Aug. 6, 2009
Tennessee added shoulder pads to its practice attire for Thursday and only dialed the intensity up another level.
The Vols worked for three hours at Haslam Field exactly 30 days shy of the 2009 season opener. And the physical nature of fall camp's first week under head coach Lane Kiffin continued.
"It was a very physical day," Kiffin said. "It was the first time with shoulder pads on, an extremely long practice, extremely physical practice. It's the great thing about fall, these freshmen give us a bunch of numbers we can add to the group so we can really get after it. We're going to try to bury them, but they're not letting us.
"We try to make (practices) as physical as we can, even without the pads. To have the shoulder pads on really picks up the tempo and the intensity. Sometimes you almost get a little worried and want to slow them down, but we need to learn how to hit so we're not going to slow them down yet. I was very pleased by their effort."
UT's fourth and final NCAA-mandated acclimation practice is Friday, meaning the blows start to count come the weekend. But more than a few Vols have gotten an early start on playing smash-mouth football.
"Rico McCoy really played hard early, a couple of huge hits on the rookie tailbacks," Kiffin said of the D.C. native. "And it was good to see the tailbacks get up. Unfortunately, they fumbled the ball, but it was good to see them snap back up and keep trying."
Another senior, defensive tackle Wes Brown, keeps setting an excellent example for newcomers and veterans alike despite playing through some early-camp pain in his knees.
"He doesn't have to limp around, they know what he's been through," Kiffin said of his Athens, Ala., product. "And he continues to get banged around yet still gets in there and makes plays. It's really good to see an older leader perform like that."
"The first group is really playing well," Kiffin said. "We've got some young guys that we are really trying to develop, so we will continue to work them. Obviously, until we scrimmage, we don't get to see our run game to its full effect."
That running attack could provide a cushion for the passing game, which has suffered more than its share of off-season injuries and didn't have its best outing Wednesday.
"I thought the quarterbacks were better today," Kiffin said. "After the film yesterday it was not a very good day, but I thought today they came back, played better and took care of the ball better."
WELCOME BACK BBQ -- Kiffin and selected coaches and players are helping host the 2009 Welcome Back Barbecue, set for Friday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Knox County Chapter of the UT Alumni Association invites fans to enjoy a barbecue dinner while hearing an early take on the 2009 Tennessee football season.
Cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 7. Parking is available in the G-10 garage between the arena and Neyland Stadium.
See the Knox County Chapter Web site for more information at: