Vols Open Kiffin Era Pushing Toward 'Next Level'

Aug. 4, 2009


Practice complete and his obligatory media interviews granted, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin turned and jogged off the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center turf.

He then delivered a stinging right cross to the padded column surrounding the indoor practice field and raced upstairs.

By all appearances, UT's first-year head coach truly enjoyed opening day.

"We really put a lot on these guys; this was not a normal Day 1," Kiffin said. "We were putting almost a full week into one day. We started this morning at 6:30 and had a really good walk-through. They went to class because most of them are still in summer school, but then came back for more meetings and we had a three-hour practice.

"It was like an NFL-install today, totally different from the spring. As the billboard says, `It's Time.' It's time to really push these guys to the next level and not baby them."

On hand for Tuesday's initial workout of the 2009 season were 18 freshman scholarship signees: LB Jerod Askew, TB Bryce Brown, DB Mike Edwards, DB Eric Gordon, OL Daniel Hood, DB Janzen Jackson, DL Arthur Jeffery, LB Greg King, DB Darren Myles Jr., LB Robert Nelson, TB David Oku, DB Nyshier Oliver, OL Kevin Revis, WR Nu'Keese Richardson, WR Zach Rogers, OL JerQuari Schofield and WR Marsalis Teague.


Four 2009 signees -- DT Montori hughes, LB Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, DE Rae Sykes and TB Toney Williams -- enrolled in January and participated in spring practice. Williams injured his knee during offseason workouts and likely will miss the season.

"We'll be in here all night because there's so much film to watch and so much to learn about these guys," Kiffin said. "There are so many new guys we don't know much about. It's exciting to have them out here.

"Everybody's going to have high expectations the first day for the young guys to do stuff, but you have to remember that their heart's beating so fast they can hardly line up. We'll continue to push them and challenge them. I thought we did a really good job of putting a ton on them for Day 1."

And Kiffin expects even the early going to make a difference for the freshmen.

"Everything they do counts, no matter what it is. On or off the field, we take everything into account, which will end up having a lot to do with our depth chart."

That depth chart will go through several alterations before this coaching staff is through with it, judging from Tuesday's workout that was an acclimation practice in just helmets and shorts but nonetheless had a physical mentality.

"I don't know another way to do it," he said. "I just think that's how you build a team that's going to be physical, going to be able to run the ball and going to be able to play such a tough schedule. We're very physical in the way that we practice. We have relentless pursuit after the ball because the No. 1 thing is turnover margin. That's how you win and lose games faster than anything else."

Kiffin and his all-star group of assistants are in the coaching bunker and loving every minute.

"They are so excited to finally get out here," he said. "Half the staff, I think, was in the NFL last year so their clocks are off; they already would have been in training camp by now. I just think they're really excited to finally do what we're here to do and that's coach football. Most of these guys are sleeping here and the farthest they get away from their offices now -- for the next two weeks -- is the hash mark on the other side of the practice field."

STORM SURGE -- Tuesday's three-hour practice was interrupted by thunderstorms that forced the team indoors for the final 30 minutes.

"It wasn't a big deal coming inside," Kiffin said. "It was only for one period, our team period."

RSVP -- Also included in Tuesday's practice group were nine invited walkons: WR Josh Bigney (Knoxville), DB Nick Branum (Knoxville), DS J.R. Carr (Torrance, Calif.), QB Mike Fromke (Knoxville), OL Brandon Galyon (Knoxville), P David Harrington (Marina, Calif.), OL Chase Phillips (Knoxville), QB Mike Rozier (Stockbridge, Ga.) and P Sam Thomas (Memphis).

NEXT -- Day 2 is Wednesday afternoon, again in helmets and shorts. The team adds shoulder pads Thursday and Friday.





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