On Saturday, the Tennessee football team will make the long trek across their home state to play longtime punching bag Memphis. But to date, it’s the Volunteers who must feel like they’ve been sparring with Mike Tyson.
The Vols are just 2-6 overall, 0-5 in the SEC. They are looking up in the standings at Vanderbilt and Kentucky, something UT fans aren’t used to. On Saturday they used just 46 players in a 38-24 loss to South Carolina. By comparison, the Gamecocks used 57 players… which underscores the lack of depth Derek Dooley inherited.
But Dooley has made matters worse by creating a quarterback controversy. His squad’s offense has been one of the league’s worst this year, but starting quarterback Matt Simms has hardly been UT’s biggest issue. Dooley has said he wants one of his quarterbacks to “take the reins,” but that’s hard to do while opposing rushers are stampeding right over you.
On Saturday, Simms was benched for fumbling twice on sacks. He was criticized for holding onto the ball too long. Unfortunately, his backup, Tyler Bray, was sacked an identical three times and he threw a pick six against the Gamecocks.
Now Simms has gone to the press to complain about the benching, the fans want Bray to start, and the team is reportedly split over the two. (Dooley has yet to say who’ll get the start at Memphis, but the smart money is on the true freshman Bray.)
The last thing Dooley needs at this point of the season is for his already undermanned lockerroom to split apart over who’s calling the signals.
Wait. Scratch that. The last thing he would need would be an arrest of one of his most promising freshman. But he got that, too.
Defensive end Jacques Smith was arrested early Sunday morning after a fight in a Knoxville bar. Dooley said his punishment will be handled internally.
“Well it sounded like in this latest incident that there were some emotions over a girl,” Dooley said. “Jacques used some bad judgement and our team did the right thing to defuse the situation.”
The incident involving Smith was the first for UT’s football team since a bar brawl made national news back in July. In fact, Dooley touted the fact yesterday that the Vols’ flight crew after Saturday’s game in Columbia said that UT’s team was “the most respectful, best-behaved football team that they’ve ever transported.”
So the Vols have got that going for them. Unfortunately for Dooley — a coach who is now just 1-20 against FBS teams with winning records in his career — UT’s season is going nowhere near as smoothly as the team’s flights.