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Lineup change coming for Vols?

The aftermath of Tennessee’s SEC-opening, 68-65 loss at Arkansas on Saturday might include a new starting lineup.

Will senior John Fields be Tennessee's new starting center?

Senior John Fields, not senior Brian Williams, worked with the starters during Sunday night’s practice in Thompson-Boling Arena.

UT head coach Bruce Pearl didn’t confirm any potential starting lineup or rotation changes for Tuesday’s home game against Florida, but Williams said he doesn’t expect to keep his starting spot.

“It was an adjustment made because of something that happened in the (Arkansas) game that shouldn’t ever happen, with me being a senior leader,” Williams said. “I lost my focus, and that’s why I’m out right now. That’s why I’m not starting right now. But I’m fine with whatever adjustment the coaches make. That’s what they get paid for. That’s why they’re coaches, and that’s why they’re our leaders.”

Williams didn’t specify what mistake he made, calling it something “between me and (coaches),” but he said he was OK with any lineup change they made going forward.

“If we was winning, nobody would be talking about having these conversations, or what adjustments needed to be made,” Williams said. “But if adjustments need to be made, everybody needs to go with the flow of thing and be grateful to be a Volunteer.”

Williams said the lineup decision had nothing to do with the frontcourt’s defensive problems at Arkansas, despite the Vols’ sloppy hedging on ball screens giving the Razorbacks several easy buckets.

Pearl said his big men’s technique in stopping those ball screens simply “wasn’t how we were supposed to do it.” He said two defenders have to come out to stop ball screens, because they leave two offensive players “in the same neighborhood.”

Williams said the Vols “gave” Arkansas too many bunnies.

“Any big at the Division I level would make the shots that they was getting,” Williams said. “We weren’t supposed to leave our men, and we was leaving our man, and they was just lobbing it right over our head for easy lay-ups.

“That’s all stuff we can fix. We just, as a team and as seniors, we’ve got to make adjustments during the game and learn how to guard that better.”

Fields said he didn’t expect to practice with the starters Sunday night, but he definitely didn’t complaint about it.

“It’s always nice, but that’s Coach Pearl and the other coaches’ decision,” Fields said. “I’m willing to play any role that they put me in. Just because I had a good game at Arkansas, that doesn’t mean I should just automatically get more reps with the 1s. But I’ll take it.

Fields said if he’s named a starter, “I’ll say, ‘Yes, sir,’ and go on with it.”
Pearl — who missed the Arkansas game while serving the first of his eight-game, SEC suspension — noted the downside of his team’s consistent inconsistency showing up in Fayeteville, but he didn’t blame his assistants for any of it.

“It was harder (to watch than coach), because you felt pretty helpless during the course of the game,” Pearl said. “I thought the coaches did an excellent job. They called a great game. I think some of the things ailing us prior to that game continue to rear some of their ugly heads. I thought we had fixed some of that middle ball screen stuff against Memphis, (but) we went back to not hedging it properly. I thought while we were the aggressor against Memphis, I thought Arkansas was the aggressor. Now, is that because you’re playing at home versus playing on the road? That shouldn’t be the case.

“Our game plan was very similar to both teams, and I think that was the difference — maybe playing at home versus playing on the road.”

Pearl said several times that he had no issue with the rotations utilized by associate head coach Tony Jones and assistants Steve Forbes and Jason Shay.

“I was really pleased with the minutes that were played,” Pearl said. “I’m really pleased with the rotations. I thought they did a good job with the substitutions. I thought they called a really good game. I thought the minutes played were about what they should have been.”

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