The Volunteers endured a tough practice Thursday at Haslam Field, reeling from their toughest loss of the season, a 41-17 drubbing at the hands of Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.
Head Coach Lane Kiffin
Holes on defense continue to haunt the Volunteers, who again took a hit at the linebacker position when Lamarcus Thompson went down last Saturday late in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss.
Thompson was carted off the field on a stretcher, however X-rays returned negative as coaches went on to refer to the injury as a stinger. The junior linebacker was limited in practice all week.
Cornerback and return man Dennis Rogan was also limited in practice this week while recovering from a leg injury.
"Lamarcus and Dennis did not do very much today," Lane Kiffin said. "They'll still be game time decisions. We'll get some other guys some reps; hopefully they'll be able to go on game day."
Walk-on Tyler Wolf could play safety for the Volunteers if Rogan is not ready to go.
"He could start if some of those defensive backs don't come back," Kiffin said. "Tyler will probably play a lot Saturday night."
Vanderbilt comes into Neyland Stadium averaging 16.4 points a game, one of the worst in the SEC offensively.
However one of Vandy's biggest scoring threats is on kick returns, an area the Volunteers have struggled with this season, ranking 103rd in yards allowed on kickoffs.
Commodores running back Warren Norman has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year, all while racking up 710 yards rushing.
"I think he's really good," Kiffin said. "He's on pace to set the freshman record all-time in the SEC for total yards. We've played some great kick returners, and we struggled early, done much better lately."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney
Cory Sullins and Vlad Richard have continued to share repetitions at offensive guard throughout the season, a trend offensive coach Jim Chaney believes will continue.
"We'll continue to play it the way we have," Chaney said. "I think Cory will be starting the ball game, Coach will make that decision tomorrow."
The senior quarterback threw for 176 yards on 20-of-37 passing with two touchdowns against the Rebels, finishing with the lowest quarterback rating he had produced since Week 3 against Florida.
"I thought he was excellent," Chaney said. "He's throwing it where he needs to throw it. He was all over."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Vanderbilt has enjoyed success defensively this season, ranking seventh in pass defense, 60th in total defense nationally.
"It's going to be a challenge, those guys are coached really hard," Chaney said. "You look at their scoring defense and nobody wraps up a lot of points on those guys. We'll have to be very smart up front."
The Volunteers aren't just seeking their sixth victory Saturday, but also looking to secure a bowl bid by defeating Vanderbilt.
"I'm not mentioning a bowl one time nor will I," Chaney said. "To me it's one game at a time. Those bowls, that's an administrative thing. My job is to try to get one more point than they get."
Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin
The Volunteers defense is looking to rebound after allowing their most points on the season against Ole Miss last Saturday.
With holes in the secondary and linebacker positions, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is not fazed and expects the Tennessee defense to pick up where it left off.
"That was tough, but you got to put it behind you," Monte Kiffin said. "We've been really good at showing up every week, but last week was unacceptable."
A lot of attention has been put on junior defensive back Eric Berry this week, who some believe will be making his final appearance at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
Many expect the All-American and All-SEC player to declare for the NFL Draft come spring 2010.
Even when approached about the possibility of losing his most productive defensive player, Monte Kiffin could only laugh and remain optimistic.
"I just talk to him sometimes and say ‘Gosh Eric, just think, next year we do that and send you on the blitz, boy wouldn't that be fun!', but that's about as far as it goes," Monte Kiffin joked. "Right now we're just worried about this week. I just know Eric Berry, he's the best. I'm not just saying that, what a team guy."