and) some of the other guys that played bad and questioned whether it was important to us or not. I’ve always thought it was important to me, so there was obviously something I wasn’t doing right.”
Another factor in his success this season has been the result of him physically growing into the position. Up to 254 pounds now, the 6-2 Bohannon says he can definitely tell a difference on the field.
“(Being bigger) helps out a lot, just as far as double teams,” Bohannon said. “We haven’t really been getting double-teamed a lot lately, but I can tell it has been working out. It gives you that confidence. At 225, you aren’t really thinking about power rushing anybody, but when you are bigger than you are like, ‘I can do anything.’ It helps out a lot.”
Listed as a backup on the depth chart all year until this week, Bohannon used that as motivation to get better every day in practice.
“You have to want to be that man,” Bohannon said. “I didn’t want to be the second guy at all. I just told myself every day that I have to work and my opportunity was going to come. It came in the LSU game and Coach Thompson told me I played well. Everything just started going from there.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys who weren’t even thought of at one point become a starter or have a chance to become a starter. I looked at that and I just kept working. I knew my opportunity was going to come, it was just what I did with that opportunity.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
“They’ve had their struggles on offense, a little bit like we have. I think in some ways, they’re in similar situations. They had some injuries at running back and that set them back. Of course, they lost their three phenomenal football players who were veterans last year so they have some youth at some positions. In many ways, they’re like us. What they have shown is they have a defense that held Georgia to one touchdown. They’re capable of shutting us out so we’re going to have our hands full this week.”
(On using Antonio Richardson in short-yardage situations)
“We probably could in short yardage. I think it’s really more opportunity than anything. It just hasn’t called for it.”
(On the top three teams in the BCS poll being from the SEC)
“It’s not surprising. We’ve played those three teams and they put it to us pretty good. You look at the last five, six years; this league keeps attracting a lot of great players. The more great players that get in the league, the more chance you have of having some teams compete at that level. All we’re worried about is trying to get to that level. We’re not there yet.”
Freshman wide receiver Vincent Dallas
(On Tyler Bray’s return bringing energy to the team)
“You know Tyler Bray is a big part of this team. He brought the energy. Everybody just knew Tyler Bray was going to be with us and everyone came out and was happy to play.”
(On having three different quarterbacks in 2011)
“It most definitely has been difficult. We have three great quarterbacks. As a receiver, I just have to execute what I have to do and play my part.”
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray
(On the offense’s confidence)
“The offensive line played great. I rarely got touched. Tauren (Poole) ran for 107 yards. They came out and blocked well and Tauren ran the ball well and that helped out a lot.”
(On the interception in the red zone)
“There are 11 guys, they can cover more space in a tighter area. I just threw a bad ball. If I had thrown it where I wanted to, it would have been a touchdown. Inches, inches, inch to the right it’s a Pick-6, inch to the left and it’s a touchdown.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Alex Bullard
(On having Antonio Richardson in the backfield for the goal line jumbo package)
“It was just a fun thing to do having “Tiny” in the backfield with all his energy. He said he was going to go blow someone up on that play and we all wanted to see it. We went out there and competed and the biggest thing was that it was fun. We liked the result.”
(On his one miss-snap from the game against Vanderbilt)
“That was pretty disappointing. That was a play where if I had made that snap we could have kept driving down the field and put more points on the board. Things like that happen and you just have to go on to the next play.”
Junior defensive back Prentiss Waggner
(On what makes Eric Gordon so effective as a nickel back)
“I would say his instincts. He is a very aggressive guy. When you look at all the top playmakers in the NFL, like Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, they are big risk takers. Eric Gordon is a risk taker. Most of the time though when he guesses, he guesses right.”
(On Tennessee’s win streak over Kentucky)
“I don’t think about (looking past Kentucky) at all. Some guys will bring it up but it’s just a game and it’s different from year to year. Their team is going to look different from year to year.”
(On the importance of beating Kentucky)
“It’s important to win because it is our next game. It’s our seniors’ last regular season game and that’s the most important part of it, to get that last win for the seniors. Hopefully, we can get the win and then go to a bowl game.”
Junior defensive end Willie Bohannon
(On starting the last two games)
“The coaches have been telling me that I’ve been playing pretty well. I’m very critical of myself and I look at the film and I see that I’ve been striking more, doing the small things right. I never really thought about why they put me in more. When I got in, I just played. That’s the only thing I needed to think about.”
(On his strengths)
“I guess the run. I just look at things that I am doing wrong and try to fix them. I never really try to look at the strengths. I’ll look at that after the season. I think (my list of weaknesses) is shrinking. You are forever going to have things to work on, but it’s not as many as I had at the beginning of the season or last year so that’s a good thing.”