Looking ahead is a no-no when the regular season rolls around this fall.
But Friday afternoon on Haslam Field, Tennessee spent its football practice looking squarely at today's scrimmage inside Neyland Stadium.
"Everything is geared toward the (today's) scrimmage," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Both sides are well ahead right now, defense and offense both, with just our insertion. Spring practice, especially this early, is about players."
The team has had three practices this week in pads and five total practices in the books.
After bemoaning his team's lack of toughness on both lines of scrimmage, Fulmer won't be worried about coverages and schemes today.
"We'll teach them the assignments," Fulmer said. "We'll teach them the schemes and the techniques and fundamentals.
"I'm looking for effort. I'm looking for guys on defense who are going to be passionate about chasing the football or rushing the passer or breaking on the ball and knocking the thing loose. I'm looking offensively for guys that are going to play with pad leverage."
Exactly how much scheme will be a part of today's scrimmage remains to be seen.
Fulmer said he'll limit defensive coordinator John Chavis and offensive coordinator Dave Clawson in order to sharpen the focus on players.
The defense is still ahead of the offense, as is usually the case this time of year, but Fulmer is pleased with how the offense has taken to Clawson's new system.
Part of that, Fulmer says, is due to UT's experience inserting a no-huddle offense last spring.
"I'm pleased with how well we've picked things up, how fast it's been able to go," Fulmer said. "Coach Clawson has been pleased. We actually went from one kind of a scheme in '06 to another one in '07 with the no-huddle and the guys did a great job. I think that's probably helped us with this transition."
Along with the offensive and defensive lines, quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman will be a major focus today.
Those three, however, won't be fair game for contact.
"We will down the road somewhere, I think," Fulmer said. "I'm not backing up on that right now. But coach Clawson, I'm not sure if I've sold him on it just yet."
Fulmer said he anticipates about 40 plays each for the first, second and third teams during today's scrimmage.
Tight End Shuffle: Center Cody Pope worked at tight end in an effort to increase UT's depth at the position after Jeff Cottam suffered a broken leg Thursday.
Fulmer isn't sure whether Pope, who played some at defensive line during two-a-days, will remain at tight end beyond spring practice.
"That could be a long-term move, that could be a short-term move," Fulmer said. "Just to get through scrimmages and the spring, we had to do something."
Fulmer said Cottam's injury, suffered when a defensive back landed on the 6-foot-8 sophomore's leg during Thursday's practice, was a clean break and that he should be back in about six weeks.
Leadership Growing: UT began Friday with a meeting of its "Unity Council," Fulmer said.
Former Vol and radio color analyst Tim Priest spoke to the team about leadership.
"He did a tremendous job," Fulmer said. "We had a fantastic meeting about that sort of thing after he left. This is about as good of a group that we've had who are trying to listen and learn and respond to what we're asking. We're growing in that aspect. I don't think we're where we need to be 100 percent, but we're growing in that aspect."
UT has had a "Unity Council" in place since Fulmer's second season as head coach.
"Lock" and Key: After Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke at UT's annual coaching clinic, Fulmer and Chavis spent about 90 minutes talking football in a closed-door session.
"Coach Chavis and I stole him for about an hour and a half and locked the door and had some great conversations with him," Fulmer said.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.