No snap for McNeil to be starter

Kiffin says center is battling for spot

Tennessee is still serious about having its players compete for playing time.

When asked about 35-game starter Josh McNeil, coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday, "Josh is in a battle for a starting job right now. We're rotating him in there with the ones and twos, trying to push him. He's played a lot here but that doesn't matter.

"He needs to continue to improve so he can be our starting center."

Walk-on Cody Sullins is McNeil's main competition at center.

"We've been putting him in there with the ones and he's doing really good," Kiffin said. "We've got a heckuva battle going on."

Even with his long track record, McNeil doesn't mind the ongoing competition with UT's new coaching staff.

"That's definitely something you expect," McNeil said. "Pretty much there are no starters out here.

"Everybody is rotating in with the first unit so I just have to do what I've been doing since I've been here and everything will work itself out. You've got to come out here and you've got to perform everyday to make sure that you lock down that starting job."

When UT's coaches were hired, they said that 21 positions were up for grabs - the exception being All-American Eric Berry at safety.

"Competition really breeds players trying really hard and busting their butt every single rep," McNeil said. "It only makes you better."

When asked by the media if he liked his chances to win the starting job, McNeil paused, looked intently into the reporter's eyes and said one word: "Yeah."

This is by far the healthiest and biggest that McNeil has been during spring practice. The Mississippi native has been sidelined in the offseason with ankle and shoulder issues.

McNeil said he also weighs 280 pounds, the most he's weighed in spring practice. McNeil is usually lighter in spring practice but gains weight throughout the summer.

McNeil said injuries have caused him to lose weight in the offseason because he can't work out. This is the fifth offense McNeil has learned from a coordinator at UT.

Oops On Offense: Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton threw one interception and nearly a second.

Junior defensive back C.J. Fleming dropped one pass from Crompton that should have been caught. Crompton's lone interception was returned for a touchdown by defensive back Art Evans.

It appeared that Crompton and receiver Austin Rogers had a miscommunication on Evans' interception, as Rogers never looked for the ball. Evans also blocked a field goal.

Nick Stephens, who is still trying to overcome a broken wrist on his right, throwing arm, fumbled a snap but picked up the ball and completed a 14-yard pass to receiver Brandon Warren.

Stephens had a pass batted back toward him by defensive end Gerald Williams a few plays later.

Practice Points: Warren is still without his jersey number but turned in a couple of nice plays. The most impressive came when the junior reeled in a pass near the goal line and managed to get one foot in bounds for the completion.

Injury Report: Offensive lineman Vladimir Richard did not participate. He was accidently kicked in the head by a teammate during Tuesday's practice.

For Kicks: Daniel Lincoln missed two mid-range field goals and had one blocked before nailing a 46 yarder. Punter Chad Cunningham was acting as the holder.

Passing The Knowledge: UT hosted about 300 coaches, mostly from high school, during practice on Thursday. More are expected to arrive throughout the weekend.

Kiffin spoke to the group on Thursday evening. The rest of UT’s coaches speak to the group today. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will address the coaches on Saturday morning.

Drew Edwards contributed to this report.

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Comments » 52

stayingorange writes:

It's all good as long as they're getting the best players on the field.

HonoluluVol writes:

Sounds like the practices are really competetive and they are really pushing each other out there. Warren will be good if he gets his issues in order. But, McNeil possibly getting outworked by a walk-on, doesn't sound good for him.

bluetick writes:

I agree and have to say I really like this plan. It just makes everyone better. That is one of the things that I really disliked about Fulmer.

HonoluluVol writes:

It sounds like Crompton is up one day and down the next.

WorkinLikeHeck writes:

McNeil is terrible. He weighs 250 lbs tops and spends 99% of his time on the football field on the ground.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

"He's played a lot, but that don't matter"!

May I have the thank you Jesus chorus, amen.

