Tennessee preps for Troy

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While East Tennessee is miles away from the eastern seaboard, Hurricane Sandy still found a way to affect football practice in Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday morning.

Cold temperatures swept through East Tennessee causing players to break out the sleeves and hand warmers for practice Tuesday.

"We had a good day today," head coach Derek Dooley said. "It was cold — Frankenstorm reeking havoc on us. We had a good energy and the execution was good. We have to back it up tomorrow."

Quarterback Tyler Bray added that, despite the losses, this team knows how to practice day in and day out, no matter the circumstance.

"The energy was good," Bray said. "This team is starting to figure things out. We have to win these last four games, but it starts with this first one. We have lost a bunch of games in a row and we are just tired of losing. We have been practicing like this for the last three weeks now."

Neal looks to return

Junior running back Rajion Neal continues to get more involved after missing two weeks with an ankle injury suffered during the Vols' 41-31 loss at the hands of Mississippi State in Starkville.

"Rajion looks better," Dooley said. "He is not 100 percent. I would say day-to-day. Rajion could definitely play, but it is just him getting over the mental hurdle."

Neal, who still leads the squad in rushing with 500 yards and five touchdowns, has been itching to get back ever since the injury.

"I wanted to play Alabama, but obviously I couldn't. It is hard to sit back and watch those guys you have worked hard with go out and play," Neal said. "I'm feeling good. I am feeling a whole lot better than I was against Mississippi State. I just have to keep moving and hopefully I will be ready for this one."

The Vols hope that Neal can provide a much-need charge to the rushing attack that has managed to net just 170 yards in their last two contests, combined.

"We were running the ball pretty well," Dooley said. "I don't know how much of a difference he would have made in the last two games. It is hard to say, but certainly we were running it really well and didn't run it as well without him."

Repairing the secondary

Tennessee's defense has been a glaring problem during each of their last four losses and the secondary has been the weakest of all.

Safety has especially been an area of concern ever since the season-ending injury to sophomore Brian Randolph. However, freshman LaDarrell McNeil looks to have secured his spot in the starting line, but the question has become who well play alongside the Texas native.

Byron Moore was the first choice, but Moore was pulled in favor of Rod Wilks and Brent Brewer after some first-half struggles against No. 17 South Carolina.

"(He) just had a couple of breakdowns," Dooley said. "Byron has been playing really good, consistent and steady, but he just had a few breakdowns in the first half that hurt us. He has great character — it hurt him, bothered him. He played better in the second half and he will be fine."

At corner, sophomore Justin Coleman took first-team reps with true freshman Daniel Gray during Tuesday's practice. Senior Prentiss Waggner worked with Marsalis Teague on the second team. Eric Gordon continues to play the STAR position.

Watch as Dooley and select players addressed the media following practice:

Derek Dooley

Tyler Bray

Justin Hunter

Rajion Neal


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