Thin and thinner

There is no truth to the rumor that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley told his team prior to its first offensive series vs. UAB last Saturday: "OK, everybody who's healthy, get out there."

That may happen before the season ends, however.

Tennessee lost two projected defensive line starters - end Ben Martin and tackle Marlon Walls - to preseason injuries. Six more guys who started Game 1 - center Cody Pope, guard JerQuari Schofield, wideout Gerald Jones, tailback Tauren Poole, linebacker Herman Lathers and cornerback Art Evans - missed most or all of Game 4 vs. UAB due to injuries.

Dooley gave the Vols Sunday and Monday off in hopes that some of the walking wounded can heal in time to play Saturday at LSU. Martin and Walls appear out for the year. Schofield and Pope are unlikely to play this week. Dooley is hopeful regarding the other four.

"Art Evans, Herman Lathers, Tauren Poole and Gerald Jones will be day-to-day," he said. "We'll find out more tomorrow (Tuesday), but there's a chance all four of them could play. And we need them to play."

The Vols really miss Jones, who caught six passes for 86 yards in the opener but broke a bone in his hand and hasn't played since. He'll be practicing this week with a splint on the injured hand.

Although Jones has been cleared for action vs. LSU, Dooley says he's reluctant to say Jones is ready to play when "I haven't seen him run a route or hit somebody."

Tennessee is converting just 18.97 percent of the time on third down, a figure which ranks 119th out of 120 teams nationally. The return of a possession receiver like Jones could be a big plus on third down.

""I hope so," Dooley said. "I do. I think the first couple of third downs of the year we hit Gerald."

The coach is correct. Jones' receptions produced UT's first two third-down conversions of the season. In fact, four of his six Game 1 catches came on third down.

Jones also handled Tennessee's punt returns in Game 1 but Dooley isn't inclined to try him in that role anytime soon.

"I probably won't put him back there right away," the coach said. "We need to get him playing receiver."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories