July 31, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The offseason development for the Tennessee Volunteers was not a task achieved solely in the new LaPorte Strength & Conditioning Facility of the Anderson Training Center.
The Vols' offseason of work and bonding extended from the football complex to an unprecedented number of community service hours (1,322 hours) to a rafting expedition, even to the bowling alley.
"I can say I'm one of the best bowlers," junior linebacker A.J. Johnson said to sum up his impressions of the offseason team-building activities. "I'm definitely top five. It's been a fun experience, we've gone bowling on Wednesday and Sundays. I was real sorry at first, Herm (Lathers) had to teach me the technique, but now I can get between 160 and 180 consistently."
The team also took a rafting trip to build further on the team concept. But Johnson and the rest of the defense found a way to add a little football fun to the day on the river.
"The rafting experience was real fun, just going with your teammates," Johnson said. "When we got to the part where you get out of the boat, we did tackling drills, so we got to hit people off the raft. I got to hit Big Dan (McCullers). I'll probably never get to hit him again, but I got to tackle him off the raft. I had good technique, I rolled my hips and everything."
And the splash the two defensive players made as they met the river?
"I thought I was going to sink the whole boat."
But beyond the fun and games of teambuilding, the weight room and the practice fields were still the cornerstone of the offseason program. It was an important summer for players at every position, and quarterback Justin Worley said the whole team bought in to the program and its importance as the Vols build toward the 2013 season.
"I think a lot of it is the schedule we've had," Worley said of the organization that helped players acclimate to the new program and strength staff. "Also, we don't have any starters, I guess, that are announced starters for wide receivers, so everybody is vying for a position. Everybody's looking to get better. I think everybody's hungry right now."