During a normal spring afternoon on Haslam Field, the closest thing to a soundtrack for football practice is a little Bruce Springsteen or John Fogerty drifting across Pat Head Summitt Street from the baseball stadium.
But Tuesday evening, hip-hop blared from the speakers. Heads bobbed and players bounced with the music as Tennessee finished its nearly three-hour workout with a series of full-contact, goal-line plays.
T.I., Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy Tell Em have made an appearance on the PA as the team stretches before practice. Tuesday, though, marked the first day that coaches added a soundtrack to drills - even if it's not exactly what first-year coach Lane Kiffin plays in his office.
"No, that's not my playlist," Kiffin joked.
The music did, however, strike a chord with players.
"It's real different than last year," said defensive end Chris Walker, who estimated the intensity level jumped 10 notches when the music started. "Last year, the coaches played crowd (noise). These coaches are playing music we can relate to."
Wide receiver Gerald Jones agreed.
"A lot of players listen to those songs before the game to get them motivated and locked in," he said. "When they hear that song, it automatically brings them to that mind state, like it's go time. That's what the song does to you."
It also made UT's offense reluctant to leave the practice field for the second time this spring. After the defense built a 6-2 lead in short-yardage drills, coaches blew the horn to end practice. But the offense demanded one more play three times.
Kiffin said the offense won all three, but the real victory just might be the increased intensity on the field.
"I'm not going to lie. I always love to compete, but when I hear, 'Competing is fun, competing is fun,' I always have in my mind that it's practice," said guard Vladimir Richard. "But now it's like it changed. It's competing now. You never want to go out as the loser. Defense got us 6-2. The last two plays, we put it in on them. It is just competing. You got to love it."
"It's just great when you have guys talking about let's not end the practice, it's shocking. Let's not end practice? We could be out here all night. It's just those fun situations."
For a team that played its final three games knowing the previous coaching staff wouldn't be back after a 5-7 season, fun was in short supply on the field. It wasn't any better in the locker room, either.
"I think we were so dead last year," Jones said, referring to the offense. "In the locker room, we were so quiet."
That was then.
Now, even without a soundtrack, practice is upbeat. Players have embraced the new coaching staff's intensity. And Richard - who took to dancing in the huddle last fall to stay loose - sees his teammates having fun again on the football field.
"We want to win. We want do everything right. We want to be successful," Richard said. "But if you're not having fun out there, you're going to mess up.
"Just don't beat yourself down. I just told them go out there and be loose. Even if you can't dance, just do something, move. It's going to show the other guys that this is all about having fun. . . . You know me, I'm the type of guy I talk, I get emotional when things aren't going right, but I like to let my teammates know that we can be out here and have fun."
Judging by the response on Tuesday - UT's 13th practice of the spring and its penultimate workout before Saturday's Orange and White Game - players have gotten the message.
"These coaches are not going to let us die down, whatsoever," Jones said. "They've got the mindset that they're going to kick the energy up, and we've got to keep the energy up, too. It's a mindset thing, and they do some things to get us excited and keep the energy level up."
On Tuesday, it happened to be the music straight from players' iPods cranked over the loud speaker.
But it extends well beyond just music at practice, says Richard.
UT's coaches have not only fired up their players, they've gone a long way toward erasing some of the lingering effects of an emotionally draining 5-7 season for the players, too.
"We don't even think about last season," Richard said. "It happened, but if someone would have come up to me and said, 'You guys went 5-7,' I would really be like, '5-7?'
"It won't register with me that we went 5-7 because all our focus is on this team, this coaching staff, everyone, the Tennessee family. We're just out here knowing what we can do this season."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.