March 22, 2011
Tennessee opened up spring practice Tuesday for the second time under head coach Derek Dooley as the Vols took Haslam Field for better than two hours.
After being hired in January 2010, Dooley had just over two months to prepare for his first spring session with the Vols. This time around, however, is much different.
"It's a lot better comfort zone as a coach because you know your players, you know your coaches and everybody understands the expectations," Dooley said. "You're able to coach, motivate and teach and not worry about a lot of things on the periphery. Last year, I spent three days telling them that we don't do chants during practice and things like that."
Along with a better comfort zone comes a higher level of standards, but a level that Dooley believes the Vols will achieve as they put in the work over the next several weeks.
"It was a good first day and certainly a lot better than the first day of spring last year but we have a long way to go," Dooley said. "I'm setting a real high expectation on everything we do and then giving a lot of critical feedback and doing it over and over again. If we just stay the course over time, we'll improve each day and feel good about where the team is at the end of spring."
One thing that won't change is UT's agenda during the 2011 spring camp. The Vols will continue to focus on the basics and fundamentals, much as they did a year ago.
"I think every spring you do that," Dooley said. "Certainly in our case, we're so young. It's not like we have 25 seniors coming through here. We're really starting all over with the basics. We started the first period teaching how to tackle and we're going to do that every day."
Despite the Vols' youth, it's not a new obstacle that Dooley and his squad are facing. Tennessee played 16 true freshmen in 2010, a figure that ranked tied for third in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
"I'm not sure we'll get all our questions answered before the season. We just have to understand that we're going to work as hard as we can every day to get a little better and hope that when the season kicks off, our young guys are where we need them to be."
-The Vols will be limited to helmets only, no pads, through their first two workouts (Tuesday and Wednesday). UT will add shoulder pads to their practice attire Thursday.
-UT has 13 practices remaining prior to the Dish Network Orange and White Game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m.
-The Vols return 13 starters in 2011, seven on offense and six on defense. Six of 13 returning starters will be sophomores.
-Follow Tennessee football on Twitter: @Vol_Football