The charts have floated on down toward Chattanooga.

txsvol#372416 writes:

If McNeil loses his starting position his senior year, it's because his body has broken down. He's always played undersized, and relied upon his 'smarts' and technique. If we go to a zone blocking system, CLK may need a bigger guy. I'm betting that McNeil will keep his position. Go Vols! SAVol

golfballs03 writes:

Daniel Lincoln sounds like he's having a rough spring

gohawks1 writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

"He's played a lot, but that don't matter"!

May I have the thank you Jesus chorus, amen.

The charts have floated on down toward Chattanooga.

Charts and philes are a thing of the past, and I pheel good phor sure.

vol_chaz writes:

No comments on how BJ did? Sounds like a tough day at qb for the other two guys. Evans sounds like the real deal...

dvols writes:

dang....... maybe eric can snap throw and catch! kiffin WTF

im just sayin

bluetickhound writes:

Cromptown is terrible. I said before last season that I liked the team a lot, and we will as far as Cromp takes us. That turned out to be 6 feet into the ground. PLEASE don't let him repeat the misery, Coach Kiff.

Really hate to see Lennon Creer go... I'm a little afraid that this "nothing is for certain" mentality can breed resentment amongst players who really have proven themselves in game situations. Performance in spring practice ain't necessarily quite like performance in the real thing- just ask J Cromp after all the beaming headlines he was getting about this time last year.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

If nothing else, competition like that will build depth.

You know kiffin has to be sweating bullets about the QB spot. My guess on how he got Oku and Brown: he promised we'd be running the ball 75-percent of the time, and we'd need a LOT of RB's to shoulder the load.

VAvolfanRON writes:

the only thing i dont like is the eric berry thing....could it be possible that another stud is as good?...99.5% doubtful.....but, his job should be earned like the rest...i know..iknow...i watch him...and he is a BEAST...but, still dont put him on a pedestal...or we may be putting his speech on a plague at neyland!!!...

But i do like the competition......argh....when in doubt, hit someone

VAvolfanRON writes:

i know yall are gonna jump on my post....all im saying is.....no favorites for ANYONE.....if you are the best player...you get the job.......you are telling the other safeties.....sorry but you dont have a chance

VAvolfanRON writes:

and i never heard the:

"When UT's coaches were hired, they said that 21 positions were up for grabs - the exception being All-American Eric Berry at safety."

I did hear monte say "If I dont start EB I'd be run out of Knoxville..

VAvolfanRON writes:

ok VAvolfan.....maybe we'll chat again tomorrow!!!.....lmao

they canned this article....

wyomingvol writes:

in response to golfballs03:

Daniel Lincoln sounds like he's having a rough spring

He is staying consistent...

ie...

How he has played the last 1 and 1/4 years (bad, I was at UCLA clutch to send it into OT, so poor to miss from 30 yds out. By the time Wyoming came around, they didn't have any confidence in him over 40 yards, more like 35 yards.)

That was the whole O side of the ball story last year. Seems like O is coming around, hopefully Lincoln catches on, we really need a good kicker to win next year.

Hopefully he turns it up.

wyomingvol writes:

Oh,,

And Go VOLS!!

belayvol writes:

From reading the article....McNeil weighs 280. Very lightweight.

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to HonoluluVol:

Sounds like the practices are really competetive and they are really pushing each other out there. Warren will be good if he gets his issues in order. But, McNeil possibly getting outworked by a walk-on, doesn't sound good for him.

The offensive line didn't open many holes for our backs last season. Alabama and Florida stuffed us in rushing (2 years running). This competitive atmoshere I think will be good for the entire team. CLK was frank when he said there is only one person on this team who has played well enough to be the consensus starter. There is nothing more demoralizing for an athlete to sit on the bench when he is better than the guy out there. If CPF was guilty of that then shame on him. VOL fans want tough hitters who won't give up and well conditioned so they can perform at crunch time. If Cody Sullins is better at center please start him. If Bryce Brown can help us beat Alabama please play him don't wait till he has a redshirt year for experience. No politics,mind games or Catch-22's allowed during football season. The best play, unless they are slacking which then a benching is certainly in order till he gets "his mind right"(as the warden put it to Cool Hand Luke).

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

in response to belayvol:

From reading the article....McNeil weighs 280. Very lightweight.

