Aug. 1, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Volunteers reported to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex on Thursday, signaling the start of the first fall camp under Coach Butch Jones.
For many it was business as usual, having gone through this song and dance before. But for some, it was the start of a new beginning. It was the start of their careers as Volunteers.
And for junior transfer Woody Quinn, it was a long journey and a new sport. Quinn, a 6-foot-6 tight end, first reported to Pepperdine University on a volleyball scholarship, before transferring to California Baptist to continue his volleyball career. After competing for the Lancers volleyball team in 2012, Quinn got back onto the gridiron at Santa Ana College last season.
Now at his fourth institution, Quinn enters just his third season of football over the past eight years.
"It's been a long road and a lot of it was faith and family playing a part in deciding to get here," said Quinn. "A lot of work as well. I never thought I would end up here. When the call came about Tennessee, I was extremely excited and just felt out the recruiting process and all off a sudden I'm here."
While he may be accustomed to top-notch volleyball on the west coast, Quinn was immediately asked if he believes he can keep pace in the toughest college football conference in the nation.
"I feel like I measure up. I wouldn't have come here in the first place if the coaches didn't believe in me and if I didn't believe in myself," Quinn said. "Obviously, we're going to find out here pretty soon."
Quinn also believes the tight end has the potential to play a major role in the new offensive system.
"It can be as big as the tight end plays," said Quinn. "We want to win games so if we're helping the team win and doing well in practice, then we're going to play a bigger role. With all of us, it's just trying to go out every day and help the team win any way possible."
Reporting to camp at Tennessee was the next step in a long process for Quinn, but the Cali kid is here to prove he belongs.
"It's fun and cool... This is Tennessee," Quinn said. "But I still haven't done anything. Getting here was a small part of my goal, but my dream is to do really well here."
PETERMAN FOCUSED ON COMPETITION
On Wednesday, Justin Worley told the media he hadn't seen a copy of the Vols' preseason depth chart. On Thursday, fellow signal caller Nathan Peterman echoed the same sentiment. Neither of UT's listed co-starters at quarterback had paid attention to the 2-deep, which garnered lots of attention when it was released on Tuesday.
"It is not very important right now," said Peterman, a redshirt freshman. "The depth chart is preseason and you can't really pay much attention to that. A lot of work is going to be done. We are just really excited to get started."
And it all starts on Friday when the Vols take part in their first camp practice on Haslam Field a 3:40 p.m.
Peterman is primed and ready to compete for the starting job with the Volunteers and spent the summer refining his game.
"Focusing on the accuracy and focusing on a mastery of the offense," said Peterman. "I have been talking to Coach (Bajakian) about that, like post-snap reads and stuff like that.
"I viewed all the film from the spring a lot. I tried to make improvements on the reads and post snap recognition of the defense. Hopefully that will show here in camp."
Jones has been adamant that the leader of the Vols offense needs to be an alpha male.
"I think the point he's stressing there is that your teammates can really tell that you're in control of the ship and I think that helps your confidence in playing to," said Peterman. "Being the alpha male is going to help your play too. I think it's just part of the quarterback position."
MAGGITT EYES 100 PERCENT BY OPENER
Playing football comes with a chance of injury -- every time a player steps on the field. Junior linebacker Curt Maggitt knows just that.
During the 2012 season, Maggitt suffered a myriad of injuries starting in the opener vs. NC State until his season was ended after tearing the ACL in his right knee against Missouri on Nov. 10.
"I don't feel like any player plays a complete season being 100 percent," said Maggitt, "so it's just being able to push through it and some things you can deal with, some things you can't."
During this offseason, Maggitt has been getting constant rehabilitation on his shoulder, knee and anything in between to get ready for the upcoming season.
"If I'm not in class, eating or working out, I'm getting rehab on my shoulder and my knee. Just preventative maintenance is what we call it."
The 239-pound linebacker knows he has progressed with his rehab but won't put a percent on it, knowing that it is a process, knowing he is getting better every day. Going into fall camp, that's exactly what he wanted to see.
Maggitt isn't alone in his recovery either. Strength coaches Dave Lawson and Mike Szerszen have helped Maggitt every day, knowing what is in his best interest and paying him special attention to his specific injuries.
Outside of the training room, Maggitt relies strongly on his faith, family and friends to bring him to a full recovery.
"I talked to my brother," Maggitt said in reference to his older sibling, Roosevelt Maggitt, who also suffered several injuries while playing defensive line at Iowa State. "I've been hanging around Herman (Lathers) since as long as I can remember, since I've been here pretty much. My dad, Herm, my big brother, those guys have been helping me out the most. I can talk to them about anything."
With a full recovery not far away, Maggitt hopes to see time on the field with Team 117 against Austin Peay. "My one goal is to get back to 100 percent," he said. "Get ready to roll by August 31."
NEYLAND'S MAXIM AIDS KICKING GAME
Butch Jones is stressing a maxim implemented into Tennessee football by former head coach General Robert R. Neyland, more than ever before:
"Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made."
Michael Palardy is entering fall camp competing for all three kicking positions: punter, kicker and kickoff specialist, something that is not often done.
"Coach Jones implemented things that since I've been here I've never experienced," said the senior. "Whether it's going out at the end of practice and having all the kickers kick field goals, with the whole team around you yelling and screaming and spraying water at you, Coach screaming in my ear, that's something that's only going to help us in the long run. He emphasizes special teams more now than anyone I've ever heard and I love it."
As a kicker, Palardy knows that his actual playing time on the field is short, so hearing Jones give him a shot at all three positions has encouraged him to work harder in the offseason.
After a successful spring, Palardy used this summer to improve in all three phases of the game.
"I've improved a lot," said Palardy, who punted 36 times and kicked nine field goals in 2012. "My weight has gone up and squats and bench. My flexibility has increased. I've been hitting the ball better than I ever have, better than in the spring and I thought I had a pretty good spring. I think I'm pretty confident going into the fall camp."
Along with workouts, Palardy looked to former Vols for guidance -- especially in punting. VFLs and NFL stars Britton and Dustin Colquitt, have spent time with Palardy on the field simply hitting balls and talking about punting.
"Just the combination of everybody giving their input has really benefitted me in the summer," said Palardy, who averaged 43.1 per punt as a junior.
Palardy knows that there is a higher intensity going into fall camp and the season and he is anticipating everything that is ahead for the Vol football program.
"It's an adrenaline rush," he said. "It's something that I've always dreamed of ever since I started playing football and I started kicking, being able to be put in that situation where everyone depends on me to win a game, in a close game to tie it up or something like that, so I love it. I embrace it. I embrace it every day."
CROOM AIMS TO EARN STARTING ROLE
Tennessee roster features a host of unproven receivers this year, but the group has a lot of potential. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jason Croom sits atop the Vols first preseason depth chart but that's not something the young play-maker is concerned with.
"I was told about [being at the top of the depth chart], but nothing is guaranteed," said Croom, who played in just three games as a true freshman in 2012. "Coach Z (Zach Azzanni) emphasizes that nothing is guaranteed. You've got to come bring it every day, every practice."
Croom knows that there will be a constant battle and a lot of healthy competition at the position for getting to see the field on Saturdays.
"Whoever is making the most plays and is working hard will get playing time so I have to compete every day," said the Norcross, Ga., native. "[Camp] is everybody's chance to show what we've been working so hard for. Show [the coaches] that you've been working hard on techniques and everything, and being able to be that playmaker." The competition among the wideouts has brought them all closer together. With so many injuries to that group in the spring it has been a rallying point for them to strengthen their solidarity.
"Each and every day we came out with a mentality, like we had a chip on our shoulders," said Croom. "We came together a lot too. Our unit has come so much closer. We do a lot more stuff off the field." With all of the camaraderie on the team, Croom is ready for camp to start because it means actually getting out there and playing as a team again.
"Being away from football, you just want to go out there and go at them," he said. "You miss the pads, and you miss being out there. The workouts become an everyday routine so you're ready to be out there and play some football."