In ‘Alumni Analysis,' fans will be able to hear from former gridiron Vols on various issues concerning the Orange and White. Read as we bring you in-depth analysis from former Vols Terry Fair, Jabari Davis and Eric Westmoreland.
Q: Explain the mental progress of a freshman like Justin Coleman to go from losing his starting job to having quality practice reps and starting again.
A: "Coming in I think Justin Coleman had a great camp and had everything you need to compete with all the guys that were here. He stood out, had the size, had the frame, had the quickness and could play the corner. He had all the intangibles."
"I think when you come in as a freshman and you start like he did, confidence is huge because it is so different when you are out on the field in a game than when you are in practice. In a game, as a freshman, you might lose a little bit because being in that stadium is something that you are not used to so you have to maintain that confidence. I think he lost that confidence early on and they didn't have a lot of patience with him, nor do I think they had a lot of patience with the team."
"When he got taken out I think that shatters your confidence a little bit because I think what that says is ‘We don't think you can get the job done yet.' I know they like his skills a lot, they like everything that he brings to the table, so his mindset has to be to continue to work."
"He is going to get called on again to come in and contribute. He has already done that and I think he has done well. I think he has learned a lot since the beginning of the season. You can see the confidence that he is playing with when he does get into the game. He has had a couple of break-ups when he does get into the game when he does get in there. He is really learning how to play the position and it is going to make a world on difference in Year 2."
Q: On the other side, explain where Maralis Teague is mentally right now after having lost his job and what he has to do to get back.
A: "I think with Marsalis Teague, expectations were high with Teague coming into the season and you would think he was just settling into that role this season. His body was changing into that of a defensive player to where he knew what he was going to have to do as far as tackling so physically you have to be a lot different. With Marsalis, he has had some trouble with his confidence and his technique."
"You hear a lot of things about Marsalis — he is not a fast guy. You don't have to be a fast guy to play the corner, but you have to play with unbelievable technique, energy and confidence because you are in no-man's land a lot. You are out on your own a lot. Your makeup has to be a lot different than anyone else out there. If you get beat you have to say, ‘I have to come back and make the next play.' You have to win more than you lose at the corner and if it becomes a problem that you are losing more than you are winning, as it was with Marsalis, which is when you lose the confidence."
"He is going to have to continue to work. He has the skills to play the position. He just has to continue to play with technique. You get that technique by going out and working every day at the things that you are uncomfortable with as a football player. That is how you become comfortable with those things. You get it together in practice, you compete and you want to go against the best receivers we have out there."
"I think he can get it back, but there is going to come a time where Marsalis Teague is called on to come of the bench and he is going to have to make a few plays. Then once you make a few plays as a corner you can regain that confidence quickly. The key is bouncing back when you are called on again and giving the coaching staff the confidence to throw you out there again."
Q: What does it say for Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnsonto be starting Day 1 in the SEC at a school like Tennessee?
A: "I would think that it means a lot for both of them to be a part of one of the most prestigious programs in the nation. They both have done a courageous job making plays and doing the things they are suppose to be doing on and off the field, which is going to only make them better in the long run."
"I look for both of them to be dominant player throughout the years to come and also linebackers that you will know after they are gone from the university."
Q: How much of a mental adjustment is it going from high school ball where you just read the ball carrier and hit someone to having to deal with much more play-action and tight ends that can run and dropping into coverage.
A: "I think with their athletic ability they are able to do a lot of different things, which are play the run, coverage the pass and do a lot of blitzing. They are very sound in what they are doing and obviously they have had a great learning experience. You don't have a lot of freshmen playing in the SEC or in any conference unless they are in tune with what is happening on the defensive side of the ball. They have to be very smart, which they are."
Q: When your offense is averaging 10.2 points per game against league foes, how much pressure does the 'D' feel to pitch a shutout and create turnovers?
A: "It definitely puts the defense in a hole, but as a defensive player you always have to have a mindset to go out there and stop the opponent. We used to always have a saying at Tennessee that field goals don't beat you. Anytime a team gets into the red zone you have to make sure that you hold them to field goals and keep them out of the end zone."
Q: Ranking 118th in the country in rushing offense, how tough is it for a running back to maintain composure?
A: "It is definitely tough, but you can't just dwell on it. I talked to Tauren Poole in the locker room after the game Saturday and told him to keep his head up."
"They have to look forward to these last couple of games and trying to finish out strong, getting everything where it needs to be with the running, the blocking and try to finish."
"The running game is struggling, but you can't just keep worrying about that. You have to do what you can do. You have to keep running the ball strong and hard. You have to continue to compete and try to strive for more each week."
Q: After averaging just 1.2 yards per carry last week against MTSU, what does Tauren Poole need to do in order to improve his running?
A: "From what I have seen, he has been doing a decent job and has been doing better these last few games. I would like to see him get going a little more north/south. There were some runs against Middle Tennessee where he was still looking for the cut back when he needed to just keep running."
"I would just like to see him make one move and get up field. I know he is trying for the cutback, but in this conference you have to be north/south, make one move, get past the first level, stick that foot on the ground, lower those shoulders and try and get a few extra yards.
"The game is not played going east and west. It is played going north and south. You won't make it doing all those cut backs in this conference. To win games you have to be physical, lower the shoulder pads and give somebody the boom."
Q: How tough is it to recruit a top-notch back to UT with only a GA leading the position?
A: "There have been a lot of people talking to me about that. A lot of people have talked to me about maybe trying to get up there and coach because I have been doing all these running back academies and working different camps. I train a lot of running backs in high school now. It has been something I have been thinking about."
"It is kind of tough for them to not have a full-on running backs coach that has worked with a lot of backs that people recognize. We have to do something. We have some good backs that we have signed or have committed. I like the kid Imani Cross. He reminds me a lot of myself, he can breaks tackles and has some speed to get to the outside and take it to the house."
"It would be kind of tough recruiting a top running back not having the coach with those credentials that kids want to play for. When I was getting recruited by coach (Phillip) Fulmer, I saw what he did with Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Travis Stephens and other running backs he had coached and that made my decision a lot easier."
"In the offseason there might need to be some thought as to bringing in someone who can recruit those top running back recruits."
No. 13 Terry Fair: Defensive back and return specialist 1994-1997. Fair started as a freshman for the Vols and never looked back. He recorded 163 tackles, 11 interceptions and returned two punts for touchdowns. Fair was selected in the first round of the NFL by the Detroit Lions and spent eight years in the league.
No. 34 Jabari Davis: Running back 2001-2004. Davis rushed for 1,228 yards for the Orange and White and got to the checkerboard 22 times for the Vols. Davis spent one season in the NFL with the Chicago Bears.
No. 42 Eric Westmoreland: Linebacker 1997-2000. Westmoreland was a pivotal player in Tennessee's '98 National Championship game. He finished second in tackles that season with 79. His career stats totaled 253 tackles and 34 tackles for loss. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Westmoreland in the third round of the NFL Draft.