Tennessee Football: 9 Items on the Summer "to-Do" List
We all do it. There's something of great importance that just has to be done so we it write down, and before you know it, you've added something else important etc. etc. And poof! You have a to-do list.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley will want to use every last moment of summer camp to make sure he checks every task on his list. With new help and talent in the stable, there is plenty of unanswered questions.
The defense needs work, and so does the offense and...well, the whole team has areas for improvement. So with time running out, what are Dooley's most crucial items on his check list?
Beef Up the QB
By now, everybody in the NCAA community is sick of hearing about this, but I'm going to say it again.
They need to fatten up Bray right now. Does anybody remember what happened to Eric Ainge in that fateful game against Notre Dame in 2004? Same build and height, final play of the first half and a sack with a separated shoulder; not to mention a knee surgery, with ailments throughout his collegiate career.
Weight-room and calories, weight-room and calories, all summer long. If he's sweating on field, then sit him in the shade and give him some ice-cream. And yes, I am aware that he made it through last season unscathed, but he also didn't start every game. Just look at Matt Simms' concussion X-rays and you see who took the most punishment.
Bray can be great, but he has to get thicker. He would be safe at 240.
Have a Sit-Down with OC Jim Chaney
Jim Chaney's offense collectively outscored their opponent last season 351-326, and their 6-7 record is reflective of that. For SEC comparison outscored opponents: Auburn 557-337, Alabama 464-176, Georgia 417-287, Florida 388-277, LSU 386-237.
The moral of the story is you can't win ballgames in the SEC by getting close. The overall scheme needs adjustments, and time is running out.
And, as much as we all like to joke about Charlie Weis and his tenure at Notre Dame, he is the same OC that helped coach the Patriots through three Superbowl wins. The big man can run an offense, and the Gator defense has virtually the same talent as last year, which is a problem. This a pivotal game for the Vols. A win here could spell a huge moral victory for both sides of the Vol ball, but the offense needs to bigger than the Gators all the around. Weis will be a good measuring stick for Chaney.
Keep DC Justin Wilcox Happy
As I previously said in another article, I won't continue to defend Wilcox for things he has not done. That being said, Derek Dooley will have to allow Wilcox to do his job without interfering.
Now I'm not suggesting that he hand the keys to his office, but he should most definitely stay out of his way. There will be ample time to evaluate performance when Montana is sent limping home.
Wilcox needs room to breath and free-lance without being told his methods need tweaking.
Keep Terry Joseph on the Road
With two commitments in the bank, there is still room in the account for a lot more.
Whatever it takes in the legal process of recruiting needs to be utilized yesterday. To stay competitive in the SEC, you can't depend on coaching up your players when five-star recruits are running through the door into Florida, Georgia and Auburn.
Don't come back until their mom and dad cook your dinner. And if you see Auburn's recruiting coordinator Trooper Taylor, call the police on him as a suspected terrorist. By the time Guantanamo figures it out, the season will already be under way, and Trooper will finally know how treason is supposed to be treated.
Get the Offensive Linemen Leaner
The key focus this summer is to get those front men in shape and ready to do the Ironman.
It's common knowledge that offensive linemen are big beefy guys that never turn down a meal. This season should be an exception. Strip off that fat and make them lean.
The QB's need their protection. If the front can't protect Bray and open the holes for Poole, the season will be over before it's started.
Note: McKeefery stripped down USF linemen so lean that in his first season as head conditioner, they averaged in at 15 percent. That is extremely lean for a lineman.
Push Receivers to Be More Competitive
I'm all for camaraderie, but the receivers need to step up their game.
Less than mediocre is the first thought that comes to me when I reflect on the spring game. The receivers were straying from their routes and couldn't catch rain in a bucket.
Hopefully, the new recruits coming in will spark a better competitive spirit instead of hamming it for the media and testing your new group rap skills on the reporters.
Prepare Brendan Downs to Start
Michael Ryvera will need to suck it up and sit behind Brendan Downs.
The true freshman is already exhibiting the similar traits as Jason Witten and Luke Stocker. He can catch high and bring his body back into a run with great fluidity. Incoming recruit Cameron Clear is said to be equally as talented, but with the way recruiting is going, you might want to give Mr. Clear a redshirt and save him for a rainy day.
Downs has the size and strength; work on his running then lock him in the film room with Bray.
Make Daniel Hood Stronger
I have abundantly made it clear to any reader that follows my articles that I am big advocate for Daniel Hood. The reason is I believe he can be a great (fill position here).
Hood will be an All-American; you can mark my words. He is one of the most disciplined athletes and students I have had the pleasure to come across. Eschew his past, and embrace the young man wearing orange.
Since moving over from TE to NG, he has packed on an extra 30 pounds, which will serve his 6'6" frame, now at 300 lbs., well. Put him on the sled and make him squat Cadillacs all summer. He is already a powerhouse, and anything extra will make him a freak of nature.
Expect a lot of nervous centers and plenty of sacks to go with it.
Prepare Justin Worley to Start
This is by far the easiest task for Derek Dooley to check off his list.
Worley is already way ahead of where Bray was a freshman as far as being prepared goes. He knows his playbook, and the athleticism is simply icing on the cake. In the spring game, he demonstrated that he could put the ball where it needs to be. The trick of this is really preparing the receivers for him, because he knows their routes better than they do.
Kick Bray out of the film room and lock Worley in with the receivers, Jim Chaney and QB coach Darin Hinshaw. By summer-end, you will have an ace in the hole.
Note: Thirteen other schools were recruiting Worley to start as a true freshman when he committed to Tennessee.