"The biggest thing we are trying to do right now is evaluate our wounded," said Coach David Cutcliffe after Tuesday's two-hour, full-pad workout. "We tried to get some snaps for some kids who are nicked and bruised and get some evaluations on their possible readiness for Saturday. We are going to need all hands on board against Tennessee.
"We will have to be at our best. The players who were able to practice had real good work today. The team seems focused and intense. They understand the challenge they are facing. Tennessee will be the most balanced team we have faced, across the board. They are good in every phase of the game.
"Tomorrow will be a big day for us in terms of execution. We have stressed the first two days of this week doing a better job of executing third downs on offense and of executing better in pass defense. Tomorrow we will intensify our execution demands. We will be in a lot of situations of our best players against each other in order to try to simulate a game as closely as we can."
Besides Cutcliffe coaching at UT for 17 years, DE Coach Marion Hobby was a star player for the Vols, as was WR Coach T.D. Woods. T.D. gave the "Winning Edge" speech to the team prior to practice and it focused on, well, focus.
"I have been on the other side of the fence in this matchup and I can tell you Tennessee is talking among themselves about coming in here and beating you as badly as they can," he said. "When they come out of that tunnel, they are going to mean business. They are going to try to take the crowd out of the game and physically punish you. They can't do it if you are ready to play. The way to get ready to play is to have intense, focused practices today, tomorrow and Thursday. Get it done now and come Saturday you will have no regrets."
Hobby said the matchup has no personal significance to him. "This is another SEC game for me. We have a chance to get a big win and stay near the top of the SEC race. It is no different to me than the Auburn game, Alabama game or LSU game. They are all important and they are all battles to the end," he said.
Watching the Rebel defense practice against the scout team today, there was something that was very evident - the Rebel frontline defenders get a realistic look in the passing game every day when they face freshman QB Paul Eck. "Paul does some freshman things out there," said Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach, who probably sees more of Eck than anyone else, "but that is to be expected. At times, he looks real good. He throws a very nice ball - good release, tight spiral, good accuracy - and he has a very good deep ball. He gives us a great look and is valuable to us."
All three varsity QBs ran the one and two offenses today - Ethan Flatt, Micheal Spurlock and Robert Lane. "All three have done a nice job this week thus far. I think last week's opportunity to play motivated all three of them and they are all jockeying for more playing time. It's a healthy situation," said Cut. "I like what I have seen from all three of them." Will Cut play all three again? He's not ready to answer that, but from the practice routine thus far it appears very likely.
* PK Jonathan Nichols - bruised toe - sat out again today but, like last week when he sat practices out, he is expected to handle field goal and PAT duties against UT. In his absence, Matt Hinkle made all four of his field goal attempts in "live" drills today and Hunter Bray made three of four, his only miss being from 40 yards. It has already been decided that Wesley Bryan, who kicked off against SC for Nichols, will kickoff against Tennessee.
* LG Doug Buckles - sore back - dressed out today and went through some drills, but was held out of all contact drills. He is expected to play Saturday. In his absence, Tony Bonds moved to number one left guard when RT Tre' Stallings - sprained ankle - was available. Tre' tried to go in some individual full contact drills today, but couldn't. After about 30 minutes, he was held out of practice, but is expected to play some against UT. When he and Buckles were out, Bonds moved to RG, Marcus Johnson moved to RT and James McCoy worked at the number one left guard.
* SS Kelvin Robinson - bruised shoulder - was in a yellow jersey today, signifying no contact, but he went through all drills with the number one defense. He just didn't hit when the play came his way. He anticipates playing against the Vols.
* DE Corvelli Haynes - shoulder bruise - was also in a yellow jersey today and was held out of contact drills. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
* FB Rick Razzano - bruised thigh - was in a yellow jersey today, but he went through most drills and is expected to play Saturday.
* DT Chris Herring - calf muscle pull - dressed out and did a lot of individual work - including one-on-one contact work - but he was held out of team drills. His status is questionable for the game Saturday, but it appears he is well on his way to a full recovery. How soon remains to be seen but the progress is evident.
* WR Mike Espy - sprained ankle - did not practice again today, but he is expected to try to practice tomorrow. He is questionable for the game. With Espy out, B. Brown and Taye Biddle fielded punts. Most likely, Brown will handle punt return and kickoff return duties if Espy cannot go.
* DE Corey Mills - pulled groin - is out this week and may be out next week. He is not practicing.
TB Jamal Pittman got a few reps with the number one offense and a few more with the twos today and he looked better than anticipated after being hurt a good portion of his six-game suspension. His conditioning is a question mark, but he looked pretty good running the ball in terms of seeing the hole and having some explosiveness.
Practice Report: Tuesday
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