The Volunteers seem to be drifting somewhere between fall camp and game week, something that seems to be affecting the team's focus.
Derek Dooley says it's an epidemic that sweeps through programs during this point in the preseason.
"This is a tough time. We are in the ‘tweener' zone," said Dooley. "We started school so we are kind of out of camp, but we're really a week and a half into the game prep. Focus is really an issue during that time and it is everywhere."
Dooley added that a lack of focus was an issue among his players during Friday's workout.
"Today was kind of our typical Thursday in-season practice," said Dooley. "We really have to work on our ability to focus. A lot of mistakes out there, mental errors and I think it's part of maturing as a player."
Dooley said the players have to be the ones to fix mental errors at times when coaches can't help a student-athlete.
"There are a lot of reasons for mental errors," he said. "Either you don't listen in the meetings, you don't take notes, you don't work extra hours to study what to do or you can't focus when you get here."
Dooley and his staff are limited to 20 hours a week by NCAA rules. That includes meetings, practice, workouts, etc. While that may seem like a lot Dooley said there is extra time that is necessary to be successful.
"You can only get so much in with 20 hours a week," said Dooley. "The good players that I have always been around understand the importance of investing time outside on their own.
"All you can do is try to emphasize the importance of that. When they make mistakes we don't look the other way, we confront them. We have an expectation that they know what to do."
Dooley said the lack of focus wasn't isolated to any one part of his team.
"It was a collective effort. It's just an ability to focus more than anything," said Dooley.
"I told these guys it's not a dumb man's game. You have to be intelligent, be smart and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. We have got to do a better job of that."
The Volunteers will enter Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon for their last scrimmage of the season. Dooley can't emphasize enough the importance of Saturday's workout.
"Well, all I can tell them is that this is a critical scrimmage as it relates to evaluating personnel, what we are going to do schematically and who we are going to play the first few games," said Dooley. "If that can't motivate them I don't know what else can."
For any newcomers, freshmen or Volunteers looking to make an impact early in the season Saturday will be vital to their mission.
"It's important if you want to play the first few games you have to play well tomorrow," said Dooley.
Dooley and the Vols will begin practice in Neyland Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday.