Tuesday lunch (9.6.11): Rocky Top ear ringing

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After two hours of hearing Rocky Top blared so loud they can actually hear it in Knoxville, my eardrums are going into a rehab program.

The Bearcats were blasting the catchy little tune during an intense practice session Tuesday. Plenty of yelling, screaming, running and working going on out there. The intensity level has clearly jumped a few notches at Nippert.

"It's not just the noise, it's all the distractions," Drew Frey said. "It's how do you communicate without being able to hear your teammates. I think that is going to help carry us through Saturday."

Players I talked to aren't quite sick of it yet. Myself, on the other hand....

I think this about describes what I would rather do.

--- Butch Jones talked about what a win at Tennessee would mean for the program. He said it would bring "instant credibility." No doubt about that. Much needed credibility from my angle. The stench of 4-8 is tough to wash off. A win at UT would be the equivalent of a dip in a life-size bottle of Febreeze. Mmmmm, lemon fresh. 

I'll delve deeper into that topic with a post later this week. For now, here is some of what Jones had to say on the topic.

"It's instant credibility when you play a team like Tennessee with their great tradition. We can't get ahead of ourselves. I'm looking forward to it because I think it is a great measuring stick. Not many people have won on the road at that stadium."

For the record, UT is 10-5 at Neyland Stadium the last two years. They have also won five consecutive regular season games.

--- I did talk a little bit more with Frey and Derek Wolfe about Saturday's game. Sure, you can't judge much by playing a team as slow and inexperienced as Austin Peay. But fast or slow, veteran or freshman, if the Bearcats committed a missed assignment, coaches would notice. Anybody who watched the team's defense last year can attest that fans notice, as well.

Frey said the number of missed assignments from Saturday's opener was down from last year. There were still areas the team needed to correct, but improved mental recognition was clearly a beneficiary of the offseason work and continuity.

"Coaches do a really good job reviewing the film and specifically tracking each person on the defense's missed assignments," Frey said. "They were down, which is not surprising because we have been putting the extra time in in camp to minimize. This game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. If you can master the mental part of it you got a step ahead."

--- Perhaps the most interesting analysis I heard from anyone all day came from Wolfe, who had a strip-sack and played about 20 snaps. He pointed out the composure the defense displayed. It's easy to keep composed when beating a team 72-10, I suppose, but Wolfe pointed out the reaction when the team allowed Peay to drive into their own territory on the opening possession.

For him, it was very different from last season.

"Normally, last year, I will tell you what, when stuff like that would happen we kind of lost our minds," Wolfe said. "We would be yelling at each other trying to figure out what is going on. (This time), there wasn't a word said, it was just, 'All right, c'mon, next play, let's go.'"

Wolfe continued talking about why he believes this defense is more composed and more capable to deal with adversity. Some of which we know will occur on Saturday in Knoxville. It all starts with the curveballs, sudden changes and unforeseen punishments being doled out the last five weeks at practice.

My hat is off to Coach Jones because I thought it was crap what we were doing out here sometimes, him throwing all the stuff at us," Wolfe said."Whenever it happens now it is like nothing is going on because he trains us every day."

When Wolfe is rolling, you let him go. So, I did. Here is some more of what he said about the composure difference between this season and last year defensively:

"We would come to the sidelines and people were screaming at each other," he said. "Now, it is more positive. We come to the sidelines and just get it corrected.

Wolfe personally feels a different responsibility to stay calm.

"Yeah, coaches will pull you aside and tell you to be the nice guy. Be the guy (players) can come to. Sometimes I tend to be kind of hard ass about things. I will be like, get your ass going, or yell, but that's why I can never be a head coach. I don't know if I can be a position coach, when people back talk, it's like, just shut up."

Yes, that's right folks, a kinder, gentler Derek Wolfe. At least outside the lines, anyway.

--- For the record: Since UC joined the Big East in 2005, the conference is 10-8 against the SEC. Here are the records: UConn 2-0; Pitt 1-0; WVU 4-2; USF 1-1; Louisville 2-4; Cincinnati 0-1.

--- Jones talked about "SEC speed." He didn't necessarily think they were faster at all levels than UC or any other non-SEC school for that matter. Rather, it was a matter of depth of speed.

"It is a concern," he said. "It's why we make our practices so demanding. Probably more depth from a speed standpoint when you look at the SEC. Where it's really challenging is on special teams."

As if the special teams element wasn't already an issue after last week. UC allowed 196 KO return yards on 10 kicks. There were also a litany of missed tackles. Jones said it's hard to simulate the game speed of the kickoffs from both a return and covering perspective. They try, but there is nothing like gameday.

UT returned three kickoffs last week. Each of them went for at least 27 yards. Channing Fugate even took one 44 yards. Avoiding a special teams letdown will be a major concern to keep 105,000 from really getting into the game and springing momentum for the Vols. 

--- As for hard news, TE Travis Kelce will play this week after missing the game against Austin Peay. Jones wouldn't commit that Kelce would start, only saying it depended on how he practiced this week.

The good news is the Bearcats appear to be healthy and came away from the Peay game relatively unscathed. 

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1 Comment

Classic video clip.

And yeah Derek Wolfe seems like a great person to have leading the defense. Seems to care about winning and the best way to make that happen. Really hope to see a good game from the Bearcats against an SEC team.

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