For most students at Tennessee, the semester is drawing to a close. Classes end Friday and exams begin a week from Tuesday.
UT’s football team had its final exam Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium with its annual intrasquad scrimmage. But by the time Friday rolls around, they’ll be starting up again.
Spring practice might be over, but the work continues. The Vols will get a few days off — try Monday — before a team meeting Tuesday followed by conditioning workouts.
“I think we’re back at it next week,” defensive end Chris Walker said. “We’re going to be in there running and everything for summer school. It’s going to be a couple days (off) and we’re right back at it.”
That’s the full immersion approach the Vols took in January.
Grueling early-morning runs coupled with position-specific weight workouts during the week was the order of the day before spring practice began on March 10.
And with the summer months closing in, it will be much more of the same in advance of fall camp.
This time, though, players have a better idea of what to expect from the offseason program led by new strength coach Mark Smith.
“You better believe it,” guard Vladimir Richard said. “I feel like guys will definitely make wiser choices right now about what they’re doing and what they’re going to be. We know that when it comes time to work in the offseason, we’re going to be working very hard. We had a taste of it, so now we know what to expect. And we’ll prepare ourselves for it.”
A lot of returning players also are getting prepared for an influx of talented recruits over the summer months. Many players who comprised a recruiting class ranked 10th by Rivals.com will begin arriving for summer school in June.
Most prominent among those enrollees are tailbacks Bryce Brown, rated the nation’s top overall prospect, and David Oku, the nation’s top all-purpose back.
Senior Montario Hardesty, who exited spring practice atop the depth chart, said he’s ready for more competition this fall.
“It’s all good,” Hardesty said. “I came to Tennessee to play with good players and compete, so it’s going to be another day. It’s time to come back in and go to work.”
Hardesty, who hosted Oku on his official visit to UT, said he talks with the Oklahoma native about once a week.
“He’s ready to get here and get it started, just like every freshman,” Hardesty said. “He wants to play, so he’s ready to get in and start to get things going.”
Walker, who finished spring as the defense’s most-improved player, said Saturday’s Orange and White game gives the Vols plenty of momentum heading into offseason workouts.
“Especially with the energy we had today, seeing all the fans out there,” Walker said, referring to the 51,488 in attendance. “We don’t want to disappoint anybody. I think when we came out here and saw everybody, we were like we need to go to work right now. I think just seeing everybody is getting us energized going into fall camp.”
First, though, come those offseason workouts.
And, at least for Walker, a few days off is all the Vols need.
“We’re trying to be a championship team,” Walker said. “We’ve got to get back to work. Florida’s down there working right now, so we’ve got to get back at it.”
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.