The second half has been absolutely brutal to Tennessee during SEC play. After getting outscored 31-0 in the second half Saturday at Alabama, the Volunteers have now been outscored 52-0 in the second halves of the past two games and 83-22 overall during SEC play.
TE Mychal Rivera's role in the past two games has required him to block more and catch less. After notching five catches for 85 yards against Georgia, Rivera has just one catch for 13 yards in the past two games, as he's remained on the line of scrimmage to help provide maximum protection for the quarterback.
"That's really the life of a tight end," Rivera said. "I have had many conversations with coach Dooley. He and I know that tight ends they have to block and they have to catch. I can't be too worried about my catching because I have to show both my skills."
The Volunteers are looking for ways to score points, but coach Derek Dooley won't be looking at installing a Wildcat package anytime soon.
"It might help us get a first down but you've got to spend two hours working on it to get that first down. I'd rather just complete a pass, a hitch. Which we can't do.
"You search for 'the play.' It's not a play. It's about getting good at the plays you've got. We've got a lot of good plays. We've got plenty, we don't need more. We need less probably."
Tennessee leads South Carolina 22-5-2 (last meeting, 2010, 38-24 South Carolina)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
Tennessee will trot out its third different quarterback in the last four games when it squares off against South Carolina, and there's no such thing as certainty when it pertains to true freshman Justin Worley. Worley wasn't supposed to see the field this season and he's yet to throw a pass. He's taken a total of five snaps and all we running plays, so it truly will be a surprise no matter what the Volunteers offense is able to do in his first start. A consistent running game would certainly boost his confidence. After failing to do much of anything in the first two SEC games, Tennessee's run game has shown steady improvement and was able to at least move the ball against the vaunted LSU and Alabama defenses. RB Tauren Poole is running as well as he has all throughout his career and the offensive line is blocking with more nastiness. The Volunteers need a wide receiver other than Da'Rick Rogers to catch a pass. The "committee" that was supposed to help fill the void left by the injured Justin Hunter has been non-existent.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
What was supposed to be its top strength has been a major weakness and what was supposed to be a weakness has been a pleasant surprise. That's the State of the Tennessee defense to date. The good news has come from the front seven, as this group has limited top running backs Isaiah Crowell (Georgia), Spencer Ware (LSU) and Trent Richardson (Alabama) to some of their lowest outputs of the season. DT Malik Jackson is starting to look like the preseason all-SEC player he was anointed before the year and freshmen LBs A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt are looking like bona fide young stars. The problem, though, has been in the secondary. CB Marsalis Teague has been burned out of a starting job and SS Brent Brewer has been a disappointment. The Volunteers are still trying to settle on a rotation that can make consistent plays. It seems they never recovered from losing Janzen Jackson in the offseason after he was dismissed from the team for violation of team rules.
South Carolina at Tennessee, Oct. 29 -- The Gamecocks have only won once in Knoxville and they've never won back to back games against the Volunteers, but they'll be heavy favorites against their unstable SEC East rivals. That kind of setup puts all the pressure on South Carolina, though, as the Volunteers are playing with nothing to lose while the Gamecocks are leading the SEC East title hunt.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Volunteers simply have to put two solid halves together. They've shown they're good enough to hang with some of the best teams in the country for the first 30 minutes, but have looked awful when it matters most. Some kind of spark in the passing game and a shored-up secondary will be required to upset the Gamecocks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Justin Worley The true freshman set numerous state passing records during his days at Northwestern High in Rock Hill, S.C., but this will be a whole new ballgame for him Saturday in his first career start. The Volunteers are desperately looking for a spark on offense and are hoping Worley can deliver it. One of the best passing games in the country has been neutralized since Tyler Bray went down with a broken thumb, and Worley is the latest candidate to re-inject some life into it.
WR Da'Rick Rogers The sophomore has been the lone focus of opposing defenses ever since Justin Hunter went out for the season with a torn ACL. Rogers has been visibly frustrated during the stretch, particularly against SEC defenders who talk a big game. He's still making plays, though, just not as many. His game will elevate as soon as any other Volunteer receivers start making plays.
LB A.J. Johnson The true freshman has 24 tackles in the last two games and leads all SEC freshmen with 45 tackles on the season. He's built like a brick house at 245 pounds and thrives when teams try to run it between the tackles. He hasn't shown any signs of hitting the freshman wall and has been the lone exception when it pertains to second-half struggles.
QB Tyler Bray's return still remains up in the air. He could return as early as the Nov. 19 game against Vanderbilt or he could be very well out for the remainder of the regular season. It will all depend on how his broken thumb heals.
LB Herman Lathers (ankle) is still a few weeks away from returning to the field. He's yet to see any action this season.
Freshman Marcus Jackson will make his first career start Saturday at left guard. He surpassed sophomore James Stone on the depth chart based on performance.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Sometimes you keep doing the same things and you see progress that a lot of the fans don't see. Whether it's in practice and little things in a game, and so you stay with it. But other times, you don't see the progress that you need to see as a coach and so you've got to make a change." -- Tennessee coach Derek Dooley