Vols fail to ‘flip the switch’ on Spurrier Field

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said the Volunteers “didn’t flip the switch” for Friday’s afternoon practice on Steve Spurrier Field at Science Hill High School.

Perhaps that’s not surprising given that the field’s namesake has a history of razzing the Volunteers.

The Vols handled traveling and moving into dorms at Milligan College well on Thursday night, Dooley said, but didn’t adapt well to the different environment Friday, calling the practice “a little lethargic and disappointing.”

“They were excited but when it’s ball time, you’ve got to be a baller. You can’t come up here and hold hands and sing `Kumbaya’ the whole time. We’ve got to go practice,” Dooley said. “Part of the reason we came here was to kind of change your environment, get you uncomfortable, get you out of your comfort zone, and we didn’t handle it very well. That’s what we’ve got to learn to do because we’re going to be out there in games, in different environments and how are we going to handle not being in that comfort zone.”

Tennessee practiced at Science Hill because of its field turf, which is named in honor of the South Carolina football coach who was a three-sport start at the high school before going on to win a Heisman trophy at Florida. Recent rain made the fields at Milligan College unusable.

Sophomore inside linebacker A.J. Johnson said the change of scenery shouldn’t have affected the team and the Vols just needed to come out with more energy and focus, especially the defense.

Tennessee will have its first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday.

“I want to see us play with a level of intensity the entire scrimmage, something that we didn’t always do last year,” Dooley said. “It’s going to be a great level of evaluation for some of these guys who want to get in the mix and try to help the team.”

Junior wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson practiced on Friday in a red, no-contact jersey after spraining his shoulder this week. Dooley said Patterson tried to practice fully on Friday, but “wasn’t quite ready.” Dooley added that coaches will see if they can get Patterson some work in Saturday’s scrimmage in a non-contact role.

Dooley praised the offensive line’s work during the first week of fall camp, but added the defense played a part in the offense’s success, especially in the run game.

“Our line has been doing well but we can do better on defense too, playing with a lot more toughness, straining a little bit more and finishing to the ball,” Dooley said. “If we do that, we won’t have as much success running the ball. It’s kind of a Catch-22.”

Tennessee’s offensive line returns 106 combined starts, and coaches are hoping that experience, as well as another offseason in the weight room will lead to an improved running game. The Vols finished last in the SEC running the ball in each of the last two seasons, averaging just 90.1 rushing yards per game last year.

The Vols return to Knoxville on Aug. 16.

Tennessee’s season-opener is against North Carolina State on Friday, Aug. 31 in one of the two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.