Some post-practice notes after speaking to the assistant coaches following Wednesday’s practice:
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian: He started off by joking that this week would be easier since they’re facing the No. 3 scoring defense in the nation after Ole Miss was No. 2 last weekend. He addressed the quarterback situation, saying that Justin Worley is progressing well and he doesn’t have concerns about his shoulder injury. When asked directly what it would take to get Joshua Dobbs in the game, he responded that it would be because of “injury or because he’s needed.” He went on to say that both Nathan Peterman and Dobbs have progressed as the season has gone on, even without getting game reps. In regards to criticism, Bajakian said, “We as coaches are our own worst critics. And I know there are a lot of critics out there.”
Asked about the offensive struggles, he continued to emphasize that the Vols have done some good things, but they’re often one player executing his job away from big plays. He said it’s been hard and frustrating at times, but that Butch Jones preaches pushing through adversity and he’s proud of all his guys and the way they keep fighting.
WRs coach Zach Azzanni: Asked about Marquez North, he said that North is frustrated that he didn’t make that catch at Ole Miss, but said that he’s very mentally resilient and “doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him.” He said Josh Smith has been out on the practice field running this week, but didn’t give any indication that he has a shot to play this week.
OL coach Don Mahoney: Said Coleman Thomas got rolled up on early in the game and tried to play about 30 snaps through the pain, but that it was eventually too much. He didn’t confirm he was out this weekend, but said that Jacob Gilliam would go in his spot at right tackle if he can’t (the unit we saw working at practice today from L to R was Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Gilliam.
DC John Jancek:
•When talking about Amari Cooper, Jancek regarded him as one of the best receivers in the country and praised his ability to “stop and start on a dime” and accelerate past defenders after making the catch. Jancek said that having a player like Cam Sutton to cover Cooper should make things a little easier for his defense this week, but also admitted that limiting a player of Cooper’s caliber will require a team effort. Tennessee was able to limit Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell last week by using safeties and linebackers to help double the star receiver, and based on Jancek’s comments I would expect more of the same for Cooper this week.
•Jancek also credited the mobility of Blake Sims as a reason for Alabama’s success this season on offense. Jancek said that Sims’ ability to escape pressure, move the pocket and/or take off running with the football is something that his defense will have to be well prepared for heading into Saturday’s game. Jancek said he noticed some tweaks to Alabama’s offensive game plan when they played Texas A&M that they hadn’t shown to this point in the season. Those tweaks included a faster pace, some shorter throws for Sims to get him in a rhythm and designed quarterback runs that he hadn’t seen.