#VolReport: Seeking New Specialists

Aug. 7, 2014

Here are sound bites from Team 118 after practice


"Being a great returner, you have to have a knack for it. Devrin Young has a knack for it. So he brings another element. Everything about special teams is field position, controlling the field position game and what we call, `hidden yardage.' So I am really excited because I think we have added to the returner list. Last year all we had was Devrin Young. And you want to put a person back there who is a threat to go the distance every time they touch the football. Devrin Young is one of those individuals. Cam Sutton has been gaining some valuable repetitions back there. Evan Berry, as well. So we have put a lot of people back there to see what they can do in the returner game. And as camp continues to progress, we will scrimmage live special teams as well."

"Coleman is very athletic and he has benefited from having a spring football under his belt. But again the overall consistency, the strength levels of what is needed to play on the offensive line, he has really worked on that. But he is very, very athletic, and he has good toughness."


"We know we have an open competition right now, so it's been very competitive. We're each trying to do our best each day and push each other."

"I'm certainly there. I feel like I'm much better than I was then. It took me a while. As far as rehab and things like that, our medical staff here is excellent, top-notch. It took not as long as it really should have. They did a great job getting me back quickly."


"You know, with Butch I don't know what to expect. He comes up with some of the weirdest stuff but God love him. He's a really good guy, he really is."

""Mike had a lot of roles last year and we need somebody to fill them. It was good to see him progress through his years and really end on a good note. I'm happy for him."


"I drive everywhere. I think I put just over 6,000 miles on my Tacoma this summer. I've always traveled a little bit and tried to work with other guys. Coach Jones gave me his blessing to take some time away from the team to travel and work on my craft. I think it's really benefitting me right now."

"I'm just really excited right now. I'm trying to make the most of this last opportunity and this last season coming up. I have gotten a higher hang-time on my ball. I feel like I'm hitting the ball better than I ever have. The journey's not over."


"You can't just be physical and not be mental, because if you're just physical, you're going to be worthless. You have to be smart and physical. As linebackers, that's our goal - to be smart and tough. You have to be smart...It all goes together. You got to know what you're doing on the field, you got to know your plays, you got to know your assignment and technique - and with that- you have to be physical."

"I'm doing the most I can. If somebody messes up, and I see them, I'm going to be on them letting them know `they should have done this' or `done that.' I know I've got the defense down pat, and when I'm out, I'm watching the younger guys and trying to help them....I'm trying to help the young guys the most I can."

"We've got some freshman who are ready to play. Hendrix, Barnett, Elliot (Berry), Bates, they're out there making plays. They're making plays, and they're getting smarter. With each day that goes by, they're going to get smarter. They have the ability to make plays, so the smarter they get, the better they're going to get as players."


"I think I'm doing pretty good. Being undersized, I need to be technically sound. If my hands aren't placed right, its little things that could have big effects. I feel like once I get my hands down and get my technique right, everything is going to be good."

"I could tell from the summer he had the physical aspect, and he definitely had speed. It's just a lot of time D-Linemen have trouble just with the mental aspect of the game. He's picked it up real well. He's coming along great."


"Corey Veeren and Curt Maggitt, there's definitely competition in the SEC, but those two guys, they're definitely top-notch and up there in the top-five defensive ends in the SEC in my eyes. It's just going to make us better. They're telling me stuff that I can improve on and that they're seeing off of me."

"We want to try to be more physical always as an offensive line. And just like I said just working together taking it play-by-play, day-by-day, each and every rep."


"I think improving my strength has really been important in playing. Going against Curt Maggitt every day, that's probably the number one formula for my success, going against a player of that caliber, of that speed and that strength. That's what's really allowed me to become better and become who I am right now."

"I think it was a step in the right direction for me. My whole thing, the whole time I've been here, it's not been that scholarship is the end role for me. My goal always has been to start and play as best as I can. So getting that scholarship was a huge thing, but I feel like it was just a step in my whole journey."


"We had The Program come in to us, and it was really inspiring and eye-opening. They said, `You go to the movies with your friends, but you go to battle with your teammates.' And that's how we approach it. We go to battle together."

