Justin Hunter snags a ball at the first practice.
Aug. 2, 2011
KNOXVILLE - The Tennessee football program opened up fall practice Tuesday for the second time under head coach Derek Dooley.
"It was a good first practice, but there was nothing spectacular that you see and nothing terrible," Dooley said. "It's just a first practice. Everybody looks like they're in good shape. They're moving around good. They studied the playbooks pretty good. There's a lot of retention of the offense, defense and special teams. Hopefully, we can build on it."
Despite temperatures in the upper 90s, the Vols avoided using heat as an excuse to not have a strong opening practice.
"It really isn't that hot," Dooley said. "I told the team that it's hot, but it's hotter in Alabama, it's hotter in in Georgia and it's hotter in Florida. What are you going to do about it? We structure practice so that they can work and recover and get a lot of water. (The heat) isn't an excuse not to go. They did a pretty good job with it today."
The first four days of practice are projected to be hot, but things will really heat up Saturday when the Vols strap on pads for the first time, something Dooley is looking forward to.
"You look for anything that's different than what you expect and I didn't see anything different which is usually a good thing. Practice one is `Let's go watch the film and get the tune.' These first few days I hate because we're sitting there running around in helmets. I'll be anxious to put the pads on."
JANZEN'S BACK, ENERGIZED
Although Janzen Jackson officially returned to the football program July 6, the Vols were able to feel the full impact of the junior defensive back's reappearance in the secondary at the Vols' first session.
"I think what benefits the team is just his energy level," Dooley said. "It rubs off on people. He's first in everything. He has good enthusiasm. He's active. He loves competing. He's everything you look for in a competitor on the field."
Not only is the team benefitting, but his return has brought a different dynamic to his own demeanor.
"He just has great energy on the football field," Dooley said. "I see it in the team meeting room. It's like a glow out there. He has a smile on his face. This is what Janzen loves. I'm happy that he's with our team, not just because it makes our team better, but you can see his soul just brighten up out there."
MARTIN ALSO BACK IN ACTION
After suffering his second torn Achilles tendon, senior Ben Martin was back on Haslam Field for the first practice of the 2011 season. The Cincinnati native missed last season after his first torn Achilles suffered in August 2010. Then in February, he suffered the same injury on the foot causing him to miss spring practice.
"It felt really good to be back on the field with the guys," said Martin. "It felt good to be a part of the team again, going through the drills and getting yelled at by the coaches, it felt good again." Martin took a moment to collect himself when asked about what `the moment' was that he felt like he was back. "Probably when we were going through the first set of drills and I realized I was tired -- this is what football is supposed to feel like. I had my helmet, my mouth piece, that's what football is. I wasn't hesitant that's how you get hurt. I do think about limitations and have to know what my limits are ... But I am a football player, I just want to get back out there and play."
Martin has played in 33 career games, dating to 2007 with the orange and white, making 63 career tackles with 6/5 TFLs.
"Its unfortunate what happened, but I can't control it. I worked hard to get through it and I knew how hard it was. I was ready for (rehab). I have learned my body. I am heavier, stronger and have my feet right now. I'm pretty confident heading into the start of camp."
"It was hard last year with Tauren carrying the load for the whole team," said the Fayetteville, Ga. native. "This year, I'm really fighting and I'm really trying and I want to be that second guy for Tauren and help him and push him. `T-Poole' needs help and that's what I'm going to give him."
Neal played in 10 games and rushed for 197 yards on 46 carries. His best game, came in the opener vs. UT-Martin, who he had 79 yards. For the remaining nine games, he ran for just 122 yards.
"I have worked every day, as hard as I could," Neal said. "I just wanted to show the coaches that I am ready to contribute."
Head coach Derek Dooley
(On freshman Devrin Young and his collarbone injury)
"Injuries are a part of the game. He hurt his shoulder last week. We x-rayed it last week and it didn't show anything. He was sore. I think something happened before yesterday. It just took a while when he was working it a little bit more, and it finally gave in. It's too bad, but we'll put in the next guy."
(On sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Hood)
"The way he's progressing gives you a little more confidence every day. He's doing a good job in there. What I'm interested in seeing is how much different he is three weeks from now from the end of spring. We're encouraged by him. He's tough. He's committed. I think he's going to help us."
(On sophomore defensive lineman Jacques Smith)
"We have to make sure he's healthy. That's number one. I think he has the ability to be an elite pass rusher that can really impact a game. Whether he will be able do that or not, time will tell. And then if you are an elite pass rusher, does he have the stamina and physical stature to hold up in the run game? We have to use him the right way."
Junior defensive lineman Willie Bohannon
(On Tennessee's first practice)
"Everybody got back into the rhythm. Once you get past the first few periods of practice, you get back into the rhythm of what you need to do. You may not be back there physically, but you get back there mentally really fast."
Sophomore defensive lineman Jacques Smith
(On recovering from his injuries)
"I feel like (having the injuries in the spring) was a blessing because some guys don't even realize that they have injuries like this. I had it for quite a while, especially in my right one. It was agitating me and I didn't know what it was so I didn't report it to the trainers because I thought it was my cleats. I had an X-ray and turns out it was a stress fracture. It is a blessing to know that it happened at an early stage and we could fix it. It's a blessing for me to be standing here right now after just going through that practice."