Every football season brings about a new round of life lessons for growing 18-22 year-old men, and their coaches.
For the Tennessee football team, a team that has battled adversity week-in and week-out, the 2012 season has been full of those lessons.
“I think every year you go through life there are a ton of lessons whether you have success, or you don’t have success,” UT head coach Derek Dooley said. “It is just a matter of being able to see what the lessons are.
“Sometimes we get blinded by success we have and we don’t see lessons in that and sometimes we get so consumed with failure that we don’t see any lessons in that. Every day you live, there are lessons to be had on what shapes you as a man and what shapes you as a competitor.”
If there is one work to describe the Vols this season, it is resilient.
Each week, the team has taken to the practice field in the same manner despite the outcome of the game, keeping its spirits high and its outlook positive for the following week.
Tight ends and special teams coach Charlie Coiner, who spent 10 years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills before coming to Tennessee, feels as though the Vols have conducted themselves in an NFL-like manner this season.
“I think that football during the week is a routine business,” Coiner said. “The thing I think about is you come to work [whether you are 10-0 or haven't won a game] and you know what, everybody does the same thing. How they’ve handled it on the field, I guess I’m not that surprised. That’s what you do.”
The Vols have battled adversity the entire 2012 season.
“Every week seems to be talking about overcoming when you don’t get the results that you want,” Dooley said. “Certainly this week there has been a little more to it given all of the other external clutter that is out there. It is more about keeping your focus on how you can play your best game for 60 minutes. That is all I am concerned about with our team right now, that they don’t lose their focus on all of the things that they could be thinking about that is not going to help them play well.”
The Vols have done a good job this season of keeping the “external clutter” out and focusing on football.
Coiner believes that everything that the Vols have been through this season has added up to a great life lesson.
“I’ve been through it multiple times, we’re all going to have things like that happen to us,” Coiner said. “If this is the worst thing that ever happens to anybody on our football team, then we’ve had a pretty easy life. Just like a lot of other things in football, it teaches them how not to listen to all of the stuff going on and try to focus on what you can control.”
The Vols will look to control the ball this weekend against Vanderbilt and give their all, for 60 minutes, in Nashville.
CHANEY: BRAY PLAYING BEST BALL
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has been racking up some remarkable numbers over the last few games.
Including his school record for passing yards in a game (530 vs. Troy), Bray has thrown for 1,302 yards in the last three games. That equates to 434 yards per game to go along with 13 interceptions. His mentor, UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, confirms Bray is at the top of his game in recent weeks.
” I think he is playing as good as he has,” said Chaney who also coaches the team’s quarterbacks. “I would say that is accurate. He is playing good football right now. The last month he has been pretty solid. He is preparing correctly and he has been playing on ball.”
Chaney credits Bray’s work off the field for his success on the field.
“Tyler watches a lot of video,” Chaney said. “He spends a lot of time studying his opponent, he is getting more professional when it comes to that. I think that is an important thing. It is hard to go out there and be ready to go out and play if you haven’t watched a lot of video.”
Bray is just like so many others who ‘learn’ how to watch tape as they gain more experience to understand what they are looking for in the film room.
“I think he has always liked to watch but I think now he is a little more conscious of what he is watching,” Chaney said. “Kids when they are young, will turn on the tape to watch it but they aren’t really sure of what they are watching. I think Tyler has a pretty good understanding today of what he needs to see.”
SUNSERI COMFORTABLE UPSTAIRS
Tennessee made a number of changes to its defense prior to last week’s game against Missouri, including having defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri call the plays from the press box.
Those changes made a significant impact, most notably in the first half when the Vols allowed just 64 yards and kept the Tiger offense off the scoreboard. Part of that success came from Sunseri’s comfort level from coaching from upstairs.
“I thought it was pretty good, I was very comfortable upstairs,” Sunseri said. “You are able to see more, see exactly what they are doing and get the personnel in there. It was nice and clean and it was comfortable. It was where I have been.
“We were able to communicate, we were able to make the adjustments. We did some very good things early in the game. At the end of the game we didn’t make some plays, but it was good.”
Having Sunseri call the plays from the press box created some challenges for getting the call out to the players on the field, but the UT defensive coordinator was pleased with how that was handled.
“We were getting the calls in, they were executing it fast and it was good tempo,” Sunseri said. “It was good tempo by everybody communicating. I thought Brandon Staley did a heck of a job of getting the calls from me and getting them in to the kids. The kids worked all last week on making sure everybody’s eyes are on the signal caller and the kids executed it good, they did a nice job.
He was pretty happy with the results as well.
“I liked that we got three-and-outs, played with enthusiasm, ran to the football, we hustled, we made plays and that is the thing that I thought was very, very positive,” Sunseri said. “The kids felt very, very comfortable and they were able to execute and some good things happened.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JIM CHANEY
(On the amount of penalties on the offensive line)
“I think a lot of it was they stem and jump around a lot on their D-line, we worked a lot on that week but we didn’t get it done. We had several penalties and several that weren’t called, it was a point of emphasis going in and we didn’t handle it very well. The stemming up front. Hopefully, we will get that better.”
(On what makes Vanderbilt’s defense so effective)
“I think they are similar to a lot of the defensives we have played already. They play hard, they have good scheme, and they are well coached. They are opportunistic. It seems like they are playing a lot of long fields and that is a good thing too for them. They are good, they are a solid team just like the other teams that we have been playing.”
(On Vanderbilt’s defense)
“I think they are a team that lines up in a sound front, sound coverage, their coaches put them in a great position to be successful. They do that. They understand who they are and their identity as far as schematically. They do a nice job with it. I have always been impressed with how Vanderbilt plays defense. I am today, again. I know they lost some kids from last year’s team but you haven’t noticed that very much. They play hard and they are a very good team.”
(On scoring points)
“I think as a coordinator who have been in these games before when you move the ball down the field but you don’t score points and you always wonder if that is going to come back to get you. And it did. We went flat in the second half, we couldn’t get a lot of things going, we couldn’t generate enough points to win the ball game. Sure I was concerned going in. I felt comfortable with moving up and down the field, we weren’t generating points and that is our ultimate job. I wasn’t comfortable with where we were at.”
(On going into overtime)
“Coach tells us what we are going to do and we go do it. That is the way it goes. We go out and see if we can get something generated and if we made a few plays we were going to open it up and if we didn’t we were comfortable where we were at.”
(On what Missouri did to stop the run game)
“I think they brought blitzes in the run game on normal down and distances. We had some long fields, we weren’t generating a lot of explosive runs which equates to no points, which we have talked about many times. They did a nice job of shutting down the run game with all their blitz package. We didn’t do a nice job of handling that.”
(On the players responding to the coaching rumors)
“I think our kids have responded like they always have. They went out and they have been preparing very well. That would be my only comment on that. Our kids have been out and practiced well all year long.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR SAL SUNSERI
(On the second half against Missouri)
“We came out and gave up a play, just didn’t fit that thing right, and we made the corrections and all that. As it kept on going and we had more plays I think we got a little fatigued, losing Curt [Maggitt] didn’t help, and it cost us.”
(On replacing Curt Maggitt)
“We are going to find somebody that can do it and make adjustments with some of the guys.You have to make some changes about who is playing what and what is going on, so they are going to have to identify and see what is going on.”
“Vanderbilt’s offense is doing a great job. It is a pro-style spread attack. He’s mixing it up. He’s running the option, he’s running the read, he’s throwing bubbles, he’s throwing intermediate routes, taking shots on deep-balling you, so he is doing a good job of mixing it up. He is always trying to stay ahead of the down and distance, so he’s not putting these guys in bad situations and they’ve done a very good job of it. They are doing an excellent job of executing and have done a great job of competing and finding a way to win games.”
(On how the team has handled speculation about Coach Dooley)
“I think they have done a great job of it. They’ve come out there and practiced and they are going out there and trying to get better. To me, practice has been as good as it was last week and it’s just the execution that we have to take to the game.”
(On his job)
“Nothing is going to change. We work right now for the University of Tennessee so we are going to work every single day. I’ve been here every morning at 5:30 a.m. and haven’t left until 11 o’clock at night. That’s what we do.”
(On if the speculation has been a distraction to the players)
“I haven’t noticed. I know this, kids have been in our meetings and have been bright-eyed, they’ve been going about their business and they are doing what they are supposed to do. That’s what I have seen.”