Tennessee Vols take part in the Tennessee Drill during their first day of practice in pads
Dave Hooker audio:
- Robert Ayers talks about UT’s defensive line in Wednesday’s scrimmage
- Demonte Bolden talks about UT’s defensive line playing with a chip on their shoulder
- Nick Reveiz talks about his performance in Wednesday’s practice
- Chris Walker talks about running down a tailback 30 yards downfield
- Jonathan Crompton talks about the first day of full contact
One-and-done didn't sit too well with Demonte' Bolden.
As a senior, the defensive tackle only had to go one-on-one with offensive linemen once in the traditional Tennessee Drill.
But with his teammates and coaches circled around, Bolden couldn't abide his first performance.
On his second chance, he delivered one of the highlights of Wednesday's first practice in pads and helped set the tone for his fellow defensive linemen.
"Demonte's the strongest D-tackle, and Jacques's (McClendon) the strongest offensive guard," said defensive tackle Dan Williams. "It's fun to see, fun to watch every time."
This time, Bolden emerged as the victor against his fellow Chattanooga native, to hoots and hollers from a fired-up defense.
All told, Wednesday was a pretty good day for Tennessee's defensive line, and tackles in particular.
Walter Fisher, Victor Thomas, Bolden and Williams all made their share of plays, much to the delight of linebacker Rico McCoy.
"Those guys were fighting hard," McCoy said. "It's a pride thing. The media talks about the defense all the time, the D-tackles and the linebackers. We have stuff to prove. We have to become a better unit. Guys were working on that today in the board drill."
And showing off a bit, too.
Aside from the roars - and backslaps -that went up every time a defensive player bettered his offensive counterpart, UT's defensive linemen showed improvement from last season.
Williams said it was particularly evident in the way defensive linemen used their hands.
"I think it's showing early that we've improved on our hands versus those big strong offensive linemen we have," he said.
Bolden also said those same offensive linemen have helped UT's defensive linemen get better during spring practice and fall camp.
"Like they say, I think we've got the best O-line in the SEC," Bolden said. "We only gave up four sacks last year. In order for the defense to get better, we've got to play the best."
Victor Thomas impressed Bolden, and Williams pointed to Thomas, Donald Langley and Chase Nelson as having made strides in the offseason.
And while Nelson was slowed with a sprained knee, Williams is still pleased with his fellow tackles' efforts.
"You can really tell a difference," Williams said. "Guys are firing off the ball, holding their own. Last year, a couple times big Ramon (Foster) or Jacques McClendon would throw them off the line. They're holding their own now. They're not there yet, but they've shown they're willing to help the team out this year."
That's a good sign for the Vols, who still lack depth behind behind Bolden, Williams and Fisher.
UT coach Phillip Fulmer said he would like to play five tackles and five ends this fall.
But for all the excitement Wednesday's first day in full pads provided, the novelty of full contact is all but over. And Saturday's first major preseason scrimmage is the next big step.
"The excitement is out of the way for the most part," McCoy said. "Now you can work on the basics, the techniques of every position. You can focus on the things that really add up."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.