MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED/WVLT) – The Tennessee football team showed some attitude and toughness as it wrapped up its morning practice on the final day of training camp at Milligan College on Wednesday.
“They are hurting but they are pushing through,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “Their attitude has been great, it has just been hard. They are tired and beat on, but they are going to be recovering soon enough. That’s how you feel in the fourth quarter. You have to learn how to finish the drill.”
After six full days together without computers or internet and limited cell phone service, things started to get a little edgy on the practice field for the Vols before an impending thunderstorm cut things short by about five minutes.
"It's been good for team camaraderie but at some point you start getting on each other's nerves," Dooley said. "The offense is going against the same guy all the time so it's getting a little edgy and that's good, but they are handling it the right way."
Overall, the trip to Milligan College has been a resounding success with coaches and players alike talking about how much it has helped the team prepare for the upcoming season.
"It's been great," Dooley said. "It helped our team and I think it helped our staff. I hope it pays off this fall."
For local players Brendan Downs and Mack Crowder, both products of Tennessee High School in nearby Bristol, Tenn., it was good to come back home.
"It has been fun," Downs said. "I have seen some people I know from around here and it has been cool being in this area and seeing the mountains. It is so pretty up here and I miss it. It has been a really good experience for me. We are still really secluded from everything here. I have never even been to Milligan before so this is a new experience for me."
That seclusion allowed the Vols an opportunity to grow as a unit off-the-field as well, thanks to a number of team-building activities including a karaoke night and a talent show. They are ready to get back to a more familiar setting though.
"The team has had a great time," Crowder said. "We have had some team-bonding experiences where some of the freshman did a little talent show and stuff. We all have had a great time so far and have gotten a whole lot closer and lot better as a football team. The team had a great time, but I think we're getting ready to go back to Knoxville and start getting ready for this season."
PATTERSON NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Heralded receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is making the transition from junior college football to the highest level of college ball in the SEC with the Vols. Patterson, who was rated the No. 1 JUCO recruit in America, has been limited by a shoulder injury, but that hasn't stopped his growth and excitement of wearing the Orange & White.
"It is better here," said Patterson, who was a two-time All-American at Hutchinson CC. "In Kansas there wasn't anything and everything was slow. Everything here is better."
A lot of pressure has been placed on Patterson, but the 6-3, 205-pound product understands what it means to play at UT alongside some of the nation's top receivers in Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter.
"(I am) listening more," said Patterson. It is paying attention to Justin and Da'Rick, they are teaching me step-by-step. It is just coming slowly. They are good players, it is just watching them. I know I am a good player too. It is just competing with those guys every day makes all of us better. I think we have a chance to do some good things.
"Just coming in and listening to Da'Rick and Justin and learning from them (has helped). It is a honor to be on the same team as them. I know they are two good guys and learning from them will put me in a spot with them."
Patterson has been ailing with an injured shoulder, and has worn a red non-contact jersey during the Vols' stint in the Tri-Cities. Coach Dooley says the red shirt is more precautionary and hasn't slowed him down.
"He's been in a red shirt but he is doing everything," said Dooley. "We're just not hitting right now. I think he is getting there. He's not 100 percent but he's getting there. The last couple of practices you noticed him. The first 10 or so, he was just swimming. It is just a lot of stuff learning how to play fast and it's hard to play fast when you're not sure what to do."
Patterson agrees that he has picked up more as camp has progressed.
"The first couple days it was just so much going at me. I didn't understand a lot," said Patterson. "Coach (Darin) Hinshaw was just teaching me day by day, just told me to focus in and how to understand. Now I understand that and I am learning everything.
"Coach Hinshaw he would pull me to the side after meetings and stuff and we would stay an extra 30/35 minutes just trying to learn it. In the morning we would try to pick up something real fast so I could get the offense down pat."
Patterson knew the pace of the game would be a major upgrade at Tennessee.
"It is tough and I know there are a lot of guys out here, where I come from they were pretty good but not like it," said Patterson. "It is kind of different to translate it over. There is a lot of competition out here. There are guys out here that are physical. The corners are always on you doing whatever they need to do."
ON THE NOSE
Redshirt junior Daniel Hood has been through a lot of change during his career at Tennessee. He's already moved from the offense to the defense prior to the 2011season. In 2012, he has had to learn a whole new defensive scheme.
This fall camp Hood has also learned a new position after being moved from defensive end, to nose tackle. But he is not one to complain, and is in fact very happy.
