UT tailback, Tauren Poole, talks about the new practice regime under Coach Kiffin. March 26, 2009 Interview by Drew Edwards/News Sentinel Watch »
UT offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, speaks with the media after practice, March 26, 2009 Watch »
For players who make the move from tight end to offensive tackle, it's usually a hate-love proposition.
At least that's how it typically works, offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Chaney says.
"Quite honestly, most of the guys that do it despise the move at the beginning and then fall in love with it within a week or two when they realize they're not running 50 yards down the field all the time," Chaney said.
For former Maryville High School standout and Class 4A Mr. Football Aaron Douglas, it's been a little bit smoother.
"It's been fun, just something new," said Douglas, who opened spring practice at tackle after signing with the Vols as a tight end. "It's a different challenge. The coaches have made it a real smooth transition because they've helped me a lot. The technique that they teach is just great. All the guys on the O-line, they've helped me a lot too. It's been a real smooth transition so far. I just need to keep improving day-by-day."
It's about gaining confidence, too.
With recent shoulder surgeries, including one last fall that kept Douglas off the field as a true freshman, Chaney said he can see Douglas becoming more comfortable with the physical play the position demands.
"His biggest thing to learn is to be as physical as you can and how physical you've got to play on the offensive line," Chaney said. "I think he's a little apprehensive at times because of some shoulder issues he's had. In the last two or three practices, you can really see him coming out of his shell and trusting his own strength and trusting those shoulders a little bit more. It's been fun to see his growth so far."
QB Report: Coach Lane Kiffin remains pleased with the progress of quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and B.J. Coleman through UT's first five practices.
Kiffin said after a slight letdown in UT's third and fourth practices, those two picked it up on Tuesday.
Kiffin is particularly pleased with the way the two are managing the offense.
"I really like the way they're handling the huddle, the way they're handling the offense. You don't see many balls on the ground," Kiffin said. "You don't see hardly any false starts. I don't know if we had one (Thursday). That's a very hard thing to do in a new system, new cadence. I thought they've done a great job. I thought (quarterbacks) coach (David) Reaves has done a great job of preparation for them up to this point."
Poole Progressing: Tailback Tauren Poole has found a way to stand out in what promises to be an incredibly competitive backfield this fall.
Montario Hardesty, Lennon Creer and Poole have all looked solid at times this spring, and Poole has shown a knack for hitting the hole quickly.
All told, the rising sophomore is pleased with UT's progress on offense so far.
"We're learning things faster," Poole said. "Coach Kiffin's explaining things well. He knows this offense. We've just got to pick it up as fast as we can. That's what we're doing."
Sykes Improving: Despite being slowed by injuries, former Alcoa standout and junior college transfer Rae Sykes is moving along at defensive end.
"He's battling back to get himself healthy," Kiffin said. "Hasn't been able to condition the whole time because of some injuries, but he continues to get better. We've thrown him in a lot more (Thursday) than he had been. We'll keep pushing him."
Schedule: After Saturday's morning practice, the Vols return to the field on Tuesday.
The team also will practice next Friday in conjunction with UT's annual coaching clinic before Saturday's first full scrimmage of spring practice.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.