Aug. 2, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley opened fall camp on Thursday night with his annual pre-camp media briefing, and for the second consecutive year, the Volunteers will open the season with every player that signed a National Letter of Intent on campus.
"It's a combination of things," Dooley said. "We have a pretty good indicator of whether guys are going to qualify or not. It's more important than ever now, since you can only sign 25. Those guys put in a lot of hard work to finish strong."
Dooley was asked if getting all signees to campus in time for fall camp was unusual. The third-year head coach said that because of the work the staff puts in during the recruiting process, he hoped that it would become the norm, rather than the exception.
"I think we now do so much diligence on the front end," Dooley said. "Where a guy is from an eligibility standpoint and what he has to do to get there and, most importantly, what evidence do you have that he's going to get there."
Those new additions to the roster will have the opportunity to impress the coaches in split practices to start fall camp. The newcomers will practice in the opening session for the first three days at camp, followed by the veterans in the evening session. Now that camp has arrived, Dooley said it was important to carry the momentum from a strong offseason into the season.
"You guys have heard me most of the summer bragging about the team on their offseason and the last eight months about how hard they worked, the chemistry, their leadership growth," Dooley said. "All of that's great, but now we are at a point where none of that will pay dividends in the fall if we don't approach the next four weeks with the right kind of mindset."
VOLS ADD PHILLIPS TO FOLD
With just one day left before the start of preseason training camp, Tennessee put the finishing touches on its roster by adding freshman defensive lineman Omari Phillips.
The former Florida signee gives the Vols another big body on the defensive line, standing 6-6 and weighing in at 325 pounds. A product of Venice Senior High School in Venice, Fla., Phillips was a consensus four-star recruit and participated in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Although the timing of his arrival to Rocky Top was a little unconventional, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said the process was still the same.
"We had some guys on the staff that had a relationship, of course, so we just went through the process like we do with anybody of that nature," Dooley said. "We brought him up on a visit, we did our diligence and the process has gotten us to here. Really not any different than we do every other player. We just did it in a different time of year than what you normally do."
MITCHELL-THORNTON RETIRESIn announcing the additions to the roster, Dooley also noted one departure, linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, who elected to move on to his business career, degree already in hand.
"Nigel Mitchell-Thornton graduated and has retired, on to the business world." Dooley said. "We support Nigel, we're proud of him and he'll be a great employee for somebody."
OLYMPIC THOUGHTSReceiver Justin Hunter was asked about the Olympics currently underway in London. In response, he raised his orange UT polo to reveal his USA Track and Field shirt and said while the games weren't far from his mind, his focus right now is football.
"I know if I had worked on it and gotten to the Olympics, I would have missed a couple of games and that wouldn't have been best for the team," he said.
Coming back from injury, Hunter's thoughts were almost exclusively on the game, not the Games.
"When I got hurt, all I was thinking about was football," Hunter said. "Track didn't even enter my mind, it was all football."
Defensive back Brian Randolph has worked with Hunter this summer and says the junior is back in top form.
"I think he's better," Randolph said.
GRILLING UP TEAM-BUILDING
On the stage at the same time, Prentiss Waggner and Dallas Thomas talked about offseason teambuilding at various events, including barbeques at their homes. One area where the Louisiana natives still don't have a consensus: sauces.
"I keep telling them to ask me, because I know the good sauces," Waggner said. "Although I'm sure Dallas will disagree." He did. Thomas shook his head and laughed before saying, "You can't cook, son."
NOTHING TINY ABOUT ITOffensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson put his size on display in his first fall meeting with the media, a 3XL polo, barely covering his massive arms. He also explained the origin of his quite ironic nickname.
"The guys back home came up with a bunch of different things, but they were too long," Richardson said. "Finally it was `Big Tiny.' Now it's just Tiny and it's stuck."