"We don't take it in a negative form, we take it as motivation. We hear it every day, coach Mo tells us, `Everybody thinks you're the worst O-line, the worst O-line in the nation. What are you going to do to prove to them that you're not?' So it definitely helps us put a chip on our shoulder and go out there and work."

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee replaces every starter on the offensive and defensive line in 2014, a topic well documented in training camp thus far. But those are not the only units on the field that are undergoing a complete overhaul from 2013.

In 2013, Michael Palardy kicked off every ball for Tennessee. He dropped back to boom away every punt. He lined up for every field goal and extra point. It was a heavy load for a player that head coach Butch Jones referred to as the team MVP, one that will require more than one person to replace him.

Combined with the loss of long snapper J.R. Carr and holder Tyler Drummer Tennessee will have to replace all of its specialists in the kicking game, a daunting task. Even if the departing unit was comprised of just three players, it will take more to replace them and their experience on the field.

"It goes unnoticed," Head Coach Butch Jones said on not just replacing his kicker, but also the entire unit. "The long snapper is critical, they set the temperament for the punter. For our kicker, everything is about the snap, the hold, the kick."

The competition is strong. Redshirt senior Matt Darr brings experience to to punting battle. Redshirt sophomore George Bullock has been in the program for two years, but has yet to see game action after a leg injury suffered in preseason camp in 2012. Freshman Aaron Medley comes to campus after being a pupil of former Vol kicker James Wilhoit.


Special teams have been a special focus for the Vols, as the team witnessed last year's standout senior Michael Palardy graduate and move on to the National Football League. Among the flurry of freshmen now in camp in 2014, Tennessee native Aaron Medley is getting the opportunity to fill those critical shoes and do it quickly.

"Aaron [Medley] has been pretty consistent all camp," said Head Coach Butch Jones. "Today we did some game-ending kicks at different field positions, assorted hash marks. Aaron Medley was five-for-five with pressure and that is why we concluded practice."

While his recent performances are building confidence, Coach Jones and the coaching staff continue to throw an assortment of distractions and pressures into Medley's daily practice routine. Babies crying. Glass breaking. And it's all by design.

"They're trying anything that could mess me up," added Medley. "We're just trying to prepare for when the 102,455 get out there. I try to focus on technique and find two or three words to say over and over in my head. For me, they're `hips'. Get your hips through the ball and drive up."

"We will continue to manufacture stressful situations for these individuals," said Jones. "As you know, field position and kicking game are critical elements to winning football games."

Along with Jones, Medley is also certain that the constant drills, distractions and repetitions will ultimately pay off. And while his teammates will work hard to provide him with the least amount of chances possible, Medley admits he cannot wait to be called upon for a game-winning kick with ten seconds on the clock.

"For me, I want that to happen," said Medley. "I want to be out there. I just have to embrace it and go do my thing."


Redshirt sophomore George Bullock is focused on the little things. After working his way back from a broken leg during preseason camp in 2012, the Knoxville native used last season to sort through the technical aspects for a full recovery, which was a big thing for him.

"It took me a while as far as rehab," said Bullock. "Our strength and conditioning staff did a great job of getting me back quickly. We started doing kick-offs today and I like my kick-off reps. I think I've certainly been more dialed in for this camp."

Kicking alongside senior Matt Darr and freshman Aaron Medley, Bullock also cites the competition in this year's camp as a driving force and motivator to make an impact for the Vols this season.

"It comes down to a lot of things," said Bullock. "It comes down to our preparation, making sure we're doing things and seeing things ourselves and going through the reps mentally. Coach Jones talks about having mental toughness all the time and so doing the reps off the field is very important.

"We know we have an open competition right now. We don't have a daily score system as far as kicking and punting," he added. "We're just each trying to do our best every day and push each other. The biggest thing is going through your routine and making sure you're ready for those kicks."


Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for an athlete looking to hone his skills. For senior punter Matt Darr, this summer provided him with the perfect opportunity to do just that as he hit the road to work with NFL and other collegiate punters and kickers from across the country.

