October 10, 2012 9:43:44 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley will coach Saturday from the Davis Wade Stadium press box after undergoing surgery on his fractured right hip injury Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday, Tennessee officials announced Dooley has experienced increasing pain in his right hip in the past two months, and that he had an MRI on Friday that showed he had a fracture in the area.
Dr. Russell Betcher and Dr. Greg Mathien, of the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic, performed the procedure Tuesday afternoon at the UT Medical Center. The surgery will keep Dooley out of practice today in Knoxville, Tenn., and it's uncertain whether he will be at his team's practice Thursday before it travels to Starkville for its game Saturday against Mississippi State University (8 p.m., ESPN2).
The surgery will force Dooley to the coaches' booth in the press box Saturday. It is unknown if Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) will change its coaching responsibilities without Dooley on the sidelines.
According to a statement by the Tennessee athletic department, Dooley is expected to resume normal coaching duties next week, but that decision will be made in consultation with the UT sports medicine staff.
Russell sees big plays for MSU against Tennessee
The first thing MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell sees when he watches Tennessee's defense on film is the number of big plays the Volunteers have allowed.
Tennessee is tied for last in the SEC in the number of plays (15) of 30 yards or more it has allowed.
"Tennessee is going to put up some points, and we know we're going to have to score," Russell said Tuesday. "Every drive is important. If we have one three-and-out that might cost us the game."
MSU is one of five SEC teams that has less than 10 plays of 30 yards or more this season. The inability to move the football consistently in the second half last weekend against the University of Kentucky concerns Mullen.
"Last week we'd like to have had some more points on the board," Mullen said Monday. "I saw two other possessions I really think we should have had touchdowns. I think (MSU senior receiver Chad) Bumphis dropped a big pass down the middle of the field that would have been a big play, so there is some big-play potential for us."
MSU has only five passing plays of 30 or more yards this season, and has been near or at the bottom of the league in that category each of the past three seasons.
"As you always see, you're not going to have a lots of opportunities of big plays, and you'd better capitalize," Mullen said. "If you don't, you're going to be embattled. It's hard to score in this league, so when you have those opportunities to make big plays, you have to take advantage of those."
Tennessee, under first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, has worked the past two weeks to eliminate big plays. The Volunteers have allowed nine scoring plays of 20 or more yards in losses to the University of Florida and to the University of Georgia.
"Most of those plays generally start with a little bit of an alignment error, then it is not playing the blocks very well from a toughness standpoint and then the ball breaks and not being able to get the guy
down in space," Dooley said Monday. "We don't have a defense that is a three-and-out, stone you all the time, and we didn't really expect that right away."
In a 51-44 loss to Georgia, Tennessee allowed more than 50 points for the first time since a four-overtime period game at Kentucky in 2007.
Mullen said Monday that MSU can't try to hit big plays on every snap Saturday.
"The challenge is the two teams that have beaten them have relied on the big play," Mullen said. "It's hard consistently to rely on the big play. I mean they've been beaten with a bunch of 70- and 80-yard touchdowns, big plays that just break you, and we anticipate they've had time to get that fixed."
Johnson to make debut
MSU coaches decided to be extra careful with sophomore tight end Malcolm Johnson last week so he could return Saturday.
On Monday, Mullen said Johnson, who didn't play in the 27-14 victory against Kentucky, has been upgraded to probable for the game against Tennessee.
The redshirt sophomore suffered an undisclosed injury to his pectoral muscle in July. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder was one of 33 players selected to the 2012 John Mackey Award Watch List, which is given to the nation's best tight end.
Johnson had 11 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Johnson's return is expected to bolster the Bulldogs' depth at the position. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Hill, a standout at West Lowdnes High School, is fully healthy and saw action last week at Kentucky.
In other injury news, senior defensive tackle Devin Jones is probable (sprained shoulder) after missing the game against Kentucky.