The Tennessee football team endured a physical practice Thursday afternoon at Haslam Field amidst controversy surrounding three teammates who were allegedly involved in a robbery attempt Thursday morning.
According to the coaches, the off-the-field storylines provided no distractions for a team preparing hard for a tough opponent on the road in Ole Miss.
Head Coach Lane Kiffin:
Since becoming head coach at Tennessee, Lane Kiffin has certainly scored a victory with the Volunteers off the field when it came to limiting player legal issues.
The head coach went 11 months and 11 days without an off-the-field incident until early Thursday morning.
"We're gathering all the information so we don't know exactly what happened. Unfortunately there was an incident," Kiffin said. "We'll deal with this as information comes in."
"Prentiss has practiced really well, Darren was out here moving around better today, had not moved around very much all week," Kiffin said. "We'll have to test them out tomorrow and on game day."
"Darren had two issues, one it was his hip, the other his back," Kiffin added. "The hip's going to be the major thing."
"We're going to have to go Saturday, see how he feels out there," Kiffin said. "We'll watch them warm up, make a decision."
"This is a long process, it's one game at a time and one season at a time," Kiffin said. "We're not worried about that."
The coach refused to acknowledge the recent off-field issues as a distraction to the team in preparation for Saturday's game.
"Like I said that incident, and what we're doing and the way that we are preparing was totally irrelevant in today's practice," Kiffin said. "It's adversity, it's life, it's football. You've got to perform well and stay focused."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney
"Its tough, that's an awesome defensive line," Jim Chaney said. "Some teams have good interior players. Some teams have good defensive ends. They have both."
Richard and Sullins are expected to continue to split repetitions, according to Chaney.
"Whoever is playing the best will continue to play," Chaney added.
The Tennessee offense has certainly shown vast improvement over the last few games, putting up its most points (89) in a two-game stretch in the last two weeks against Memphis and South Carolina.
"I think we're clicking, right now as well as we have been all fall," Chaney said. "They've got some swagger and confidence, they're having fun playing football. When you get to that point you're playing pretty good football."
This has been highlighted by the excellent play of Jonathan Crompton, whose career night against Memphis included 331 yards and five touchdowns.
"When you're willing to take shots down the field on early down distances, you feel comfortable the quarterback will make good decisions," Chaney said. "Jonathan's controlling the ball really well with his decisions."
In the SEC, ball control has always proven to be a deciding factor in the survival of road teams, and Chaney could not agree more.
Tennessee forced three turnovers in the first half against South Carolina, which led to three quick scores and suddenly put the Gamecocks into comeback mode, which they never recovered from.
"Coach Kiffin doesn't go a day without talking about ball security," Chaney said. "The kids have understood that and they also understand that they won't play if the ball's loose."
Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin
With Janzen Jackson expected to miss Saturday's game against Ole Miss, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin touched on backups and game plan.
"They haven't played a whole lot, but they're getting better," Monte Kiffin said. "It's the same way at (middle) linebacker, the only way you get experience is to play. We have so many young guys, who haven't played a lot."
Monte Kiffin touched on the middle linebacker position again when speaking about freshmen Herman Lathers, who recently took over the position for second-string after Savion Frazier suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The middle linebacker position is the defensive play caller in Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense.
"It will be a big test for him no doubt about it," Monte Kiffin said. "The middle linebacker has to make the calls, make adjustments, but he's looking forward to it."
Defensive line coach and associate head coach Ed Orgeron has been a center of attention in the past week's preparations. Orgeron was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-2007.
"He always has a lot of enthusiasm," Monte Kiffin said. "I don't care who you're playing, Coach O, between recruiting and coaching, he's fired up."
Monte Kiffin shared Lane Kiffin's sentiment that recent off-field issues were not a factor in today's practice.
"We always practice good on Thursday. Tomorrow we'll have a good practice before we take off," Monte Kiffin said.