Vols prep for Saturday's scrimmage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- As Tennessee football head coach Derek Dooley addressed the media following Friday afternoon’s practice, another daily staple of fall camp took place in the background.

While most players head toward the locker room to shower and ice down, the offensive line maintains its spot on the field as they put in the extra time to improve and progress. The front five, which currently consists of two upperclassmen, can be found working to perfect its craft nearly 20-30 minutes following practice every day. For quarterbacks junior Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray to run the offense successfully, the repetition and extra effort is necessary.

“They’ll get new looks but it’s also important (that) the O-Line helps block those new looks because if they don’t, Tyler and Matt won’t have a good day,” Dooley said. “That’s why you can’t put it all on (the quarterbacks). We’re doing a lot more stemming and moving and that’s tough on freshman offensive linemen. When they just stand there and you say block him, they do a good job but it’s not like that.”

The offensive line propelled the Vols to 360 total yards of offense in Tuesday’s scrimmage, including junior running back Tauren Poole’s 49-yard burst to open the session.

As the Vols gear up for their second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday evening at Neyland Stadium, Dooley is looking for one thing: improvement.

“We have a big scrimmage tomorrow,” Dooley said. “It’s an important scrimmage for the football team and I told them that because we need to show significant improvement from the first scrimmage, especially from an intangibles standpoint. They’re hot and they’re tired but they’re hot and tired everywhere in the league right now and nobody really cares. They’ve got 24 hours to get their mind right and I think they will.”

Saturday evening’s scrimmage tabs the three-week mark until UT opens the 2010 season at home versus UT Martin and it’s the coaches’ goal to further prepare the team for a game-like setting as the season-opener nears.

“It’ll be a lot longer,” Dooley said of tomorrow’s scrimmage. “They’ll be all special teams incorporated in the scrimmage. Last scrimmage, we just did punt and field goal and then had two independent kickoff and kickoff return periods. This one will be all intermingled into the scrimmage. This will be more game-like.”

One player who has shown the kind of improvement that Dooley is searching for has been sophomore running back David Oku.

“It starts with his attitude,” Dooley said. “Everybody who’s having a good camp, it starts with their attitude. They’re coming to work every day with a smile, they’re embracing the grind, accepting it and enjoying it, and because of that they’ve shown marked improvement every day and David’s done that. He’s played with great energy, he’s run hard, he’s shown improvement in his cuts and his reads, (and) his pass protection. He’s really shown improvement across the board. From where he was in the spring to now, it’s been very encouraging.”

Oku rushed for 37 yards on eight carries and caught three passes for 15 yards in Tuesday’s scrimmage. In 2009, Oku carried the ball 23 times for 94 yards while shattering UT records with 33 kickoff returns for 863 yards.


Tennessee defensive linemen Ben Martin and Marlon Walls underwent surgical procedures to repair ruptured Achilles tendons on Thursday at UT Medical Center.

The players, who suffered the injuries within two days of each other last week, were released from the hospital Friday.

Jason McVeigh, Tennessee’s director of sports medicine, expects both to make full recoveries. Drs. Greg Mathien and Russell Betcher of Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic conducted the surgeries.

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