Tennessee football is coming to a close.
With only three games left in regular season play, the Volunteers look to win out and achieve a much-needed 7-5 record. Head coach Derek Dooley said the Vols' upcoming match against Missouri will be a test for the team's offensive line.
"They are one of those 4-3 teams with penetrating defensive linemen, they are coming at you," Dooley said. "They play real sound behind them, so they are very similar philosophically on defense to what South Carolina does."
The Vols' defense has struggled through the last several games and Dooley said the team hasn't had the results they were expecting. He said success breeds confidence and without that the team isn't going to be overly confident.
"That is something we have to keep working on with our defense. It is hard to be confident when you aren't getting results, but the way you build confidence is through your preparation during the week and your investment during the week," Dooley said. "You go out there and rep it and you feel good about it and then you go out and play. That is a big component of it."
While the defense suffered, the Vols' offense has done nothing but improve. Junior quarterback Tyler Bray said junior wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson were continuing to be a major influence on that side of the ball.
"Justin is the same goofy kid that he has been since he got here. As long as he keeps that going he will be fine," Bray said. "Everyone is more focused. C.P. especially, last week he had his best practices of the year so far."
Bray said Patterson's energy level has been key to his performance of late.
"He was running his routes crisp," Bray said. "He got complaints about his route running so he took initiative to get better at that."
Bray's own stats compare with former Vol and current NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. With 200 completions, 2,812 yards and 25 touchdowns, Bray said he'd like to see his stats a little more rounded.
"I would either like to rush (for a touchdown) or catch one. Doesn't matter to me," Bray said. "They are both six so it doesn't matter. I think I have a height advantage and my vertical — I could jump over anybody. I have better hops than Justin."
After the team's last-minute 55-48 win over Troy, Bray said it was good to see the team show an ability to finish well.
"We are not going to go down to the wire and lose like we have in the past," Bray said. "We can go through and actually finish the game."