Aug. 15, 2012
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MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. - The Tennessee football team showed some attitude and toughness as it wrapped up its morning practice on the final day of training camp at Milligan College on Wednesday.
That effort during the morning session and throughout the entire week clearly pleased Derek Dooley as he cancelled the team's evening practice to reward them.
"When Smokey's been hunting the way you want him to hunt, you throw that dog a bone," Dooley said.
The Tennessee head coach hinted at his satisfaction after Wednesday's morning session.
"They are hurting but they are pushing through," Dooley said. "Their attitude has been great, it has just been hard. They are tired and beat on, but they are going to be recovering soon enough. That's how you feel in the fourth quarter. You have to learn how to finish the drill."
After six full days together without computers or internet and limited cell phone service, things started to get a little edgy on the practice field for the Vols before an impending thunderstorm cut things short by about five minutes.
"It's been good for team camaraderie but at some point you start getting on each other's nerves," head coach Derek Dooley said. "The offense is going against the same guy all the time so it's getting a little edgy and that's good, but they are handling it the right way."
Overall, the trip to Milligan College has been a resounding success with coaches and players alike talking about how much it has helped the team prepare for the upcoming season..
"It's been great," Dooley said. "It helped our team and I think it helped our staff. I hope it pays off this fall."
"It has been fun," Downs said. "I have seen some people I know from around here and it has been cool being in this area and seeing the mountains. It is so pretty up here and I miss it. It has been a really good experience for me. We are still really secluded from everything here. I have never even been to Milligan before so this is a new experience for me."
That seclusion allowed the Vols an opportunity to grow as a unit off-the-field as well, thanks to a number of team-building activities including a karaoke night and a talent show. They are ready to get back to a more familiar setting though.
"The team has had a great time," Crowder said. "We have had some team-bonding experiences where some of the freshman did a little talent show and stuff. We all have had a great time so far and have gotten a whole lot closer and lot better as a football team. The team had a great time, but I think we're getting ready to go back to Knoxville and start getting ready for this season."
PATTERSON NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Heralded receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is making the transition from junior college football to the highest level of college ball in the SEC with the Vols. Patterson, who was rated the No. 1 JUCO recruit in America, has been limited by a shoulder injury, but that hasn't stopped his growth and excitement of wearing the Orange & White.
"It is better here," said Patterson, who was a two-time All-American at Hutchinson CC. "In Kansas there wasn't anything and everything was slow. Everything here is better."
A lot of pressure has been placed on Patterson, but the 6-3, 205-pound product understands what it means to play at UT alongside some of the nation's top receivers in Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter.
"(I am) listening more," said Patterson. It is paying attention to Justin and Da'Rick, they are teaching me step-by-step. It is just coming slowly. They are good players, it is just watching them. I know I am a good player too. It is just competing with those guys every day makes all of us better. I think we have a chance to do some good things.
"Just coming in and listening to Da'Rick and Justin and learning from them (has helped). It is a honor to be on the same team as them. I know they are two good guys and learning from them will put me in a spot with them."
Patterson has been ailing with an injured shoulder, and has worn a red non-contact jersey during the Vols' stint in the Tri-Cities. Coach Dooley says the red shirt is more precautionary and hasn't slowed him down.
"He's been in a red shirt but he is doing everything," said Dooley. "We're just not hitting right now. I think he is getting there. He's not 100 percent but he's getting there. The last couple of practices you noticed him. The first 10 or so, he was just swimming. It is just a lot of stuff learning how to play fast and it's hard to play fast when you're not sure what to do."
Patterson agrees that he has picked up more as camp has progressed.
"The first couple days it was just so much going at me. I didn't understand a lot," said Patterson. "Coach (Darin) Hinshaw was just teaching me day by day, just told me to focus in and how to understand. Now I understand that and I am learning everything.
"Coach Hinshaw he would pull me to the side after meetings and stuff and we would stay an extra 30/35 minutes just trying to learn it. In the morning we would try to pick up something real fast so I could get the offense down pat."
Patterson knew the pace of the game would be a major upgrade at Tennessee.
