KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT) -- Much like its first four days on Haslam Field, Tennessee spent its fifth installing specific situational phases.
After working on third-down and red-zone situations in previous practices, the focus was on short-yardage plays on Tuesday. Although it is necessary to work on each of those phases of the game, UT head coach Derek Dooley has not lost sight of the bigger picture.
"Those are a lot of small, statistical things that we look at to measure ourselves but the primary indicators of winning and losing are three things: turnover ratio, big play ratio and winning the fourth quarter," Dooley said. "The data over the last four years of college football is unbelievable on those three things.
"Everything we have adjusted a little bit offensively, defensively or on special teams is to either make big plays or create more turnovers and some of what we are doing every day in camp is working on trying to win it in the fourth quarter which takes a lot of grit."
Although most of the team's systems have been put in place, there is still a lot of work left to be done to master them.
"I don't have a percentage (for how much is installed), but the first four or five days is the bulk of what you are doing, so most of it – 80 percent or so," Dooley said. "The second part is whether they feel comfortable doing it and I would say zero percent. We have to close that gap quickly."
Another factor in play on Tuesday was the end of the second session of summer school, as both Da'Rick Rogers and Eric Gordon missed practice to finish up their classwork.
That is something the Vols have emphasized greatly since the start of training camp after losing Steven Fowlkes for the season due to grades at the same time last year.
Although Fowlkes took the challenge head on and has returned to become a standout early in camp, the Big Orange would like to avoid a similar situation this year and his example has been a good one for the team's young players.
"We have more guys to try to set the example," Dooley said. "(Fowlkes is) also a great example for all these guys who have to pass their classes. We talked a lot about when camp started not going to sleep at the wheel in school.
"We had a week left in summer school and that is what (Fowlkes) did (last year). It's easy to shut it down and that's what he did. We have several guys who have a lot of work to do to finish it out here and that's been a good example."
MORE THAN A HAIRCUT AND 20 POUNDS
According to Tyler Bray, the only personal differences between this year and last year for the junior quarterback are about 20 pounds and a haircut.
However, he does recognize that he has one of the most veteran offensive lines in the nation. The bonding that the offensive line has done in the offseason has translated to the field, to the point of silence.
"The [offensive line] is great," said Bray. "It is getting to the point where they don't even have to say anything to each other because they already know what they are doing. Coach is yelling at them because they aren't talking but they got it and know what the other person is going to do."
Bray has also developed as a leader on the field and feels more comfortable in that position.
"[Leadership] is becoming second nature to me," said Bray. "It is kind of hard at first because you don't want to be screaming at the guys because they are about 100 pounds bigger than me. But, they are starting to listen to me a little more and working a lot harder."
Bray is pleased with their hard work and is excited to be under center in 2012.
"This offensive line, I am not really scared of anyone getting to me," said Bray. "They are a great offensive line and you can't ask for a better group of guys."
AYRES SWITCHES SIDES
The Vols knew they were thin at tight end already and a minor knee injury to Mychal Rivera only reinforced that on Tuesday.
In order to lessen that concern, UT pulled from an area of depth when it moved redshirt junior Joseph Ayres over from the defensive line. At 6-3, 273 pounds, Dooley is intrigued by what he could bring to his new position.
"With Rivera out, we are thin at that position," Dooley said. "We have a lot of defensive lineman and we were looking on the board to see us in that area. Just like Justin King, I think Joe Ayers can give us a little value, especially as a bigger, physical guy to help us block."
Ayres will now wear number 88 for the Big Orange.
FULTON FOCUSED ON RUN GAME
Junior offensive lineman Zach Fulton, along with the rest of the Volunteer offensive linemen, have been putting some serious work in this offseason. The line is determined this year to have success, especially in the run game. While talking with the media, Fulton had a big smile on when he discussed how much fun he has had working on run blocking drills in practice.
"I just love working on the run blocking," said Fulton. "It's just something that's fun to do. We stress it each and every single day and we do it consistently, over and over again until we have it.
"The offensive line's progress has been really good so far. We are achieving well in the run game and making positive strides every day in team run. We are just getting better and better."
The 6-5, 326-pound native of Homewood, Illinois knows how important the offensive line is to an offense. If the offensive line can't establish a presence, the offense does not have much of a chance to even get started or get in a rhythm. The offensive line is the foundation of a good offense.
"The team basically follows the offensive line's play," said Fulton. "For instance if we do bad in practice, it basically means the whole team isn't going to have a good practice. As the offensive line, we have to set the tempo. And we know the whole receiving corps is great. So if we can give Tyler [Bray] the time, we know he is going to get the ball to somebody."
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