Tennessee’s kicking specialists shared some special thoughts about Eddie Gran this week.
“Really organized, definitely attention to detail, a huge energy guy,” placekicker Daniel Lincoln said when asked to describe UT’s special teams coach. “He’ll keep you awake in meetings, that’s for sure. It’s definitely a big deal for him to be a part of what we’re doing here.”
UT used several coaches to coach special teams in recent years. Now, Gran coordinates all special teams with contributions from a handful of coaches.
Punter Chad Cunningham appreciates the change.
“I think it’s definitely good,” the junior said. “Nobody is confused about who to go to to talk about things; everybody knows it’s coach Gran. I feel like it will be a little more organized.”
Just being the boss isn’t the only reason Gran is liked by the Vols. They appreciate his energy.
“He’s definitely really loud and really in your face. His coaching style is so different from anybody we’ve gotten used to,” Lincoln said. “There’s no also, ands or buts. Coach Gran is the special teams coordinator. He’s on top of things and there’s definitely an emphasis there.”
For Kicks: With Gran’s plan, there will be no spread punt formation like the Vols used last year. UT will return to a traditional tight punt formation.
“I’m excited about it,” Cunningham said. “It will definitely give me more confidence — just having that little tunnel to kick in and not worrying about anybody coming through will definitely be a confidence booster.”
Cunningham admitted he wasn’t much of a fan of UT’s spread punt formation, in which blockers spread out wide from each other in hopes of getting down field quicker to tackle the punt returner.
The approach can allow a opponent to come free to block a punt. UT had two punts blocked in 2008.
“I wasn’t a fan of it,” Cunningham said, “but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Cunningham said his leg strength has improved and he is consistently posting hang times of 4.5 seconds and longer.
S.I.D. McCoy: Linebacker Rico McCoy doesn’t hold back the praise when he describes safety Eric Berry.
“You can’t tell me you watched a Tennessee game and weren’t impressed by Eric Berry,” McCoy said. “You can’t tell me you saw a better DB.”
McCoy seemed to almost be simmering from the awards that Berry didn’t win following his record-setting sophomore season in 2008. Berry lost the Jim Thorpe Award to Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State.
“We wish he could get all the awards,” McCoy said. “We thought he deserved all the DB awards last year.
“If you went by stats, it was a no-brainer. If you watched the games, it was a no-brainer.
“He didn’t get them but you would like for him to get them next year. He’s definitely a hard worker and he deserves all of them.”
As for McCoy’s expectations for Berry in 2009, how about another record-setting season like 2008? McCoy wouldn’t be surprised.
“Another eight picks? Another eight interceptions?” McCoy said. “That would be crazy to say that but you can expect that from a guy like that. Three hundred return yards? A hundred tackles? Just another great year for him.”
The Real McCoy: Ask McCoy what he’s improved on and he’ll admit that it’s his work ethic.
“Lift more than the next guy. Run more than the next guy. It’s a mental thing,” McCoy said. “That’s what I’ve picked up this offseason: get my mind right. I’ve got to go out and work harder than everybody.”
Most would think UT’s defense will have to carry much of the load this season after its offense struggled last season. McCoy isn’t so sure.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll have a good offense,” he said. “I’m not worried about them. I just know this defense needs to take the top in every category. We need to be No. 1.”
Recruiting Trail: Dexter Morant, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound defensive end from Manning (S.C.) High School, picked Georgia. He was also considering UT, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Defensive back Cody Riggs from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale is planning on taking his official visit to UT for the UCLA game Sept. 12.
Riggs has said publicly that Florida and Georgia lead for his services. However, he has had little contact with UT’s coaches meaning his official visit will be vital for UT’s chances.
Notre Dame is climbing Riggs’ list of prospective schools while Florida has slipped, according to a source close to his recruitment.
Volunteering: Berry and defensive end Ben Martin will visit with local youth during a summer camp hosted by the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office.
The summer program promotes fine arts and recreation for rising third through eighth graders. The free program takes place in July on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4 p.m.