New mailman

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It has been no secret that the Tennessee quarterbacks have used a shovel to grab a few shotgun snaps this season and it looks as though Derek Dooley has made a change.

Dating back to the Florida loss, James Stone has struggled at center when snapping the ball to both Tyler Bray and Matt Simms in the shotgun formation, but this week Notre Dame transfer and former guard Alex Bullard will get a shot at being the mailman.

"We are just trying to find the right pieces," Dooley said. "I don't think it's any secret that James has been inconsistent on the gun snaps and we can't not get in the shotgun.

"We will look at him a little bit and James has played some guard before. It is not something you want to do, but it's also something that when you have a pattern you have to be able to not be afraid to take some action."

Bullard will get the start just in time to face what Dooley called one of the best defenses in the modern era of football, but sometimes rolling the dice is necessary as a head coach according to Dooley.

"You run the risk of having growing pains, but one of the real challenges as a coach is coaching the right guys in the right spots and trusting the development," Dooley said.

Stone and Bullard will actually just swap spots and stay side-by-side. And although Alabama's defense will be as tough as they come, Bullard's approach will stay the same.

"It is my first game going against one of the best defenses in the country at center, but one of our big things is focusing on what we have to do," Bullard said. "My focus this week is to make the calls, communicate and get the ball to the quarterback."

Although Bullard has never started a college game at the position he was ready to do what is best for the team.

"The coaches called my number, they said ‘we need to do this,' and if they didn't think this was the best chance that we had to win then I doubt they would be doing it," Bullard said. "You just have to trust in them, and we are rolling with it. I felt good today doing it."

While it may be his first game at the position, Bullard does have experience snapping the ball to Matt Simms dating back to the summer before Ju'Wuan James got mono and Bullard was forced to help elsewhere. And the Vols new starting quarterback is glad they have had the reps.

"I would have to say the one positive thing is that in the summertime we did get a lot of reps because he was working in and out with the twos, but really there is not a big difference," Simms said. "They are both extremely physical players at center. It is pretty much the same thing.

"In the shotgun, I guess the coaches feel that he is a little more consistent with the snaps and I guess that's why they made the switch."

Entering the fall, it just didn't seem like the right time to hand over the reins to Bullard according to Dooley, but the inconsistencies couldn't be ignored regardless of who the Vols we squaring off with in Week 7.

"If you guys remember, we did this back in the summer," Dooley said. "I think that Alex was so new into the system that it was hard for us to bounce him back and forth. We had a guy (Stone) that had six games under his belt and it just didn't make sense at the time."

Dooley and the Volunteers will continue to work their new offensive line and game plan for No. 2 Alabama on Wednesday morning at 9.

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