Picking up the pieces

Derek Dooley and the Tennessee offense are going to have to adjust to life after losing Justin Hunter. Read as Tyler Bray, Da'Rick Rogers and others talk about to adjusting the offense to keep moving forward without their No. 1 wide receiver.

No doubt that the Tennessee football faithful was looking forward to watching the special season that sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter was in the process of putting together.

That was all taken away in an instant when Hunter went down following a 12-yard catch on the fourth offensive play of the game for Tennessee in Gainesville.

Now the Volunteer offense must focus on how to keep the ball moving without its "go-to" wide receiver.

"Everybody has got to step up," wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers said Tuesday at Haslam Field. "I think today everyone realizes how different things are going to be."

Hunter, through two games, led the Southeastern Conference with 306 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Things seemed nearly indefensible with Hunter on one side and Rogers on the other, but all that is going to have to change.

"I just felt like when you had Justin and I on both sides, then Tauren Poole and Mychal Rivera underneath it was just hard to cover everything," Rogers said. "You couldn't really jump on one thing. Now you have to work a lot harder to get open.

"The defenses are going to shade me a little more, but I just have to come out and work hard — show the rest of the guys how you have to play because you are only a play away."

Rogers has reeled in 262 yards and reached the end zone four times during his sophomore campaign.

After Hunter's injury during the Florida game, sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray was able to spread the ball around to nine different receivers.

"We are still going to look at things the same way and try to spread the ball around, so they can't just key on one guy," Bray said.

Bray added that it won't just need to be the receiving corps that needs to elevate their game.

"We are going to have to step up as a whole offensive unit. It showed everywhere, from my decisions, the line, the running backs and the receivers — we didn't play well at all," he said.

Hunter did join the Volunteers at practice Tuesday morning with a smile on his face on a pair of crutches.

"I think it helps a lot, from a visual standpoint, I think it helps the team to look over and see him smiling," Rogers said. "It gives them a little more hope."

Freshman wideout DeAnthony Arnett was able to step in and collect 59 yards on eight catches. And it will be crucial for Arnett and the other receivers to help replace the irreplaceable.

"It is imperative," Rogers said. "If they don't (step up), who knows where the offense goes. Those guys have to step up. Everyone has to play at a higher level now because we did lose an impact player."

One thing is for certain — Tennessee will have to improve its preparation efforts through the rest of the week. Even from several hundred yards away it was evident that coach Derek Dooley wasn't happy with the team's effort during practice.

Dooley and the Vols practice Wednesday morning at 9.


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