Dooley: School, girls provide distractions to team

KNOXVILLE ( -- Tennessee’s second and final set of two-a-day practices is complete, with the Vols practicing Tuesday morning and then scheduling another turn at Haslam Field in the early evening.

Head coach Derek Dooley hopes the effort stays sharp after the morning workout came up short.

“It was a little sluggish today,” Dooley said. “School is starting, and when school starts there are two distractions that come with it. One is an important one, school. The second one is human nature, girls.

“There was a noticeable drifting of the minds in the meetings last night; I could sense it. And then today, not the kind of focus we need.”

Classes begin on the UT campus Wednesday. The Vols are taking the day off from actual practice to help make time for the usual arrangements that go with the start of fall semester. The team will stage a brief walk-through Wednesday afternoon before attending the UT Alumni Association’s “Welcome Back Barbecue” at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Dooley said this week’s change in routine is just part of the maturation process for his young squad.

“It’s learning how when you walk through the door, you shut out what’s on the outside and focus on football. That’s something we’ve got to do a little better job of. You just have to drive it into them every day. I think the big thing is just not allowing them to come in without focus.

“You kind of get the training-camp blues. You’ve been around 120 guys and the coaches are beating on you. All of a sudden, ‘Holy smokes!’ You’re looking around and things start feeling a little better. It’s been going on since the beginning of time. It’s not something new at Tennessee.”

Dooley made mention of the recent improvement shown by senior defensive end Gerald Williams. The Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., native appears ready to make the most of his final collegiate season.

“He’s gotten better, and Saturday was his first scrimmage of really high production,” Dooley said. “You see improvement and his attitude has been phenomenal.

“He is a classic senior who has put aside all that has happened to him in the past and is focused on going forward. Probably the biggest difference was in the amount of production -- tackles, sacks, pressures.”

Dooley said Williams and recent Southern California transfer Malik Jackson bring specific qualities to the end position that will complement each other and the UT defensive effort.

“Malik brings a lot more size and bulk to line up over a tight end when they are hammering that two-back running game. Gerald brings a little more stuff when the down gets looser.

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