Most starters at center are normally over 300 pounds I believe. No wonder nose tackles were pushing him around.

richvol writes:

in response to bluetickhound:

Cromptown is terrible. I said before last season that I liked the team a lot, and we will as far as Cromp takes us. That turned out to be 6 feet into the ground. PLEASE don't let him repeat the misery, Coach Kiff.

Really hate to see Lennon Creer go... I'm a little afraid that this "nothing is for certain" mentality can breed resentment amongst players who really have proven themselves in game situations. Performance in spring practice ain't necessarily quite like performance in the real thing- just ask J Cromp after all the beaming headlines he was getting about this time last year.

Sorry,but I have to completely disagree about the competition causing resentment. Lack of a chance to compete and show your skills over more "favored" players is what got us into this mess with Fulmer. It destroyed any motivation a less "favored" player might have to play his best...what was the point if you weren't going to play anyway. All you needed to do was look at the Tennessee bench during the games to see the result. Players on the sidelines were laughing,loafing and not even interested in the game. They couldn't have told you what down it was.

I recall that even Fulmer commented last spring that he was frustrated that he couldn't tell how Crompton was really doing in running the team because he wasn't allowed to be pressured or hit in practice. Well...we found out in game one.

This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to Tennessee football and it will show up on the field in much more motivated play and sheer effort. This is what builds winners. If players like Creer don't want the competition then go somewhere else.

richvol writes:

in response to VAvolfanRON:

the only thing i dont like is the eric berry thing....could it be possible that another stud is as good?...99.5% doubtful.....but, his job should be earned like the rest...i know..iknow...i watch him...and he is a BEAST...but, still dont put him on a pedestal...or we may be putting his speech on a plague at neyland!!!...

But i do like the competition......argh....when in doubt, hit someone

There are two safety positions...Art Evans could take D Mo's place and should if he's better.

richvol writes:

in response to douglasawilliams#582863:

The offensive line didn't open many holes for our backs last season. Alabama and Florida stuffed us in rushing (2 years running). This competitive atmoshere I think will be good for the entire team. CLK was frank when he said there is only one person on this team who has played well enough to be the consensus starter. There is nothing more demoralizing for an athlete to sit on the bench when he is better than the guy out there. If CPF was guilty of that then shame on him. VOL fans want tough hitters who won't give up and well conditioned so they can perform at crunch time. If Cody Sullins is better at center please start him. If Bryce Brown can help us beat Alabama please play him don't wait till he has a redshirt year for experience. No politics,mind games or Catch-22's allowed during football season. The best play, unless they are slacking which then a benching is certainly in order till he gets "his mind right"(as the warden put it to Cool Hand Luke).

Amen,amen,amen.

douglasawilliams#582863 writes:

How has BJ looked so far in spring ball? Most VOL fans have little faith in Crompton. He really looked terrible out there last season. Was it the new offensive scheme or was it lack of confidence during a game? I don't have much faith in Stephens either but at least he can scan the field and has demonstrated he can deliver more accurately than Crompton. All that really matters is how well you play during the season. You know though Crompton can throw a good deep ball and does have more speed than Stephens. I'm just hoping for a magic pill so throw me a bone. My hope was that BJ would be the knight in shining armor and have those 350 yard passing games and UT football was relevent again. All said and done new coaches maybe totally different results even with same players. It happens all the time.

jdcvols#230433 writes:

in response to WorkinLikeHeck:

McNeil is terrible. He weighs 250 lbs tops and spends 99% of his time on the football field on the ground.

He has the ability to untie shoes though. That is REAL important.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Art Evans! We gotta get him on the field in actual games.

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to bluetickhound:

Cromptown is terrible. I said before last season that I liked the team a lot, and we will as far as Cromp takes us. That turned out to be 6 feet into the ground. PLEASE don't let him repeat the misery, Coach Kiff.

Really hate to see Lennon Creer go... I'm a little afraid that this "nothing is for certain" mentality can breed resentment amongst players who really have proven themselves in game situations. Performance in spring practice ain't necessarily quite like performance in the real thing- just ask J Cromp after all the beaming headlines he was getting about this time last year.

