Assistants, coordinators talk Tennessee

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The coaching staff at Tennessee isn't using the bye week as a time to relax and soak up sun rays. Instead they are getting back to the basics teaching the Volunteers to tune up their craft and stressing fundamentals.

In its two losses in five contests this season, the Vols have shown a propensity to give up big plays to opposing offenses. Alignment. Communication. Angles. No matter the reason, defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri is at work correcting the mistakes.

Tennessee held Georgia scoreless in the fourth quarter of its 51-44 loss last Saturday, but that's only a small battle won in a league game in which it allowed 560 total yards.

"The only thing I was truly happy about with this team was they competed till the very end and gave us a chance to win," Sunseri said. "When you create turnovers and you give the opportunity to the offense to score points and you have a chance."

See what else the first-year Tennessee coordinator had to say following Wednesday's workout in the video below:

Getting newcomers and seldom used players more practice reps is another stress of the bye week. It's almost like a mini pre-bowl schedule.

After suffering a lower extremity injury this summer, Vol freshman wide receiver Alton Howard continues to make strides. The team's play caller appears to be equally or more excited than Howard about that progress.

"The last two days he's had fantastic practice days, and he's getting better and better every day he goes on the field," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said.

See what else the fourth-year aide had to say in this video interview:

Another woe that hampered Tennessee last weekend was tackling. A lack of aggressiveness and gearing down too often at the point of attack were contributing factors on several occasions, including at the safety position.

"Where I feel like maybe I failed as a position coach is I didn't is I thought I understood how good they can be," safeties coach Josh Conklin said. "And I believe this, I believe they can be a good unit on defense but I don't know if necessarily they believe it. I thought they did."

Conklin spoke about tackling, freshman LaDarrell McNeil and other topics in this film:

Alex Bullard and Marcus Jackson continue to log more time along the offensive front. The way the staff sees it, seven blockers is better than five. Rolling in the pair with the starters appears to be paying off.

"I think it helped us a bunch on Saturday," first-year Vol offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "I really do. It was hot. It was 85 snaps. We were able to get Marcus in there. Of course Bullard has been playing the heavy tight end and he played tackle the week before. I just think it's helped us stay fresher and it's going to help us in the future if we ever have an injury or anything of that nature."

Take a look at what Pittman said in this interview at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center:

Coach Derek Dooley mentioned in Athens, Ga., that there may be personnel changes by the time Tennessee kicks off against Mississippi State in Starkville on Oct. 13. A position where the competition is fierce is at cornerback.

Assistant coach Derrick Ansley is keeping a close eye who is competing at the highest level. A pair of freshmen — Deion Bonner and Daniel Gray — are pushing the veterans. The next several practice present them with an even greater opportunity to show Ansley and the staff that they belong on the field.

"Bye week is all about us," Ansley said. "We're not trying to worry about Mississippi State. We're not trying to game plan those guys. We're trying to work on getting Tennessee better as fundamental football players."

Ansley, a former Div. I cornerback himself, touched on the competition at his position and other aspects of the island in this interview:

With a net of 197 rushing yards on 40 attempts versus a talented Georgia defense, the Vol ground game took another step forward in being the passing attack's best friend. Some of that credit belongs to running backs coach Jay Graham. However, the former UT runner is far from being satisfied.

"The thing we've been working on is just ways to break tackles, just working on our game, finishing drills, things to get us an extra yard," Graham said.

Have a look at what else Graham had to say Wednesday in this video:

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