"I don't know why. I just feel a lot more comfortable at (nose tackle)," said Hood. " I can read things a lot better. I am getting a lot better reads on run, pass, power, counters, things like that. It actually was surprising how much it has come around. At end I was struggling a little bit, I hadn't got those same reads in the past four or five years so I wasn't picking it up as fast. I went to nose and everything seemed like it was second nature."
Derek Dooley knows how Hood had to overcome the new coaching staff's lack of knowledge about Hood.
"[Sal Sunseri and John Palermo] didn't really know much about Dan and I did, so coming out of spring Dan wasn't there," said Dooley."I kept telling them that you are going to like Dan Hood and it's proven out. He's tough, he's smart, he's dependable, he's a fighter and he's going to help us."
Many Vols are finding themselves learning multiple positions during fall camp on both sides of the ball, Hood included. While there is a lot of learning involved, he says it is all for the best in the end.
"It is good to know everything in case unfortunately someone goes down," said Hood. "We have had more depth and more talent this year than we have had in the past. There isn't any one guy that has to play 50-60 snaps. We can roll in and roll out and keep guys fresh. With Big Dan [McCullers] we can hit him with someone that is like a brick wall, with Mo [Couch] or myself or Marlon [Walls] we are a little bit quicker, little things like that will throw them off."
The change in defensive scheme comes because of new defensive coordinator, Sal Sunseri. When asked to describe his new leader, Hood laughed.
"He brings some crazy Italian intensity," said the Knoxville native. "It is hard to even describe. There is never a down moment and you know when you mess up but also you know when you do good too. It's nice."
MEN IN HELMETS DOING THE SAFETIES DANCE
One of the biggest changes in Tennessee's new defensive scheme is how the Vols will utilize the strong and free safeties.
Sal Sunseri's system requires both awareness and quick thinking from the two safeties on the field, as there will be times where they might not know exactly what their responsibilities are until the ball is snapped.
"Depending on how the offense lines up, that tells you if you are playing strong or free safety," Randolph said. "Before the ball is snapped you never know, so you have to be ready to know both positions."
Fellow safety Byron Moore agrees that knowledge of the system is key to producing at the position.
"They are interchangeable," Moore said. "It is pretty much left and right. One can be up and one can be down, so you just have to know both sides of the ball and know the plays to get the corners lined up on both sides. They are very interchangeable, and we really have to know the system."
Although Randolph and Brent Brewer are currently listed as the starters at safety, Moore has done everything he can to put himself into that mix as well.
"Byron has had a great camp, he really has," Dooley said. "He was kind of our starting sub safety, but I'm going to tell you he is a starter to me. We have three safeties that are starters right now."
Moore's play in training camp has created fierce competition at the position, a luxury the Vols have not had in recent years.
"It feels real good and just gives us all a boost of confidence," Moore said. "I think with all three of us back there it is still a competition. Each day, we are all working and grinding hard. It is just an ongoing thing for us to keep pushing towards the season."
Before the actual season starts, Tennessee has one more scrimmage which will be used to measure exactly where each player stands in regards to starting spots.
Moore is looking to prove to the coaches that he can continue to produce when defending both the pass and run game.
"I just have to keep showing up, getting production points, keep making plays and show I can be a real asset back there," Moore said. "That is the main thing I am looking for going forward. That and to use the next scrimmage to feed off of where I left in my last scrimmage and keeping making plays".
Randolph, meanwhile, aims to shore up the mental part of his game.
"I have to limit missed assignments, get my assignments down," Randolph said. "I have to know the call and be louder so I can get the corners on the same page."
HEAD COACH DEREK DOOLEY
(On being more involved with drills)
“I just got bored. I’m trying to get a little energy out there. I’m more involved than you guys think, just not when you are out there. I hadn’t thrown it in a while and I’ve got a pretty good arm, I think. The hitch [route], that’s about as far as I can throw it.”
(On team edginess)
“It won’t be long before we need to kind of get away a little bit for a day or two. I need to see my wife. It’s getting a little edgy in that staff room too.”
(On Mychal Rivera)
“He did a lot today in seven-on-seven and running around. He looks like he is running fine. It won’t be long. I expect him to be full go by next week.”
(On the running game)
“No new changes there. They are all getting better. Que Watson is showing up a little bit. He’s doing a good job.”
(On Herman Lathers)
“We’re trying to manage him through. He’s strained his muscles and we’re just holding him out.”
(On Channing Fugate)
“Channing is doing good. He’s a warrior. He’s taken a lot of reps, taken a lot of hits and he keeps on plugging away. He’s going to help us in the middle.”