Crompton will cease to be the starting QB during the UCLA game. Book It. I've never thought Kif would go with him. I still feel confident this staff will pull off a 7-5 season and recruit the top QB in the country next year. The big blue chip linemen will follow.

bjwhite writes:

How many walk-ons does Josh McNeil have to beat out to become our most underachieving center in the history of UT football? If you don’t remember it was a walk-on he beat out two years ago of course he likes his chances to be a starter. If he wins it again it will be the same old phooey when we face SEC competition. The guy is awful but you won’t here Dave Hooker say that because he’s the chairmen of the News Sentinel’s water carrying brigade.

Hudro writes:

I am so glad the senority system is gone and been replaced by merit. Almost every day you hear a name that you didn't know (Sullins) or had just about forgotten about (Evans)(Hancock), making plays. Now if only they could find someone who could kick the ball into or out of the endzone!

volsfannsc writes:

I have to agree, last season when I saw Crompton taking the field I just wanted to run and hide. Only God would now what disaster was about to happen next. I've done some research on Clawson's offensive scheme and it is very complicated. I can see why if at QB it could become frustrating at game time. If our new offense is less complicated, then we have time to work on technique with Cromp. Crompton always had 'happy feet' and could never settle in to the throw. I'll give Kiff & Cromp the benefit of the doubt and remain hopeful. As soon as I see Cromp throw directly to the defensive back again- I'm done with both of them. So far I have been impressed with Kiff's attitude and take on the team. I was a big Fulmer fan but I am begining to see that the change of the guard was much needed.

chargervol writes:

i am an alumni of a high school where our football program had 0-10 seasons regularly for three decades. we had 3 seasons in that span where we finished 6-4.that was considered very successful. the school hired a former tennessee player to coach the team in 2002. he was coached by phil fulmer. he is an avid tennessee fan. i would talk t him about the tennessee program over the last few years. he was worried about the way tennessee were coming up short.he was frustrated. i would like to see him make it down to knoxville to get to talk to kiffin with these other high school coaches. he is really a nice guy and he is dedicated to the program and to his players. he works his players hard, but he teaches them about accountability about decisions off the field as well as on it. he has taken the program to the playoffs 3 times. his high mark season is 10-2. good luck to him, and hope kiffin can turn it around in ktown. i honestly think he will git'r'dun. GO VOLS!

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to volsfannsc:

I have to agree, last season when I saw Crompton taking the field I just wanted to run and hide. Only God would now what disaster was about to happen next. I've done some research on Clawson's offensive scheme and it is very complicated. I can see why if at QB it could become frustrating at game time. If our new offense is less complicated, then we have time to work on technique with Cromp. Crompton always had 'happy feet' and could never settle in to the throw. I'll give Kiff & Cromp the benefit of the doubt and remain hopeful. As soon as I see Cromp throw directly to the defensive back again- I'm done with both of them. So far I have been impressed with Kiff's attitude and take on the team. I was a big Fulmer fan but I am begining to see that the change of the guard was much needed.

I did not run and hide but watched every single minute of that teams surrender and Crompton was beyond terrible.

Volunatic writes:

"This is the fifth offense McNeil has learned from a coordinator at UT."

Ummmmm-- (1) Randy Sanders, (2) David Cutcliffe, (3) Dave Clawson, and now (4) Chaney/Kiffin.
I don't recall any more offenses, unless McNeil was here before 1992, in which case his eligibility is likely up.

G8er_H8er writes:

McNeil has been as big of a disappoint that has played line since Micheal Munoz. Frogg and Sullins (walk-ons) are going to beat you out? Start working harder/smarter.

Volunatic writes:

in response to HonoluluVol:

Sounds like the practices are really competetive and they are really pushing each other out there. Warren will be good if he gets his issues in order. But, McNeil possibly getting outworked by a walk-on, doesn't sound good for him.

Yeah, he was outworked by another walk-on a couple of years ago-- Michael Frogg.

