KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee safety Prentiss Waggner didn't really notice how many plays he was on the field against UAB. After the game, his body gave him a hint.
"I always feel good when we win, but I'm also pretty sore and pretty tired," the sophomore from Clinton, La., said after the game.
Tennessee's defense was on the field for 92 snaps compared to the offense's 61, and Waggner was out there for all of them plus four special teams plays. Safety Janzen Jackson, cornerback Marsalis Teague and linebacker Nick Reveiz each participated in 90 or more plays too.
That's just one of the reasons coach Derek Dooley decided to give his players Monday off of practice in advance of Saturday's trip to No. 12 LSU (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference).
"That's probably my biggest concern," he said. "That's just too much, but it's what we did. The lack of depth puts you in a little but of a pickle there."
Dooley usually gives his teams an extra day off after a long streak of games, but decided to take the break a week earlier than usual after back-to-back losses to Oregon and Florida and an overtime win against UAB.
The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) entered the season with 76 scholarship players after awarding a few to walk-on players but have lost nine players because of injuries since fall camp. Center Cody Pope (stinger, concussion) and JerQuari Schofield (foot) aren't expected to play against the Tigers, and cornerback Art Evans, linebacker Herman Lathers (leg), running back Tauren Poole (thigh) and wide receiver Gerald Jones (hand) are day-to-day.
Dooley expects the extra day off to expedite recovery for several of those players, but the additional rest could help the eight freshmen who played against the Blazers adjust and spend more time in the film room.
"I think everyone on our team really needs that extra day of rest," quarterback Matt Simms said. "If any team in the country needs an extra day to get healthy it's us, because that's how thin we are. We have a lot of young guys that aren't used to putting this much strain on their bodies."
Simms has had a lot of strain on his own body, thanks to taking 11 sacks total in the past two games.
"I know it sounds weird, but I really think I've kind of mastered how to take a sack and just protect my body and protect the football, as crazy as that sounds," he said. "It's something that's going to happen each and every game, and you've just got to continue to fight through it and stay healthy."
Simms planned on using the extra time to study for some tests, while defensive end Chris Walker spent part of his day getting a Whirlpool treatment and Nick Reveiz planned to join some of his fellow linebackers for an extra film study session.
Just because Dooley eased up on them for a day, doesn't mean things will be any different when the players return to the practice field on Tuesday. That especially goes for the defense, who seriously struggled to tackle the Blazers.
"It's going to be hard for me to compromise being physical and tackling," he said. "If that means guys are going to get hurt, I'm going to have to live with it. What I can't live with is watching a team that doesn't tackle well, so I'd rather have the worst guys in college football who are going to go tackle than have the good players who won't tackle."