Blog ... Tennessee Opens Practices
30 days of pain, agony and the two-a-day workouts are all that is ahead...
By: BE Coleman
It is nearly football time in Tennessee! 30 days of pain, agony and the two-a-day workouts are all that is ahead of the team picked third in the Eastern Division by sports writers.
There are more storylines than this column can possibly hold, but the general feeling by everyone is the team is not being given the proper credit for winning the SEC East last season.
Coach Phillip Fulmer's opening statement was quick and to the point. "I’m excited to get started, to get our football team back together!" as he spoke to the rather large group of media that had gathered in the East Clubhouse of Neyland Stadium.
Fulmer and the Vols have good reason to be excited returning 10 out of 11 starters on offense, plus being quite strong in all the skill positions on the depth charts.
Leading The Way
Leading the offense is Arian Foster who is nearing the programs all time rushing mark. Foster said it was, “surreal - kinda eerie - that I have the opportunity to do this. - I am going to take it play by play.” The Vols San Diego bruiser only needs 684 yards to become UT’s all time leading rusher.
Fulmer spoke of his number one rusher by saying, “as I go back and look at running back Arian Foster as a freshman and some as a sophomore, he was carrying the ball too lose and that led to some turnovers that hurt our football team.
Now I see a mature guy that has got the ball high and tight and is being an example for our younger guys and also improving his play. That kind of emphasis is really important.”
Fulmer knows Foster can’t carry the team by himself and has plenty of fire in the backfield position. The Vols always keeps a deep stocked running attack that has been one of Fulmer’s noted mantras.
“Thank goodness Montario Hardesty looks to be well and ready go,” added the coach after Hardesty underwent surgery for a stress fracture during spring camp. Hardesty and Foster are two different styled rushers, making them a tangible pair to handle for opposing defenses.
Behind Foster and Hardesty are Lennon Creer and a new comer in Tauren Poole from Toccoa, GA., who enrolled in spring. Creer has already made his name known to fans last season and is only expected to continue. The three will form the 1-2-3 rotation.
New QB – No Issue
The only thing QB Jonathon Crompton is hearing is that he is the new quarterback from the press. His team mates certainly don’t feel that way. Crompton said he was, “proud to be the quarterback at the University of Tennessee.”
“It is always exciting to be the quarterback at Tennessee, because you know you have playmakers here - this is one of the premier - premier schools in the nation,” said Crompton.
The Vols new QB will wear an embroidered number 22 along with his number 8 wristband in honor of a fallen friend and former prep teammate who was killed by a drunken driver in Florida earlier in the year.
Most importantly finds Crompton with an experienced and veteran line returning in front of him acknowledging their signal caller with confidence. “I think we are going to have a good offense.”
O-Coordinator Dave Clawson said, “In the spring there were some growing pains and an issue or two to work out, were headed to continue at practice today.” Crompton noted that he “kinda has good grasp on it, I think it is going to be a something.”
New O-C – No Problem
Clawson’s awaited entrance and what he unveils are still fully unanswered questions. Arian Foster noted it, is “a lot like the west coast,” to him, “I think it is going to be something!”
The credentials are impeccable at Division 1AA, his fresh approach highly awaited in Knoxville, is the talk of the town – state for that matter. As CFN Editor Pete Fuitak noted in his preview of the 2008 Vols that came out Saturday – August 2nd upon Clawson.
“It's not like he fell off the turnip truck and into the coveted Tennessee offensive coordinator position, but he has a lot to live up to with (David) Cutcliffe gone.”
The wide receivers and tight ends are amped, the running backs are amped and Crompton has an arm on him along with his line-backing mentality run ability.
All certainly like the game plans Clawson is teaching that has more options being taught with each practice session to the unit. Fulmer said the new terminology that Clawson brings with him is enjoyable when hearing him speak.
What type of a web “The Spider” weaves with Gerald Jones playing under center is only another dimension the Vols feel are unaccounted for in preseason ratings.
Defense May Surge Further
After two season of less than stellar front pass rush finds optimistic feeling by the coaching staff. D-Coordinator John Chavis noted in spring that he thinks this interior front may be much quicker coming off the corners and inside push than the previous two years.