"Getting with other college and NFL kickers and punters in the offseason to train is really where you learn," said Darr. "You start to develop your own technique and habits. It was very beneficial for me and I'm carrying that over into camp right now."

Among the long list of professionals that Darr kicked with this summer, he notes that Ryan Allen of the New England Patriots provided him with the most insight during a trip to Mobile, Alabama.

"I really enjoyed getting to work with Ryan [Allen]," said Darr. "We worked a lot on get-off time and did some cool drills as far as technique with the drop. It was just neat for us to be out on the field in kind of a one-on-one. We just basically went out and punted every day."

Entering his final season at Tennessee, Darr also credits Head Coach Butch Jones for allowing him the opportunity to travel and work on his craft. Today, he is applying everything he learned to master his punts and a secure the No. 1 spot in Michael Palardy-style fashion.

"I feel like I've gotten more comfortable with myself, with my body and with my techniques," added Darr. "I got to play behind Palardy and he was a heck of a punter. I think that me and him spending so much time together made us both better. Everybody remembers you for your last play and I'm really hopeful that now is my time."


From the beginning, freshman tackle Coleman Thomas knew that he had an opportunity for early playing time. With an entirely new offensive line, Thomas has earned his spot on the starting roster.

Thomas was given the chance to work with the first team during spring practices, and from there has grown comfortable with his role.

"It was overwhelming that they were giving me a chance," Thomas said. "I think I remember the first day of spring practice they were giving me this chance. I kept working hard. I'm going to trust that they're going to put in the right guys on the field."

Now with six fall practices finished, Thomas doesn't feel surprised that he has held onto his starting position.

"I wouldn't say surprised," said Thomas, who is seeing reps as the starting right tackle. "I'm extremely blessed. I trust it in that and I trust it in my hard work. I knew it would all pay off."

Thomas' dedication to becoming the best has helped him to catch the attention of his coaches who openly praise his athleticism.

"I played basketball and baseball as well in high school," Thomas said. "I've always tried to pride myself in being athletic. I've been working hard in the weight room and hopefully I can get both of those components and be the best player that I can be."

Thomas also credits his experienced teammates for preparing him for the starting role.

"The older guys, Kyler Kerbyson, Mack Crowder, Marcus Jackson, they've really helped me and taken me under their wing. They told me about the style of play."

"Those three guys, I can't thank them enough. I wouldn't be anywhere where I am right now if it wasn't for them showing me the ropes and what it takes to be an offensive linemen in this program."


The temperatures are warming up and the humidity stays high, and the Tennessee football team is feeling it.

"The heat, we are going to have to play in heat. We are from the South and we play in the SEC, so it is a mindset," head coach Butch Jones said. "It is that mental effort, it is that mental intensity, it is that energy that it takes like we talk about of having game like conditions, game intensity to prepare for practice like it is a game.

`It starts with your morning, it starts in your approach, it starts with your hydration, it starts with what you eat. We had a couple individuals that struggled with the heat because the didn't get enough fuel, they didn't get enough to eat, they didn't hydrate all day. And they were young players and you learn. So these are great teaching opportunities. We can't afford to have all these teaching opportunities all the time. They need to mature and they need to mature in a hurry."

Gainesville, Fla. senior Jordan Williams joked that it wasn't hot, but knows that there are some effects of not preparing for the warmer weather.

Williams notes staying hydrated as being key, especially for the younger plays and the fast pace of practice.

"They expect it to be hard, but it's a little harder than they expected," Williams said. "I feel like just getting this first week out of the way, they get the tone for it. They get the speed of practice. I feel like once they get that down, everything will start rolling smooth. I remember when I came. I couldn't believe how fast it was."

Linebacker A.J. Johnson, unlike some loves to practice in the heat, but agrees with Williams and the importance of hydration.

"You're going to get out there and cramp up. You won't be able to practice. If you're not able to practice and learn, your losing your chance to be physical and losing your chance to get smarter and reps. Reps is the most important thing. Without reps, you won't be able to learn.

"They're going to have to drink gallons of water because that's one thing Curt [Maggitt] does. He's going to have a big gallon of water carrying it around drinking all day. They're going to have to do that, for sure."





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