Volunatic writes:

in response to dvols:

dang....... maybe eric can snap throw and catch! kiffin WTF

im just sayin

And kick.

givehim6 writes:

Survival of the fittest. That's something I like that CLK did. There wasn't much fight in last years team so a weeding out of the weak was needed. But a QB & kicking game is a issue that needs addressed

Bloodrunzorange writes:

Hey Volunteerfear..Where are you? They are beating up McNeil. Come to the rescue.... LOL!

Major_Magilicutty writes:

There are several issues that need to be addressed:

QB
Kicking game
Defensive Line
Special Teams

Guys, as great of recruiting job as Kiffin did, we could still be 5-7 next year. Just saying...keep it in perspective.

GO VOLS!

miamiVOL writes:

Starting DB this year:

CB: D.Rogan
CB: A.Evans, with J.Jackson 2nd off the bench
FS: D.Morley, with D.Myles 1st off the bench
SS: E.Berry

swordandshield27#325334 writes:

in response to richvol:

Sorry,but I have to completely disagree about the competition causing resentment. Lack of a chance to compete and show your skills over more "favored" players is what got us into this mess with Fulmer. It destroyed any motivation a less "favored" player might have to play his best...what was the point if you weren't going to play anyway. All you needed to do was look at the Tennessee bench during the games to see the result. Players on the sidelines were laughing,loafing and not even interested in the game. They couldn't have told you what down it was.

I recall that even Fulmer commented last spring that he was frustrated that he couldn't tell how Crompton was really doing in running the team because he wasn't allowed to be pressured or hit in practice. Well...we found out in game one.

This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to Tennessee football and it will show up on the field in much more motivated play and sheer effort. This is what builds winners. If players like Creer don't want the competition then go somewhere else.

Rich I agree with you...Kiffin may ruffle old regime player's feathers, but it is for the good of the program.

Creer, in my opinion, sums up all that was wrong with the Fulmer era. It had become stale, and the best players didn't play. Does anyone question that Foster was at best the 3rd back on our team?

4EST writes:

I think this practice report sounds exactly like last years games! Passes batted down, interceptions for TD's, Dropped balls under center, The defense controlling the offense, miscommunication between qb and receiver and a few glipses of a good moment sprinkled in here and there. WOW - has there been any "real" improvement yet?I guess we will find out at the Orange and White game.

jujuvolz writes:

Okay people, I am an optimistic person. I know we have the personel on the team...now we have the coaches who will push the players, therefore I see a bright forcast for us in the fall. I still question the QB position as well. But I really think that CLK will put the BEST we have to offer on the field this year. I love CPF, but it was time for him to go. Now we are in a new era, and we, as fans, have to be patient and see what developes. I am so excited about the O&W game for the first time in several years. That's when I can see what for myself what we have.(especially since there are no green jersey's) GO VOLS!!!

ColeTrickle writes:

wow interloper-free good posting feeback from vol fans, nice to see for a change!!! I am glad to see Coach Kif shakin things up, makes me really wonder what the heck Fulmer was doing other than hanging onto the wheel of a sinking ship.

man our defense is going to be sick! i wonder if the poor performance of the O might have something to do with the fact that they are lining up against a really really good D ever day, at least I would like to hope so

ColeTrickle writes:

in response to swordandshield27#325334:

Rich I agree with you...Kiffin may ruffle old regime player's feathers, but it is for the good of the program.

Creer, in my opinion, sums up all that was wrong with the Fulmer era. It had become stale, and the best players didn't play. Does anyone question that Foster was at best the 3rd back on our team?

foster was at best the 3rd or 4th best back on the team, I would've put Hardesty, Creer, and Poole in front of him. He was being talked about as one of the best all-purpose backs in college football, what a bust. couldnt stand to watch him run, slow, slow, slow, too much dancing not enough running upfield and carried the ball like a loaf of bread he didnt want to crush

ColeTrickle writes:

here is another good example of "ball security"
http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0...

jujuvolz writes:

I really think that is the case. It may not be until the fall before we see the REAL offense. CLK will have a productive offense on the field come Sept.

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