KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) - Taking full advantage of his opportunities this spring, Tennessee sophomore tailback Devrin Young has impressed out of the backfield and become like a 'toy' for the Vols' offense.
"There are a lot of things you can do with him," offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said after Wednesday morning's practice inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. "He's like that toy you had as a kid. He has a lot of physical abilities and a lot of skill level. It's fun to watch him grow, mature and understand a little bit more. He can assume a few more roles, but I think he's had a very good spring for us."
Young spent his rookie season at Tennessee primarily in a specialist role. The Bearden, Tenn., product finished third on the team with 756 all-purpose yards, including 628 on kickoff returns marking the fifth-most in a single-season in UT history.
"I know Coach Dooley has giant plans for him especially," Chaney said. "There's no question about that. From the offensive side of it, he's played exceptionally well for us playing tailback. We're really pleased to have him out there."
Between the two scrimmages this spring, Young rushed 15 times for 95 yards and a touchdown, sporting the team's highest average yards per carry with 6.3.
"He's going to have the opportunity," running backs coach Jay Graham said of Young's ability to play running back in the SEC. "I think it is important for us to put him in situations that he can be successful and we can use him the way we want to use him."
That may include pass protection, as the Vols haven't limited Young to specific plays.
"We just put them out there and let them play," Chaney said. "If they get stuck in a protection having to block a 260-pounder, so be it. Grow up and be a man. He's had to do that on several occasions and we've been pleased with how he's performed."
With his sights on making the most of his career as a Vol, Young takes the same mindset into every play.
"The coaches are really looking to me to make big plays," Young said. "I feel like as long as I can make a play almost every other time I'm in, I feel like I'm being pretty consistent. That's what I'm shooting for every time, to make some sort of play."
Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri expects and demands the most out of his defense, even when the Vols aren't on his watch.
"If you are going to be a great football player - and I don't care about what level of football you are at - once you get done with your academics, instead of sitting around and playing on Xbox go study people who you know that are good football players, especially yourself and see what you need to do to become and better football player," Sunseri said.
"The only way you become great is if you study yourself and you become perfect in your techniques. So, these guys right now are finding out that since they have been doing this it (there are) less mistakes."
Sunseri only expects of his players the same standards that he holds to himself - and has since he was in their shoes.
"I studied every night," Sunseri said. "Here is what I did. I used to have a projector in my room and every night when I would come home I would take two rolls of film. I would watch my opponent because if you watch your opponent and you know what they are doing on certain things you become better football players.
"You are anticipating the plays, you know how to do it, how to react and you put yourself though calls. I want our players to understand the concept of the defense that we are running and what are the responsibilities that they need to do."
The Vols have heard Sunseri loud and clear, and have taken it upon themselves to emulate their defensive coordinator.
"These kids are coming over here, they are coming in packs and they are watching tape on their own," Sunseri said. "They are doing what they need to do to become better football players. That is what is so exciting about them, when they come in packs because the game is starting to become very important to them. They want to be successful on the field and off the field."
Saturday's DISH Orange and White Game will provide Vols' fans their first glimpse at Tennessee's new defense.
Day by day, the Vols are working hard to impress the Big Orange fans not only Saturday, but when they kick-off the 2012 season at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta against North Carolina State on Friday, Aug. 31.
"That stadium is coming to see a product," Sunseri said. "That product we want to put on the field is a product of champions, a product of professionals; so that when everybody leaves that stadium they know that they are happy they are a part of Tennessee football."
DISH O&W GAME SET FOR APRIL 21
The DISH Orange & White Game will take place on Saturday, April 21 with a 2:30 p.m., kickoff. Admission and parking will be free for all fans. In addition to free admission to the game, Fan Appreciation Day will feature an autograph signing with head coach Derek Dooley, assistant coaches and Vol players. The signing, held in recent years at Haslam Field, will be held on the field at Neyland Stadium from 12:15-1:15 p.m.