Bolden, Robert Ayers, Danny Williams, Walter Fisher, Victor Thomas and Donald Langely representing the core. Having one of the top one or two secondary pair at safety with Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley will benefit the front perimeter push.
The Vol linebackers may be better suited per position than in recent seasons also noted Chavis two weeks ago at Fulmer’s annual golf classic. Rico McCoy returns for the unit after living up to his prospectus rating in 2007.
Leadership – Possible Captains
Fulmer is very technical in his demands for a team captain each season. In fact he has used more approaches to his methods of selection with a periodical change up.
“Leadership is an area that I think is extremely important for this 2008 team as we identify who those guys are,” said Fulmer. “We have eight or ten guys on both sides of the field that are very capable in their own way of being good leaders for us. It’s extremely important that we continue to grow in that area.”
Fulmer has used revolving game to game captains and he has designated season captains in the past. Certainly there are some enthusiastic players; Fulmer did not cede his thoughts any further.
Keys To Begin The Ride
"A key for us is picking up where we left off in spring practice and how much we can improve in the next 29 days as we prepare to start the season with UCLA. Mentally, physically, fundamentally, technically—how much carryover will we have? We’ll know very shortly as we start practice in shorts.
"We—and I expressed this to the team last night—can waist no opportunity to improve as a team, whether it be in the meeting rooms, mentally getting ourselves ready or in our individual work early in practice,” said Fulmer.
Fulmer said, "I want a physically tough football team. I challenged our guys to stay out of the training room. We have to have guys out on the field practicing and being a part of a physically and mentally tough team."
Core Discipline - Core Focus
Fulmer spoke about, “having planned practice, you always look at the number of guys returning. We do have guys on both sides of the ball because we try to play a lot of people during the course of the season.
If we don’t have starters that have returned, we’ve got guys that have played. We’re going to really work at having a physical camp. As I said, it’s extremely important that we pick up where we left off in spring practice, and I thought spring practice was certainly a physical camp,” added the Vols skipper.
Early last season fundamental breakdowns hurt the team on the West Coast and in Florida. Those things have not been forgotten. Fulmer noted, “Our discipline, our alignment, assignment, technique and fundamentals, ball security, our efforts to learn to take the ball away more often, that shows up in practice.”
New Faces In The Crowd
Eleven freshmen signees and two junior college transfers made their Tennessee practice debuts Saturday afternoon at Haslam Field – one of three practice fields the Vols use in addition to Neyland Stadium.
One of the big names was Florida LB Gerald Williams, who has fought an uphill battle to wear the Orange and White. Williams originally signed with the Vols in 2005, but did not qualify and was forced to take the Junior College route.
After helping lead the City Of San Francisco College to it's fifth junior college national championship, now finds him schooling in Knoxville. Williams has one class left to pass between now and September, a feat he should handle after the great lengths he has went to become a Tennessee Volunteer.
FSU transfer Brandon Warren is enrolled and is practicing, but is awaiting an NCAA eligibility ruling that could keep him from playing this season. Warren had left the Seminole program abruptly when his mother was diagnosed with a type of cancer.
Big Orange Country opened its doors to its new stadium facade along with the 2008 edition of the Volunteers Media Day. Phase II is winding up as the home opener on Sept. 13th grows closer.
Gone are the hedges behind team bench’s that have been replaced with brick pavers that widen the sidelines and add a look of distinction to the arched entrances. It is a new look and certainly adds to the atmosphere in style while maintaining it’s legacy.
The stadium interior has been bricked after having new stadium wide Daktronic sign boards installed in 07 only add to the teams Jumbotron. Announcer Bobby Denton’s voice will be music in the fans ears very soon.
Day One Concluded
After meeting the media, taking part in the media photo shoots saw the team hitting the practice field to wrap up day one of Preseason 2008.
Head coach Phillip Fulmer and his staffs have scheduled 19 practices sessions and three full scrimmages through Aug. 23, when game week preparations begin.
The dress code stays the same Sunday before two days with shoulder pads as part of the NCAA-mandated four-day acclimation period.
Tennessee’s first day in full pads is Wednesday.
UT opens up its 2008 campaign September 1st at UCLA in the Rose Bowl in a prime time broadcast on Monday Night Football on ESPN – 8:00 PM, EST.
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