April 2, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - When the Vols returned to the practice field on Monday morning, the primary focus was on the mental side of the game as head coach Derek Dooley challenged his squad to "exercise a level of grit" and develop an "ability to persist in the face of difficulty."
"I talked to the team after practice about with every great player, every great team and every great organization, you have to define a standard of what you believe in and what you want to look like," Dooley said after Monday's practice at Haslam Field. "We've done that in our program with our values. The standard is going to get challenged every day."
For Dooley, accepting that challenge all comes back to one thing: leadership.
"Every day, it's going to get challenged to see if you are really committed to it," Dooley said. "You have to exercise a level of grit in ability to persist in the face of difficulty. You also need some leadership around you to affect others in a positive way. We have to keep working on those things.
"We're still getting affected when we're nicked, when it's hot, `I'm tired,' and we start seeing a little bit of dragging. That's just something we have to keep harping on over and over. Once we get that standard and we don't compromise it, we're going to be OK."
D.ROGERS: FOCUSED ON TEAM
All-SEC wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers met with the media for the first time this spring on Monday. He was direct in speaking about what kept him away from the team for last Thursday's practice and vowed to move forward and help the Vols become "a championship contending team."
"No controversy, I just had some things I had to handle off the field," said Rogers, who returned to practice on Saturday. "I got those handled. I am looking forward to moving forward and becoming a championship contending team.
"I just had a few things, you know, in my personal life. As far as a distraction, I wasn't really trying to be a distraction but it was the situation that we got handed. Everything is good now, as I said before, as a team now we are focusing on moving forward."
"Once and for all. The whole team, I think we have all come together and I think this is the year, the team chemistry is great this year," Rogers said. "Honestly, I think this might be the year.
"Who doesn't want to catch balls from Tyler Bray, one of the top quarterbacks in the league? And Justin is one of the better receivers in the SEC. With a great situation like that, I feel like this offense can really push for high levels."
Rogers took extra time to clear the air with Bray and Hunter as well.
"Yeah, I had a conversation with my teammates, Bray and Justin, specifically on the side. We really just talked about how we can move forward and getting everything on the right track so we can move in the right direction as a team.
"There really wasn't much in the air to clear as a team. We have always been on the same page. It is just little things that need to be handled and I think we got those handled so everything should be good from here on out."
Dooley knows what the relationship between the Vols' three most potent offensive weapons means.
"It's part of being on the team. It's part of a family," Dooley said. "Those guys have to play together and work together. They spend a lot of hours together. They have to be able to iron out any differences they have. But I know this. Everybody in our organization, there's a lot of love. Sometimes love is tough love. That's part of parenting. I bring it up every day. That kind of player involvement is critical on a team."
Dooley also said Rogers follows the same rules as the other 90-plus members of the football team.
"It's no different with any player," Dooley said. "We don't have different standards despite what a lot of people think. Does that mean we treat everybody the same? No. We have some big-picture standards that are very black and white with how we handle them. How we manage it with each player is very different depending on what the personality is and depending on a lot of things. The leash is similar, but there's also a break point with every player. It's no different with anybody."
"NO FEARS"Junior wide receiver Justin Hunter continues to progress ahead of schedule as he works his way back from a torn ACL. The 6-4 speedster is feeling as strong as ever and passed another big test on Monday.
"My physical therapist told me how it was going to be and so far he's been right," Hunter said. "I have no pain and I'm coming back stronger than I was before. My cutting is good. I even landed on my left leg today and it was straight, so I don't have any fears."
Another positive for Hunter was the return of Da'Rick Rogers to practice. His presence on the field provides another threat for the defense to consider and gives Hunter more room to work.
"When he wasn't there, I was tired, I was beat," Hunter said. "I was getting double-teamed and all that, so when he came back I was really excited and happy because I got to get my reps in.
"It's great because when he does something good we're all happy and into it and when I do something good, he's into it. We're just out there helping each other."
"CHOPPING AT THE WOOD"After starting in two games and playing in 11 as a junior-college transfer last season, defensive back Byron Moore's hard work is starting to pay off.
One of the top recruits out of high school in 2008, Moore has always had expectations placed on him, but none higher than the ones he puts on himself.
"I push myself to be the best," Moore said. "So (last season) was difficult. But I came out here to practice and worked hard each day, perfecting my craft and getting better at my game. So I just kept a straight head and kept chopping at the wood until I got the playing time I was comfortable with."
Slotted at strong safety on the Vols' spring organizational chart prior to camp, Moore looks to keep chopping.
"It takes a while to find a home until he finds a comfortable place of how to work, gets his body right and his speed," Dooley said. "It took us awhile to figure it out too. It's hard your first year. I don't care how old you are. Your first year in any program is hard. I'm glad he has three."
In his first spring session with the Vols, Moore is applying what he learned in his first season at Tennessee in 2011.
"Camp is going well so far," Moore said. "I'm trying to learn the new defense and pick up the concepts. Everyone in the secondary is working hard and trying to work together, making sure we all know what we've got to do and how to play each concept out. I feel like I'm having a pretty good camp, I've just got to keep grinding and working hard, pushing towards our first game."
As long as he continues to do that, he should settle into that home Dooley referenced just fine.
"Byron is doing really well," Dooley said. "He's making a lot of progress. I think he has his weight where he wants it. He's now learning and he's picking up this stuff pretty good. He's an instinctive player and I hope he continues that. We need him."