(On LaDarrell McNeil’s hamstring injury status)
“It looks like he is back. I’m hoping we take him out of the red soon. He has a lot of ability. He’s really fast twitch, has good burst and is instinctive. Now it is a matter of how quickly he can learn this stuff.”
JUNIOR WR CORDARELLE PATTERSON
(On playing with Justin Worley again)
“It is good just seeing him again. I think it is a good honor to be here with him. He is doing good. He is learning like me. He is learning very well. He has gotten better, bigger and stronger. He is picking up everything and he is fast.”
(On his expectations for the season)
“I haven’t even thought about it. Just going out and playing with those guys, and I think we can do some good things.”
(On returning kicks)
“I hope I get out there. I am just trying to help the return game as much as I can. It is just something I did at junior college so I am just trying to translate it over to here.”
RS JUNIOR DL DANIEL HOOD
(On being at Milligan)
“Coach Dooley has preached the whole time about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I think it will help us a lot in the upcoming season. Up here we don’t have a lot of the things that we have in Knoxville. You get used to playing without having a cold tub or not having 1,800 Gatorades. I think that a lot of people enjoyed it. Up here I barely have my phone on me, I might be on it about 30 minutes a day. We don’t have internet, we weren’t allowed to bring our computers. The only thing we have is our teammates. It has been awesome.”
(On what he has taken away from Milligan)
“Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. And always focusing on self-improvement over self-promotion. That is probably what I have taken away.”
(On the offensive line)
They are just as big, they are more physical, I got hit by them a bunch last year. I didn’t think they were that bad last year but they are a lot better in scheme and stuff and Coach Pittman has done a great job with them too.
SOPHOMORE DB BRIAN RANDOLPH
(On how much more the defense has to install)
“We’re pretty much there. We’re not perfect and I don’t think we’ll ever be perfect but we just have to get into our playbooks and just know the concepts like the back of our hands. We get a little messed up when they go quick huddle, so that is what we have to work on.”
(On making the defensive calls on the field)
“I like being in charge because if I make the wrong call at least I can get everybody on the same page and we can all run the same thing.”
(On getting home)
“I think getting back home will do us a lot of good. I think we got a lot from this camp, but there is nothing like home. After the scrimmage on Friday I think we will be solely ready for NC State.”
(On training at Milligan College)
“There have been a lot of good memories, especially off the field with a bunch of funny jokes happening in the dorms that no one will know about. That’s been a good thing and gave me a lot of memories for when I get older.”
RS JUNIOR DB BYRON MOORE
(On where he was most productive in the last scrimmage)
“Mainly in the run game. I think I had like six tackles from coming down in the box and being able to stop the run and coming down into the box.”
(On what he has worked on during training camp)
“I definitely think I am more of a pass stop guy, and this whole camp been focused on trying to show I can help in the run game too.”
SENIOR DB MARSALIS TEAGUE
(On confidence on the field)
Confidence is critical to any position in any sport. The harder you practice, the more reps you get and the better you do it naturally builds that confidence. That naturally built confidence is a good thing for any type of competitor.
(On building on Saturday’s scrimmage)
You just try and build on everything. You have one good performance but you can’t be happy or content with that because you are building on everything. All we did was keep building. Taking it one day at a time, learn from the past, let the past be in the past, let it go, just keep building and taking each day one day at a time.
SOPHOMORE TE BRENDAN DOWNS
(On seeing time on the first team during camp)
“It was definitely good for me because I don’t normally get that opportunity every day. It helped being with those guys.”
(On fall camp)
“This camp has probably been a little bit easier this year just because I am a little bit more acclimated to the program and everything. I got a lot better this year, last year I was getting used to everything, this year has been a little easier for me.”
(On his development)
“I think physically I have come a long way as far as size goes. I have put on a lot of size so that is probably going to help me more than anything in blocking, getting out in my routes and that sort of thing.”
(On seeing time at fullback and tight end)
“It depends on the day. We are doing all kinds of different stuff everyday so I have been working some fullback, tight end. We all are so that is pretty much where we are at right now. We have all been doing what we can at full back and tight ends to create depth at different positions.”
RS FRESHMAN OL MACK CROWDER
(On facing Daniel McCullers)
“I have a lot of (reps against McCullers). He started off on second string, but I think he moved up to first string. So, I didn’t get as many towards the end of practices here, but I had quite few. He is pretty tough and pretty hard to move.”
(On what it has been like practicing close to home)
“People are just kind of asking how it is to be playing back at Science Hill and how the team likes it here where I grew up. I have enjoyed it.”
(On if it has had a burden to receive more local attention)
“Not really. I have enjoyed everybody being around and everything. I have had a great time here, and enjoyed every minute of it so far.