Dave Hooker's Audio
Lane Kiffin can’t coach his players at this time of year, but his older players can.
Subsequently, those upperclassmen report back to Tennessee’s first-year head coach about off-season workouts. And so far, the reports have been good.
Kiffin said his team often spends four hours a day lifting and running, then hold a pseudo-practice that includes one-on-one drills, seven-on-sevens and even some team periods.
“It’s very critical to create an environment where you don’t have to do it, but you want to,” Kiffin said Wednesday on the News Sentinel’s radio show, The Sports Page. “That’s where they are right now.”
Reports have also been good on UT’s highly touted freshman class.
“We’re hearing some great things from our older players,” Kiffin said. “They do a good job of fitting them (freshmen) in and learning the stuff. It’s going to be interesting to see - especially on offense - to get some of those playmakers involved immediately.”
Topping the list of potential, young playmakers are tailback Bryce Brown and receiver Nu’Keese Richardson.
Kiffin said Brown has already established himself thanks, in part, to moving to Knoxville a month before summer school began. Brown is already 218 pounds.
“They say it looks like he has been here for a couple of years already,” Kiffin said. “Nu’Keese has come in right away, and they say he has had an immediate impact and has done a great job in our offense.”
UT fans have heard that kind of talk before only to be disappointed when a freshman finds more bench time than playing time.
Kiffin said his system, which he perfected as offensive coordinator at Southern California, should help eliminate that dilemma.
“You don’t need them to do everything,” Kiffin said. “Find out what they do really well and focus on that and make them do that. As they get older they continue to grow and do everything.
“But don’t try to make them do everything right away.”
In particular, Kiffin seems willing to play a talented tailback even if he isn’t perfect in pass protection.
“If they can’t protect, put them in a situation where they don’t protect,” Kiffin said. “We have a system that has been great over the years of making guys into freshman All-Americans, playing them right away by focusing on what they can do extremely well.
“Do that instead of making them do everything. Then they just become average at everything instead of really good at a few things.”
For a program that prides itself (and sells itself to prospects) as one with strong NFL ties, this has been a special week with two former Vols in town.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth have both been in town to work out with the Vols.
“I think that’s the two highest paid players in the NFL,” Kiffin joked, “just a great scene for our players.”