No finger-pointing zone

The Florida game is not the most imposing threat on Tennessee's agenda this week; the blame game is.

Just as great accomplishments often occur when no one cares who gets the credit, great disasters often occur when someone starts getting the blame. That could be a problem for the Vols, since there was some finger-pointing among the players in the wake of last Saturday's 19-15 loss to UCLA.

It's no secret that Tennessee's defense played well enough to win vs. the Bruins; it's no secret that Tennessee's offense did not. Whether the finger-pointing was directed at the offense as a whole or at a particular player is not known. This much is known: The blame game can destroy a team in no time flat. That's why team leaders are moving to quell the finger-pointing.

"We just have to nip it in the bud very fast," junior defensive end Chris Walker said this week. "That's a thing that can tear a team apart the fastest. I think that's something we've recognized. We didn't see very much of it, but we want to nip it in the bud very quickly so it doesn't happen."

Senior linebacker Rico McCoy redshirted as a freshman on the 2005 Tennessee team that fell victim to some internal strife en route to a 5-6 season. He's determined that won't happen again.

"Guys are staying pretty tight right now," he said. "I'm watching that closely."

Reportedly, the finger-pointing after the UCLA setback was limited to two or three players.

"There wasn't as much bickering in the locker room after the game," McCoy said. "Of course, you had a couple of guys but we're like, 'Come on, it's over. There's nothing you can do about that game. We've got another game to come and many more to come after that.'"

With the SEC opener at top-ranked Florida coming up this Saturday, the Vols may need to play their best just to keep the game competitive. One thing they cannot afford is turmoil within the team.

"We're focused on the task at hand," McCoy said. "If you're looking at the past you can't help us right now. That's the attitude the older guys have to have, and we're spreading it among the younger guys: 'Learn from your mistakes and move on. Let's try to make it a great season.'"

Head coach Lane Kiffin believes the finger-pointing was confined to a few players who have been shown the error of their ways. He is convinced the locker-room flare-up was an isolated incident and that the Vols will present a united front Saturday in Gainesville.

"We're great," he said. "I think that was just a mentality for whatever reason they were used to. That's not what we (new coaches) are used to, so they needed to understand that. It was only a couple of guys. I don't think it's an issue at all."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories