KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley’s post-practice theme when speaking with the media has been similar throughout the first week of fall camp. It didn’t change Thursday at Haslam Field.
“It doesn’t matter how much you train in the off-season in the heat, lifting weights or running,” Dooley said. “Until you put on the shoulder pads and start hitting each other, your body doesn’t understand what it’s supposed to feel like. You have to recondition your body. Our guys, the first day of shoulder pads is a tough one on them because it’s heavy, they’re sweating and hitting. We just have to adjust and that’s what your body does. It will adjust to the amount of stress that you put on it and I remind them of that all the time.”
While the Vols will add shoulder pads to their attire Friday, they will also practice as a complete squad for the first time this fall.
The Vols split their practices for the first three days, with returning starters and veterans working out in the afternoon heat and newcomers joined by those still working their way up the depth chart practicing in the early evening.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
Tennessee’s offense was a question mark heading into the 2010 season, with a combined three starts between the first-string quarterback, tailback and offensive line. Looking ahead to 2011, however, those questions marks have turned into strengths.
“They’re doing good,” Dooley said. “We have a little experience and a little carryover. They worked very hard this summer. I think they’re handling it pretty good. We put a lot on them, a lot of shifting, moving and concepts. I’ve been real pleased. We haven’t had a lot of mistakes.”
While experience has been a big reason for the improvement within the Vols’ offense, Dooley’s relationship with third-year offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has played a key factor as well.
“He and I hit it off from the beginning,” Dooley said. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted him to stay and I’m glad he did. We just share so much philosophically on offense, in terminology and what it takes to win. When you believe in each other philosophically and you like the way you work together as people, you usually reach a pretty good arrangement.”
THE MAGIC ‘P’ WORDS
When asked about his impressions of Tennessee’s newcomers, which will practice Thursday evening, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox pointed to a pair of words that begin with the letter ‘p.’
“Potential and production,” Wilcox described. “Those are the two words. Potential gets everybody excited; coaches, fans, (the media). We’re in the same boat.
“What we’re going to be interested in from here on out is production. Those guys are going to be thrown into the mix right away. We’re going to expect a lot of them in terms of how they prepare, how they practice and how they learn. It happens fast. It’s way too early to begin to speculate on who is doing what. We’re excited about those guys that are here, the new guys. We’re excited to get them rolling so they can get out there and hopefully learn a little bit so that they can play fast and compete.”
In terms of on-field impressions, Wilcox couldn’t help but notice the most obvious characteristic.
“There are some bigger guys. The size stands out. They’re out here working their butts off, which is what we need them to do. We have a long way to go but this is what fall camp is for and that’s why we’re here.”
Z. ROGERS FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
Although much of the preseason hype has been on sophomore wide receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers, assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett has another pupil he thinks is ready to take a step up this season in junior Zach Rogers.
“I’m very hopeful that Zach will be able to play quite a bit this year and contribute in a lot of different ways,” Baggett said. “He can play outside, he can play inside, he can get deep. He has a lot of skills, but he just has not been able to stay healthy. Hopefully he can do that this year. He didn’t weigh very much and he wasn’t as strong as he needed to be to play at this level, but he has really improved that over the course of one year. If he continues to progress like he has the first few years I think he can contribute quite a bit for us this year. In fact I’m expecting it.”
A BAGG FULL OF FRESHMEN
Baggett has a youthful group at wide receiver this season with the departure of Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones. That load will be picked up by Da’Rick Rogers and Hunter as well as Zach Rogers. But right behind that trio is a pair of exciting newcomers in DeAnthony Arnett and Dallas Vincent. Both have look good early in camp according to Baggett.
“(Arnett and Dallas) both have talent,” said Baggett. “They are both quick and athletic. I’m excited to work with them for the next couple of weeks and find our where they fit into our offense. I think they will be slot guys, primarily. But, they can play outside also. We need a couple of slots to fit in our offense. They two young guys will have to come along and play in the slot.”
I SECOND THAT
Secondary coach Terry Joseph has the pleasure of coaching a defensive corp with four returning starters that has been supplemented by some talented recruits. Last year, the Vols depended on several players that were seeing their first significant playing time in college. Many of those guys are now starters and mainstays including juniors Janzen Jackson, Marsalis Teague and Prentiss Waggner along with sophomores Brent Brewer and Eric Gordon. The duo of Teague and Waggner combined for just eight tackles in 2009 before racking up a total of 103 last season.
The newcomer corps includes the likes of Justin Coleman (who enrolled last spring), Izauea Lanier, Pat Martin, Byron Moore and Brian Randolph.
“It’s like night and day, having those guys, who have shown they have some ability makes it easier because you have more options,” said Joseph. “The biggest thing is that it bring competition. A mistake can be corrected by a little bit less playing time and now that everyone knows that, they are replaceable. Just having those guys here brings energy to the room, competition to the practices and just makes everything a little bit more exciting.”
NOT JUST ABOUT OFFENSE FOR BRAY
When discussing the progress of sophomore Tyler Bray, quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw is quick to point out that his development hinges upon his knowledge of what happens on the other side of the line as much as Tennessee’s side. Just as important as knowing what routes your receivers are running is knowing what scheme the defense is lined up in and how best to attack it.
“He’s better than where he has been in understanding the offense,” Hinshaw said. “He’s still not there yet. To master an offense he has to continue to put in time. Now it’s to the stage where we are mastering defenses, as well as knowing what we have to do. But the communication process is happening and the understanding is better. That is the whole key to the game. The communication with Coach Chaney, myself and Coach Dooley is a lot more about talking through things rather than having to teach. We can talk about different kinds of coverages, situations and plays. It’s a lot faster, whereas before it was a slower transition.”
“Tyler is asking a lot better questions. I think he’s had a good summer throwing the football and I’m impressed with where that part of it’s at. Right now, I’m happy with where he’s at.”
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On the importance of a strong relationship between the head coach and offensive coordinator)
“It’s critically important because if the offensive coordinator and the head coach aren’t on the same page philosophically on what it takes to win, what to do in critical situations and what they want the game to look like, you’re going to be in some rough head-setting moments on Saturday. We don’t really have a lot of those.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney
(On installing an offense)
“It’s like math class. You better stay up because you could fall behind and you’re going to be in big trouble. The same can be said for installation of an offense.”
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox
(On his outlook for fall camp)
“Obviously, there is some inexperience at certain positions. There are also some guys coming back in the back seven that have played some. There’s going to be a lot of competition in this camp, which is great. I think that brings out the best in everybody. We’re obviously ahead of where we were (last year) because the system has been in for a year. Now we’re introducing some new players into the system, but we’re excited to get going and let these guys go out there and compete.”
(On the defensive rotation)
“We have some more people. There’s still a lot to be said before that first game and it could happen in those first five games before we’re finally settled. What we need from these guys is to come out to work every day and get a little bit better every day. That’s all we’re focusing on. It’s all these small little details that at the end, the cumulative effect of that will hopefully will get us where we want to go.”
(On sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Hood)
“Daniel had a really good spring and we expect him to continue to get better. We’re excited about Daniel. He worked his butt off this summer. You can tell he’s in shape. He’s a big guy. He plays hard and it means something to him. That will go a long way. We just need to continue to get better at playing defensive tackle.”
Defensive backs coach & recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph
“Recruiting is the lifeline of the program. Because, if you get good players you don’t have to yell and scream as much.”
Wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett
(On Da’Rick Rogers)
“I think (Da’Rick) has come as far as anybody I have ever had in one year. He had to learn a lot a year ago. He was thrown into a situation where he had to be the guy going in to play. Coming out of high school it was kind of tough for him. I’m very pleased with the way he has come along. Man, it’s like night and day.”
Linebackers coach Peter Sirmon
(On being an effective recruiter)
“It’s about developing relationships. It’s the path in which you take in what kind of recruiter you’re going to be. For me, I don’t have an angle. I just talk with the kids and be as truthful with them as I can. THe more you talk to kids and the more honesty they feel from you, that’s where you buiold the relationship. You don’t tell them lies and you don’t sell them pie in the sky.”
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