August 4, 2007
Tennessee capped a busy day of activity Saturday with a practice of better than two hours at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The Vols worked in shorts and helmets for the second consecutive day.
Earlier Saturday, between 60-70 newspaper, radio, television and Internet outlets had representatives on hand for the annual Media Day at Neyland Stadium. Head coach Phillip Fulmer offered his take on the 2007 season, while assistant coaches and Volunteer players contributed preseason opinions and posed for pictures during the three-hour session.
Tennessee returns to the practice field Sunday afternoon, adding shoulder pads to their workout attire for the first time. The Vols’ first practice in full pads is set for Tuesday.
MEDIA DAY COMMENTS FROM TENNESSEE HEAD COACH PHILLIP FULMER
“Good morning. Everybody is excited to get started.
“The first day of practice Friday was about what I expected with the energy of our football team and our coaches. It was good to get started after such a long and hard-working summer that our guys had. First day of practice was a lot of fun. The guys were really working hard to please. As I told the group after practice, it’s easy to be that way in shorts, but it was an exciting time to see them come on the field and work like they were working.
“I believe if you’re going to win championships, you win them with defense. I don’t think we ever really saw our defense as a whole last year. Jerod Mayo hurt his ankle during the course of this time of year, the practices leading up to the season. He had a great game against Calas our entire defense didthen kind of limped through the season. I’m excited about seeing him 100 percent and leading our defensive football team. Obviously, the couple things that happened with Justin Harrell and Inky Johnson were certainly a part of that. I’m eager to see our defense play like Tennessee defenses know how to play and have in the past.
“I’m really comfortable with our group of linebackers, their experience level, the way they have gone about the offseason program, their leadership. Our defense centers around Jerod and his attitude, work ethic and ability. You’ve got Ryan Karl who has played a lot of really good football for us. Rico McCoy, Ellix Wilson, all those guys have worked hard. Adam Myers-White looks like a different guy. We’ve got some people to work with that have played and that’s encouraging. Dorian Davis would be in that mix as well. He still needs to mature, but he has the ability to help us. One young man that I think deserves special note is Nick Reveiz. Nick has played himself into the rotation with our depth at linebacker and on special teams because of his attitude and work ethic.
“Another strength for us on the defensive side is our defensive ends. Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds certainly the last half of spring practice really stepped up their play. One of the things that I challenged our defensive ends to do is close more deals from a sack standpoint. We had a lot of pressure, but we were really down last year in sacks and our defensive ends are always a part of that. Wes Brown and Robert Ayers are two guys that have played a lot of football. Robert missed spring practice with a shoulder injury, but from his attitude and where he seems to be mentally, I think he’s ready to make a big step.
“The questions going into spring practice and coming out of spring practice were who was going to replace Justin Harrell and Turk McBride. Those guys were outstanding for us last year. J.T. Mapu is back in shape, back being the kind of technician that we were getting from him before he took the Mormon mission and took the two years off. We’re expecting big play from J.T. Demonté (Bolden) is a guy that can be a disrupter. He’s got to become more consistent as a football player. Hopefully we will be able to find a third, fourth and fifth defensive lineman, because in this league you’ve got to be able to go into the season with four or five defensive tackles.
“The other concern going into spring practice was our secondary. We lost three players at that position. Started with great concern, but came out of spring practice feeling a lot more optimistic about our secondary than when we went in. I think it’s a great story if it pans out this way in Jarod Parrish. He had a fantastic spring, was in the right place, made all the right calls; a very bright young man. Jonathan Hefney is our anchor back there. The cornerbacks, Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson, have done nothing to show that they cannot play in the secondary in the Southeastern Conference.
“We’ve got to get ourselves in pads and see how everyone is going to tackle and how they adjust to motions and formations and how quickly they can come along. I think a big thing for our defensive football team is how our leadership continues to grow and how we mature in the next 20 or so days before we get the chance to play.
“Offensively, Erik Ainge has undoubtedly established himself as the leader of our offensive football team. He’s taken charge and done a really good job of using his maturity and his ability to help this young receiving corps get themselves ready for the fall. He has a chance to make all the throws you need to make. We will have a package for somebody that will be a little bit different. Not sure who it is going to be yet, whether it is Lucas Taylor, Gerald Jones, Eric Berry. One of those guys will have a little bit of a package to do some different things and create problems for a defense.
“An obvious strength for us is the returning backfield. Arian Foster has matured, taken an adverse situation that happened to him in the bowl game and he’s playing with a passion right now. Montario Hardesty is starting the season healthy for the first time since his freshman year. LaMarcus Coker brings a dynamic to the position that is really exciting.
“I’m really excited about what Brad Cottam and Jeff Cottam have done during the offseason and how they started yesterday. Chris Brown is a proven player and we are expecting big things from him. Luke Stocker is another guy, so we’ve got four guys that we feel really comfortable with at the tight end position.
“The most publicized concern around our football team is the receivers. I could not ask any more from the guys that have returned. Lucas Taylor, Quintin Hancock, Josh Briscoe and Austin Rogers are solid receivers. They’ve got great work ethic, great understanding of what we’re trying to do. They’ll be in the right place and make the right conversion. I am comfortable with where they are right now. We are looking for dynamics from some of our young guys. We will see how quickly the young guys can get themselves in the mix.”