Special teams on Vols' practice platter for Chick-fil-A

It's hard to imagine Tennessee winning the special teams battle in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

First, the Vols are playing Virginia Tech, a school long known for its special teams.

Second, UT's special teams were horrible at times this season.

And, lastly, the Vols have spent very little time on special teams in their first five bowl practices after losing special teams coach Eddie Gran to Florida State last week.

"We will start with some special teams tomorrow," coach Lane Kiffin said after practice Saturday.

Other than special teams, Kiffin said the Vols are fairing just fine without Gran, who also coached running backs, and former receivers coach Frank Wilson, who accepted a position on LSU's staff.

Kiffin and graduate assistant Jamal Fobbs have been coaching UT's receivers.

Fobbs is focusing now on coaching more than before, when he also had to be mindful of other graduate assistant duties.

Receiver Gerald Jones said Fobbs could handle the job if UT decided to tab him as Wilson's permanent replacement.

"If he actually gets time to settle down and actually really know this offense as well as coach Wilson did, I think he'd be a great fit for us," Jones said.

Jones, however, admitted that not having Wilson's motivational tactics has taken getting used to.

"You miss him riding you even though it gets annoying sometime," Jones said with a grin.

Kiffin said he's unaware of any other possible coaching defections.

"I have a very close relationship with the coaches," Kiffin said. "Whenever someone calls (UT's assistant coaches), they direct it to me or come to me and talk to me about it.

"I've had no contact nor have any of our coaches told me they've had contact with any head coaches or universities about jobs."

Kiffin hinted that UT could have replacements for Gran and Wilson in place in time for the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Year's Eve (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.).

Practice Report: Kiffin was pleased with UT's practice Saturday.

"I thought today's practice was really good, really spirited," Kiffin said. "There was a lot of energy, especially for a morning practice. After watching Friday's film, that practice was just OK. So we really challenged them to come out today and have a great practice."

Kiffin said the most challenging part of practice came during long drives designed to test his players' mental focus.

"We put them through a really hard practice," Kiffin said. "For the ones (first team), their last drive of the day was 18 plays in a row with no substitutions; for the twos, it was 28 plays in a row, which is very unusual.

"We wanted to put an emphasis on our conditioning. I think one of the things that can be missed during bowl preparations is when you go through the motions in practice and then go a month without playing anything that simulates a game. So instead of just the normal four plays and rotating, we went with the long-drive emphasis today."

Kiffin said UT's training over the course of the year has paid dividends.

"When we first tried to do a long drive last spring, we couldn't even get to the eighth or ninth play without people falling out," he said.

Roll Call: Offensive lineman Vladimir Richard returned to practice after being held out Friday.

Honored Again: Junior safety Eric Berry was named to the Football Writers Association of America All-American team.

The SEC led all conferences with seven selections. The Big 12 was second with five honorees.

He was named to the coaches' team last week.

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Comments » 18

OrangePride writes:

Special teams could easily be the difference in this game.......we REALLY need to be at our sharpest in that area on NY Eve!

OwensboroVol writes:

If you want an advertisement for a Playoff system you need not look any further than the Appy State/Montana game just completed. The best game regardless of division that I have seen this year. Went down to the very last play. Guys it was something special!

dvhill100 writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

If you want an advertisement for a Playoff system you need not look any further than the Appy State/Montana game just completed. The best game regardless of division that I have seen this year. Went down to the very last play. Guys it was something special!

I agree. It was a great, exciting game.

WytheVol writes:

Wow. I'm impressed. An article relating to the next game...

Voluvr writes:

Let's hire the VT special teams coach.

bigorangebluegrass writes:

wait...wait...where's the hidden recruiting violation in this article? keep looking, i'm sure it's there...

sidwalkvol writes:

a FOOTBALL article? Really?

Thank you, God.

Would love to hear about who might be replacements for Gran and Wilson.

Eric_Berry_For_Heisman writes:

reel 'em in clk! get us a high octane recruiter!

newtonrail writes:

in response to Voluvr:

Let's hire the VT special teams coach.

We had his son, Shane Beamer, but he's moved onward and upward.

Mobbdeep4life writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

If you want an advertisement for a Playoff system you need not look any further than the Appy State/Montana game just completed. The best game regardless of division that I have seen this year. Went down to the very last play. Guys it was something special!

Agree. That was a good game and App. St. had a chance to tie it with that last throw. Looking forward to the New Year's Eve bowl game vs. VT. Gives me another reason to stay home and drink instead of getting out in the streets.

OrangeMandM writes:

I heard we were looking at Sly Croom to replace Gran on coaching RB and ST. Anyone got anything on this?

givehim6 writes:

in response to WytheVol:

Wow. I'm impressed. An article relating to the next game...

Yes, and not a word adout "orange pride gate".

Vol_in_Mich writes:

Hard to improve special teams when your kicker can not get kickoffs inside the opponents 20 much less the end zone. We'll just have to score enough TD's to offset Va Tech's advantage on S.T.'s.
I'm also glad for an article on the upcomming bowl game.
They were jawing about Kiffin & the hostess mess on ESPN's Sports Reporters this morning. Of course most of their info was wrong, but what the heck, It's ESPN - The National Enquirer of sports. This cr@p is getting old, but I guess it sells.

GO VOLS!!!
ps: congrats to Mark Ingram.

TennRadioGeek writes:

in response to BigVolMan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

This is positive. All the ESPN talking heads agree that VT will win. They think PIFFIN the wonder coach will have a confused team in Atlanta.

But we have nice warm thought for the cold winter recruiting season. Such as "moral victory" "scared the s!!! out of them" and all the other excuses UT supporters have used this year.

This was a no excuse year for a coach. He is what he is.

The real issue is:

FIRE MIKE HAMILTON

rockytopatl writes:

in response to TennRadioGeek:

This is positive. All the ESPN talking heads agree that VT will win. They think PIFFIN the wonder coach will have a confused team in Atlanta.

But we have nice warm thought for the cold winter recruiting season. Such as "moral victory" "scared the s!!! out of them" and all the other excuses UT supporters have used this year.

This was a no excuse year for a coach. He is what he is.

The real issue is:

FIRE MIKE HAMILTON

Why don't we just chill and see how all this sorts out before we fire anybody? Likewise with all the hotheads to want to sue somebody, or "go on the offensive" or stand before the nation and declare our innocence.

This might turn out OK. If it doesn't, the Powers That Be will do what they think needs to be done.

buxavol writes:

Wondering what the over/under is on blocked punts by VT?

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

in response to TennRadioGeek:

This is positive. All the ESPN talking heads agree that VT will win. They think PIFFIN the wonder coach will have a confused team in Atlanta.

But we have nice warm thought for the cold winter recruiting season. Such as "moral victory" "scared the s!!! out of them" and all the other excuses UT supporters have used this year.

This was a no excuse year for a coach. He is what he is.

The real issue is:

FIRE MIKE HAMILTON

We're not about to fire Mike Hamilton. As for Coach Kiffin, the man wears his Orange stars well in my eyes. The respect that he has earned is impervious to all of the jibber jabber of all the idgets in this world.

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

...from all of the idgets in this world.

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