With Tennessee coach Derek Dooley recovering from hip surgery, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney took his spot on Wednesday's SEC coaches call.
But that shouldn't worry Vols fans when it comes to what capacity Dooley will be coaching in on Saturday against Mississippi State. Even with Dooley coaching from the coaches box, Chaney said he doesn't anticipate much change in how plays are relayed and it might make things easier between the two with them sitting right next to each other.
"It's really going to be not a lot of difference for us," Chaney said. "I'm not anticipating a lot of change in any environment in that regard."
In such a big game for the program against a talented team that has one of the best secondaries around, clear and open dialogue between Dooley and his offensive coordinator are going to very important.
The Bulldogs sport the country's top cornerback duo in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, who have combined for seven interceptions this season, and have a veteran safety unit in Corey Broomfield and Nickoe Whitley. The Bulldogs are giving up fewer than 200 yards through the air per game and have surrendered just three passing touchdowns this season, while grabbing nine interceptions.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray has struggled in his two SEC games (both losses), throwing four touchdowns to five interceptions. Chaney said making sure Bray slows down Saturday and quits pressing will be crucial against Mississippi State's defensive backfield.
"We're just trying to get him to calm down and realize sometimes there's not a play to be made," Chaney said. "And what Tyler believes is he believes in his own skill so much that he'll try to force some things once in a while. We're just trying to get that out of him.
"We throw it up to [Mississippi State's secondary] and they're going to make the play."
In order to help take some of the pressure off of Bray, Chaney said the running game has to continue to grind things out like it has the past few weeks. Running back Rajion Neal has rushed for 255 yards and a touchdown in his last two contests, including 104 yards against Georgia two weeks ago.
Being able to run the ball won't just help Bray, it will help Chaney be more patient on offense and help balance things about in order to create more plays against the Bulldogs' defense.
"As a playcaller, I don't have to throw the ball as often as I have in the past," Chaney said. "As long as we are running the ball efficiently, it's pretty comfortable and easy to stay with it."