Rocky Top Rehearsal

On Tuesdays of game week, after Monday's required off day, practices are split between working on their game and the next opponent, but on Wednesday it's all about the opponent. This week, the Tennessee Vols.

All Vols, all day.

That was the mantra for the Rebels during Wednesday's practice, as it is every game week.

"We are really blessed to have good scout teams on both side of the ball this year," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "When you have more depth, that is one of the benefits - better scout teams. I've said it before and I will say it again, it is extremely important to get good looks of what the opponent likes to do and our scout teams take pride in that.

"We focused on everything Tennessee has shown this year today and I believe we got a lot done. Again, I have no issues with the way our team is approaching this game and preparation for this game. The leadership of this team is making sure we are staying on task and staying in the moment. They understand that each day has a life of its own and you have to give your best every day."

Freeze has great respect for the Tennessee defense.

"They have one of the middle linebackers in the country, they are very active up front and they are downhill players," he said. "They aggressively try to stop the run and will commit people to that cause because they have good corners and can afford to put extra people in the box. They are an extremely talented defense.

"It will be hard to sustain drives against them and will be a big challenge."

He also assessed the Vol offense.

"Their skill people are very good. They have struggled to protect their quarterback at times, but there is no question about the talent around him. They play with passion and hunger and it's only a matter of time for them to start winning more," Freeze noted. "Their team reminds me of us last year - young with good talent. They are in every game. They just need more depth and they will get that with a year or two more of recruiting. It's impressive what Butch Jones has done in assembling talent quickly. We can talk about being great coaches, but the truth of the matter is that great players make great coaches.

"I think their whole team is very dangerous. We have to make sure we have to take momentum early."

Freeze has opted to not go as fast on offense lately. Why?

"When I felt we were going to be pretty good on defense, we are more concerned of not putting ourselves in the hole with negative plays," he explained. "Defenses have caught up with tempo a little and can also make more fast calls. We had too many negative plays last year in the tempo world that were bad schematically against the defense we were seeing.

"I am more conscious now of making sure our calls match up schematically. Also, I think slowing down a little has helped Bo (Wallace) manage the game better and that's what we want."

Hugh is not overly surprised with the play of the Rebel defense to this point.

"Defense is how we built the team. I knew we would be talented there, but we have put it together faster than I anticipated," he stated.

Random Notes:

* As you know, Mike Hilton played a half against Texas A&M at strong safety and a half at cornerback out of necessity due to starting SS Trae Elston's 1/2 suspension. Hilton, due to his extraordinary football knowledge, handled it well. So well, in fact, that you can expect to see Hilton continue to play both positions, for now, at times. We have been told he will primarily be at corner, but there will be no hesitation to insert him at SS when Trae needs a breather.

* OLB Serderius Bryant didn't practice Tuesday because he needed another day of rest with a tight hamstring. He was back at full speed at practice Wednesday and is expected to be full go against Tennessee Saturday. Bird and Denzel Nkemdiche split time at OLB and both are having solid years and seem to embrace splitting time so they can stay fresh the entire game.

* If you are looking for a matchup edge for the Rebels, at least on paper, it could very well be the Rebel defensive line against a young and a little hobbled UT offensive line. In some games this year, UT QB Justin Worley has been under a lot of pressure and, as you know, the Rebel Sackmen have been applying a lot of pressure to opposing QBs all year. Advantage, Rebs. Again, on paper.

* Nobody with half a brain doubts sophomore Wide Receiver Laquon Treadwell's prowess as a pass receiver, but what sometimes goes unnoticed is his excellence as a blocker. "Quon loves to block. He takes pride in it," said WR Coach Grant Heard. "He likes to drive his man completely off the field. He's got a little mean streak in him when it comes to blocking. That aspect of his game sometimes gets overlooked because of his receiving skills, but it may be his best attribute."

* While nobody wants to talk just yet of "life without Bo," the day is coming when Wallace will be gone and the quarterback position will be wide open for the 2015 season. QB Coach Dan Werner will have fun in spring training with the battle, which will most likely be between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade. Who will win it nobody knows yet, but Werner has gone as far as to say he is "pleased with both of them and the way they have progressed." Which one will fit the offense? Will the coaches tweak the offense to accommodate their skill sets? Is there a possibility of a two-QB year on the way? Nobody knows at this point, and most are just going to enjoy the time left with Wallace, but it's never too early to plan ahead. Meanwhile, they both get equal backup reps in practice for now.

* We had a note or two about redshirt progress yesterday. Here are a couple of more from S&C Coach Paul Jackson. . . WR Demore'ea Stringfellow is "extremely strong," easily the strongest WR on the team. It is anticipated he will reach the coveted 400 bench by the time spring training rolls around. That would be a bench higher than Donte Moncrief, now in the NFL and the previous holder of the "strongest receiver" title. . . . Redshirt freshman DT Breeland Speaks played high school ball at 275-280 pounds. He's now 308. That's a little heavy, but Jackson believes Speaks can be very effective in the 300 range. That won't be hard to attain in the offseason program.

* Redshirt Wide Receiver Dayall Harris continues to impress the Rebel defensive coaches as a scout team wideout. "He gives us fits," said DC Dave Wommack. "I tell our DBs, if they can cover Dayall, they can cover just about anyone in our conference. I think he has that bright of a future."

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