August 11, 2010

Gordon's goal: no catches

Day after day, practice after practice, Eric Gordon stands several yards from an automated pitching machine and catches tennis balls with one hand.

It's a common drill that Tennessee wide receivers use to improve hand-eye coordination and concentration.

Only Gordon is a defensive back, and he makes clear seeing a receiver catch the ball is at the bottom of his to-do list.

"I mean, just catching balls. If you can catch a tennis ball, you can pretty much catch a football," said the Nashville native. "Then (secondary coach Terry Joseph) had me working on my breaks, coming back downhill and catching the ball. Meeting the receiver. Just the little things. …

"My mindset is to not let my man catch the ball."

Through seven dates of pre-season camp, Gordon has completed that task as effectively, if not more so, than any other member of the Volunteers' secondary.

"He's into it. He's competing. He has probably had more pass break ups than anyone in the back end," first-year coach Derek Dooley said. "He's got a lot of things to work on. But he's competing. And (Marsalis) Teague is having a good camp. He's going to be a good player for us."

While Dooley praised Gordon following Tuesday's scrimmage work inside Neyland Stadium, the 5-foot-10-inch, 186-pounder was much more critical of his performance and maintained a bigger-picture view for the defense.

"I don't think I did good. I think I did OK, but I don't think I did good. I'm not satisfied with the way I played," said Gordon, who started opposite Art Evans at cornerback. "You've got to be [your toughest critic] at this level. But I just feel like that you know, my man has no catches [is the goal].

"And overall, as a whole, I really don't care about how I played, I'm thinking about how the defense played as a whole. And I don't feel like we played good as a whole. I'm going to go hit the weight room, hit the practice field and get better."

Senior defensive end Chris Walker has seen Gordon's improvement through the grueling opening week of camp.

"I think Eric Gordon stuck out," Walker said of Gordon's scrimmage work. "Just the way he's playing around the ball. Brent Brewer stuck out as well. For him to come out and to have not played football in five years, I think he came out and played well for us."

Gordon, however, isn't remotely satisfied. Today is a film and walk-through learning day for the Vols. For Gordon, it's another day of trying to make sure he doesn't endure anything like the miserable redshirt season he suffered last year.

"I'm very eager. I mean, not playing last year, it was just hard for me, very difficult for me. I've never not started and not played," said the brother of former All-SEC basketball star Jamont Gordon. "But I learned a lot from that year and grew a lot as a corner. So I mean, I'm just wanting to have a big (impact) this year.

"I'm just learning out here on my own. My coaches, teammates - Chris Walker, Nick Reveiz, Art Evans, a lot of those guys help me. I'll be fine."

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