Aug. 13, 2009
Tennessee's defense turned the tables on its ball-carrying teammates throughout Thursday's practice at Haslam Field.
"It was a pretty dominating practice by the defense today," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "It was really good to see our defense play that way the whole day. It reminded me of the way we were playing in the spring when we were at our high point. It was great to see.
"Dan Williams being back out there helped, I'm sure. I was very pleased with the intensity. Our defense definitely played more physically than our offense today."
Williams, Tennessee's anchor in the middle as a senior defensive tackle, and a host of Vols on that side of the ball have been hobbled by various ailments over the first 11 practices of fall camp. But Thursday was get-well day in the ranks of the walking wounded, and additional help may be on the way.
"Marlon Walls, we've been told, has been cleared," Kiffin said of the signee from Memphis who has been awaiting NCAA Clearinghouse OK. "He will be here as soon as he can and we're excited to finally get him."
Kiffin said the team's bumps and bruises haven't slowed the pace, not with the 2009 kickoff against Western Kentucky three weeks from Saturday.
"We talked to guys about battling back," he said. "You can't move up on the depth chart and get more playing time sitting on the sidelines. There's a line there of when guys can't practice and when guys can, so we always want push guys when they can to do as much as they can. It was good to have some guys back today."
"I see a really good competition between them," Kiffin said. "It would change daily who would be the starter right now, so that's exactly how we want it. I think that's definitely made them both better. Both are definitely playing better than they were in the spring, and they're playing better in the run game especially."
Also making an impact after just nine days on the practice field has been Nashville freshman Zach Rogers. The receiving wizard catches nearly everything thrown his way, and certainly has caught the eye of his head coach.
"He's very mature," Kiffin said. "Zach comes out here and very rarely ever blows an assignment. We're excited about him and he continues to improve daily. I never talk about surprises because it's not a surprise to me. But I'm sure to a lot of people maybe it's a surprise to see him hold his own with those guys who were, technically, higher (rated) players.
Tennessee practices twice on Friday and has its second scrimmage set for Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
The Vols open the regular season Sept. 5 against Western Kentucky in a 12:21 p.m. Eastern time kickoff (Vol Network and SEC Network).