KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- Tennessee completed its first week of the 2011 spring practice schedule with a two-hour workout Saturday at Haslam Field. The Vols spent most of the week installing the different facets of their playbook.
“We almost most of our offensive and defensive situations in,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “We have our down-and-distance flowing, red area in and third downs in. All we have left is short yardage and goal line.
“The organizational part of practice has been good. Now, it’s just a matter of coaching and motivation and getting some of our younger players to turn into dependable starters.”
Dooley said that spring practice is important for everyone as the Vols battle for starting positions.
“Until you’re an all-conference player, it’s hard to ever say that the spring isn’t critical for you,” Dooley said. “Every year the coaching staff is going to bring 25 new people who are expected to beat you out. The reality is, we recruit to try to replace who we have, no matter how good we get. Just like NFL teams do—they draft. You’ve got new guys every year trying to get your job. If you don’t have that mindset, then it’s hard to improve.”
Dooley spent the majority of his post-practice meeting with the media specifically addressing individuals on the team.
On offensive lineman Alex Bullard:
“He’s been an incredibly big surprise. We played him at tackle early. We’re going to look at him at center. This spring our objective is to see where he can best play and where he can help us. He’s really a good football player.”
On fullback Channing Fugate:
“I think Channing is going to be an important role player for us on offense. He can do things that most fullbacks can’t. As a starting point, he gained 3,000 yards in a season as a runner (in high school). Thus, the name three-stack. That’s what the team calls him because he stacked a thousand on a thousand on a thousand. That’s not an easy thing to do. ‘Three-stack’ has some instinctive running ability that most 250-pound fullbacks don’t have. It also tells you that he is athletic. He can catch out of the backfield. He can maneuver in between some of these big offensive lineman to get to his backer. We’re going to create as much of a role for him as we can. We’re going to push him. We’re going to put him out wide some and move him around. I think he’s going to add a nice dimension to us.
“What I was surprised at was he wasn’t coming to me saying, ‘I want the ball.’ That’s what most people that stack three 1,000 yards of offense on top of each other do. They come and do one iso play and say, ‘Coach, when are you going to give me the ball?’ I sat there and purposely didn’t give him the ball just to see if he would ever come and he didn’t. Then, I decided we should probably give him the ball. We’re designing some plays to get him the ball and he’s doing well. He’s not a selfish guy. He’s a great team football player.”
On defensive lineman Montori Hughes:
“He’s been good. He did a good job of staying in shape and lifting. He’s gotten a little stronger. He’s a little bit behind because he’s missed a lot of work with the team. He’s kind of integrated in and we’ll bring him along.”
On linebacker Martaze Jackson:
“We’re trying to find a home for him. He’s in that tweener mode which a lot of linebackers and defensive ends are. We’re just trying to see where he can help us the most.”
On tight end Mychal Rivera:
“He has big shoes to fill. What he can’t try to do is be Luke (Stocker). He has to try to get a little better every day. He did some nice things in the games last year so he has his feet wet. He’s played. He’s made some big plays but he has a long way to go in his development to be a dependable tight end.
“He’s integrated fine but the expectations on him were different last year. I think he was in a comfort zone of being a good back-up to Luke Stocker. It’s a big jump on how you approach every day when you’re counted on to be the every-down starter.”
On linebacker Daryl Vereen:
“Daryl has had a phenomenal off-season. He’s a fast guy. He can run probably better than all of our linebackers. Obviously, he’s more of a space-type linebacker. I’ve been really pleased with his attitude. I think he’s settled into a home and now it’s about getting better.
“Daryl really started coming on late in the season. We started seeing some good things out of him late in the year and he’s picked up where he left off.”
Daniel Hood, who spent his freshman season on the offensive line, is adjusting to a new role. Hood is now working with the defensive line unit.
“I’m still trying to learn everything,” Hood said. “I’m still having to think too much. I’m not triggering and just playing. I’m still trying to get to that point where they make a call and I’ll be able to do it.
While finding a place that presents the best opportunity to get on the field is a focus, Hood said defense is his preference and that he thought that it was a position in which he could best help the team.
-The Vols will return to the practice field Tuesday afternoon, while focusing on film Monday.
-Early enrollee Marcus Jackson is currently playing as the starting left guard, Dooley said Saturday.
-Ben Bartholomew is serving as the second fullback behind Channing Fugate but is also playing tight end.