April 13, 2011
If Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley had any doubts about where his team's focus would be during the final week of spring practice, the Vols are taking the "steps" to put those doubts to rest.
"I was really pleased with their `step' the last two days," Dooley said. "They've had good energy. We got a lot of work done these last two days. I'm always concerned going into that last week what the mood is of the team. They really came ready to improve as a team and we did that."
The Vols practiced in full pads Wednesday for the final time this spring and have one more practice Thursday before the spring session culminates Saturday with the Dish Network Orange and White game at 2 p.m. Eastern at Neyland Stadium. Dooley won't take much away from Saturday's spring game, however.
"It's really more individual performance," Dooley said. "You don't get the unit together so I don't put a lot of stock into it. I always recall the year we won the national championship (at LSU in 2003), Matt Mauck threw six interceptions in the spring game. Had we panicked over that, he would have never been our starting quarterback. These games are just so different because you don't have any continuity anywhere. It's basically, `Let's pick teams and go out in the yard and play a game.'"
Although the spring practice period officially ends Saturday, the Vols will continue to take advantage of their remaining time left on campus in the few weeks before classes break for the summer.
"We won't completely turn them loose until school is out," Dooley said. "There's a lot that can be gained in the few weeks right after spring before they break. Some teams go to shut it down, but we're going to try to make an effort to keep working. There's a lot of work to be done in the weight room with our strength levels, and I think our team will put a good investment in it."
CATCHING UP WITH THE COORDINATORS
Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney on...
...the offensive line unit now compared to a year ago:
"A year ago, we couldn't even put five guys out there. We weren't sure who was going to be out there. Even throughout the fall, we struggled with that. I feel more comfortable as we walk into the two-a-day practices that we'll have enough guys down there in Harry's (Hiestand) group that we'll have competition at each position which inevitably makes you better. I think we have come a long way in regards to that. We still have a long way to go, but we're considerably better than we were a short time ago."
...what he hopes to see in Saturday's Orange and White game:
"I'm looking for the guys to go out and have fun playing football at Neyland Stadium with a little crowd. That's all. I think that when you try to evaluate spring games, sometimes it's difficult. But what you can evaluate is their ability to get ready to play a football game. I want them to go out there and have their minds right, play hard, play with great effort, play with good discipline and have fun playing football. Other than that, there's really no statistical objective one way or the other. I just want the kids to become better football players by going out there and doing it on Saturday."
Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox on...
...the progress of his defense this spring:
"We all have a lot of work to do and that's one conclusion that I think we can prove. We've definitely improved up to this point and we really have no room to take any steps backwards. I thought there were some guys that have shown up, but as a whole we still have a ways to go before we're playing the way that we want to play."
...his outlook heading into the summer:
"We're better. We've improved. We've shown improvement in the last three weeks but that doesn't make you rest any easier. There's always a sense of urgency that we have to improve on certain things and at certain positions and that's no different now. We'll go into the offseason with some positions unsettled and that's OK, but we have to continue to work in the weight room, through the summer, and into the fall to get better at those positions so that we can go out and compete at a high level."
WITH THE FIRST PICK...
A Wednesday night draft will determine the rosters for Saturday's game. Seniors are split 50-50 between the two squads and then take turns selecting teammates, coaches, support staff, and administrators.
The Dish Network Orange and White Game kicks off at 2 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. The game will be streamed live online at foxsportstennessee.com and will also be shown on a tape-delayed basis on SportSouth at three times: Sunday, April 17, at 8 p.m. and Monday, April 18, at both 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Orange and White rosters will be released Wednesday evening upon completion of the draft.
-The Vols will practice for the final time Thursday in helmets before taking the field at Neyland Stadium on Saturday for the Orange and White game.
--Tennessee's individual spring awards, selected by the coaches, will be announced at halftime of Saturday's Orange and White game. Two of the awards have been a UT tradition since 1979: the Harvey Robinson Award and the Andy Spiva Award, which honors the offensive and defensive surprises of the spring, respectively. Among the other awards, created in 2010, that are given are: Big Lick Award, presented to the players who consistently play with the most physical toughness; Fourth Quarter Award, presented to the players who consistently compete with the intangible values that provide the foundation of the Tennessee football program: attitude discipline, toughness, effort and team; and the John Stucky Hard Knox Award, presented to the players who demonstrate the best physical and mental conditioning during the off-season program.