KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT) - Tennessee may not have a game on Saturday, but head coach Derek Dooley wants to make sure that each player has a defined purpose when they hit the practice field each day this week.
"We really want to have a defined objective for every player and for every unit," Dooley said. "It is so important that these guys learn how to have a purpose every day. I told them, everything happens before it happens. You have a goal, you know what the challenges are to reach that goal and then you prepare to do certain things to overcome those challenges. If we can all stay focused on defining a purpose for this week then we will come out of it a lot better football team."
To that end, each player on the Tennessee roster spent time with their position coach defining two goals for self-improvement during the team's open week, a technique Dooley has utilized before.
"It's just something I have always done, even as an assistant," Dooley said. "You can't really accomplish anything if you don't have a purpose, if you just go practice without an objective. During game week, your purpose is the game plan and you are working the plan. Whether it is red area or third down, you are really focused on what we are working on.
"When you go out there in an open date, it is really easy to say, ‘How long is this practice going to be?' You just get through it and don't really accomplish anything. And you get worse when you do that. We're just trying to be really focused on self-improvement. The practices aren't as bad when you are focused on something like that."
As a team, the Vols will spend their time getting back to the basics and work to improve in a number of areas, none more important than tackling on defense.
"The open week is always a time to go reevaluate your fundamentals and what you aren't doing as well as you need to," Dooley said. "Of course, the tackling, the open-field tackling and the space tackling is a real major concern where we need to make some significant improvement."
Just because it won't play a game this week doesn't mean Tennessee is going to take it easy on the practice field. The Vols will get some rest on the weekend. For now, it is full steam ahead.
"How physical they are is going to be up to what their mindset is and how physical they want to be," Dooley said. "We'll have a chance to recover later in the week, so we are really looking for recovery later but right now we are hitting and we are moving on."
Information provided by UT Sports Media Relations and UTSports.com.