"It is tough and I know there are a lot of guys out here, where I come from they were pretty good but not like it," said Patterson. "It is kind of different to translate it over. There is a lot of competition out here. There are guys out here that are physical. The corners are always on you doing whatever they need to do."
ON THE NOSE
Redshirt junior Daniel Hood has been through a lot of change during his career at Tennessee. He's already moved from the offense to the defense prior to the 2011season. In 2012, he has had to learn a whole new defensive scheme.
This fall camp Hood has also learned a new position after being moved from defensive end, to nose tackle. But he is not one to complain, and is in fact very happy.
"I don't know why. I just feel a lot more comfortable at (nose tackle)," said Hood. " I can read things a lot better. I am getting a lot better reads on run, pass, power, counters, things like that. It actually was surprising how much it has come around. At end I was struggling a little bit, I hadn't got those same reads in the past four or five years so I wasn't picking it up as fast. I went to nose and everything seemed like it was second nature."
Derek Dooley knows how Hood had to overcome the new coaching staff's lack of knowledge about Hood.
"[Sal Sunseri and John Palermo] didn't really know much about Dan and I did, so coming out of spring Dan wasn't there," said Dooley."I kept telling them that you are going to like Dan Hood and it's proven out. He's tough, he's smart, he's dependable, he's a fighter and he's going to help us."
Many Vols are finding themselves learning multiple positions during fall camp on both sides of the ball, Hood included. While there is a lot of learning involved, he says it is all for the best in the end.
"It is good to know everything in case unfortunately someone goes down," said Hood. "We have had more depth and more talent this year than we have had in the past. There isn't any one guy that has to play 50-60 snaps. We can roll in and roll out and keep guys fresh. With Big Dan [McCullers] we can hit him with someone that is like a brick wall, with Mo [Couch] or myself or Marlon [Walls] we are a little bit quicker, little things like that will throw them off."
The change in defensive scheme comes because of new defensive coordinator, Sal Sunseri. When asked to describe his new leader, Hood laughed.
"He brings some crazy Italian intensity," said the Knoxville native. "It is hard to even describe. There is never a down moment and you know when you mess up but also you know when you do good too. It's nice."
MEN IN HELMETS DOING THE SAFETIES DANCEOne of the biggest changes in Tennessee's new defensive scheme is how the Vols will utilize the strong and free safeties.
Sal Sunseri's system requires both awareness and quick thinking from the two safeties on the field, as there will be times where they might not know exactly what their responsibilities are until the ball is snapped.
"Depending on how the offense lines up, that tells you if you are playing strong or free safety," Randolph said. "Before the ball is snapped you never know, so you have to be ready to know both positions."
Fellow safety Byron Moore agrees that knowledge of the system is key to producing at the position.
"They are interchangeable," Moore said. "It is pretty much left and right. One can be up and one can be down, so you just have to know both sides of the ball and know the plays to get the corners lined up on both sides. They are very interchangeable, and we really have to know the system."
Although Randolph and Brent Brewer are currently listed as the starters at safety, Moore has done everything he can to put himself into that mix as well.
"Byron has had a great camp, he really has," Dooley said. "He was kind of our starting sub safety, but I'm going to tell you he is a starter to me. We have three safeties that are starters right now."
Moore's play in training camp has created fierce competition at the position, a luxury the Vols have not had in recent years.
"It feels real good and just gives us all a boost of confidence," Moore said. "I think with all three of us back there it is still a competition. Each day, we are all working and grinding hard. It is just an ongoing thing for us to keep pushing towards the season."
Before the actual season starts, Tennessee has one more scrimmage which will be used to measure exactly where each player stands in regards to starting spots.
Moore is looking to prove to the coaches that he can continue to produce when defending both the pass and run game.
"I just have to keep showing up, getting production points, keep making plays and show I can be a real asset back there," Moore said. "That is the main thing I am looking for going forward. That and to use the next scrimmage to feed off of where I left in my last scrimmage and keeping making plays".
Randolph, meanwhile, aims to shore up the mental part of his game.
"I have to limit missed assignments, get my assignments down," Randolph said. "I have to know the call and be louder so I can get the corners on the same page."