Audio from Dave Hooker
Nick Reveiz delivered on his word.
Tennessee took a cautious approach, tried to limit his reps and kept the red jersey on the senior linebacker as long as it could.
Ultimately that only amounted to half of spring, and true to his promise after suffering a torn ACL to end his season last September against Ohio, Reveiz put the orange back on Tuesday and immediately started making sure the Vols knew he had returned for full-contact work.
"The first hit, we did a backs-on-backers blitz period, and I wasn't even trying to do a move," Reveiz said. "I just wanted to run over somebody. It was just awesome to get that first hit and be back out there going full speed.
"I told (linebackers coach Lance) Thompson the night after the Ohio game, 'I'm going to be back for spring ball.' He just said get healthy, and the whole time they were saying they weren't going to do anything live (in spring), just seven-on-seven and individual drills, but today they decided to let me loose a little bit. It was just awesome. I can't even explain how fun it was to get back."
On a limited basis, Reveiz was already testing his surgically repaired right knee this spring, trying to push through the last bit of rehab so he could sneak in some live work under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
From a signal-calling and schematic standpoint, Reveiz was longing to use the last few practices to absorb everything and get comfortable in the system. The same also was true physically with him hoping to overcome the mental blocks that can from a long-term injury well before fall camp opened.
"The biggest thing for me, what I was worried about, is that I need these reps," Reveiz said. "It's a new defense obviously, I need where it's fast-paced to get looks.
"Also, getting hit and kind of having that mental thing go away of, 'Well, if I plant too hard on this, I'm going to hurt it.' That's something that was big today, and there were a couple times when I wasn't as confident to cut on my right. That's going to come with reps and running and getting out there in those full-speed situations, that's why I really need that."
Now that he's had a taste, the hard part might be trying to scale him back a bit.
Reveiz will likely be on the shelf for Saturday's scrimmage and next week's Orange and White game, though he didn't rule them out. And obviously if there's swelling or pain, Reveiz will be limited and monitored during the second leg of UT's first back-to-back practices this spring today. The emphasis might have to be on the latter.
"He was out here today strapping it on, and we have to pull the reins on him," coach Derek Dooley said. "He wants to go every snap, and this was his first day back really hitting. I was real pleased to see him moving around, flying around, noticed him, so that's a good sign.
"Well, we've got to manage his reps, that's part of coaching. If we didn't, he'd be out there every snap flying around."
Reveiz officially has his wings back now.
Test Run: Dooley and the coaching staff got their first significant evaluations from last week's scrimmage. They're following it up with a simulation for the season, making this a sort of dry run for game preparation, practicing Tuesday, today and Thursday leading up to another scrimmage on Saturday.
"The main thing is on a game week we go pads, pads, shells on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then scrimmage on Saturday," Dooley said. "It's getting used to picking up the pace as far as knowing what to do, watching film and getting ready for the next practice."
Center shuffle: The experiments on the offensive line won't likely end for a while, and now Dooley is tinkering in the very middle of it.
UT is giving guard Jarrod Shaw some reps along with Victor Thomas at center, perhaps yet another indication of a bumpy road ahead in the trenches.
"The only thing is we're going to keep trying to develop centers, that's where we're really hurting is experience at center," Dooley said. "So we're going to have Shaw play some center, just switch with (Thomas) and see how he does. The more guys who can snap the football, the better off you'll be in the fall."
Just Visiting: The Vols hosted a number of recruits - tight end Eric MacLain from Fayetteville, N.C., and David Washington, a defensive lineman from Hampton, Ga. - during practice.
MacLain originally committed to the Vols under coach Phillip Fulmer, and nothing changed last year with Lane Kiffin leading the program. He backed off and was reportedly disappointed that Dooley hadn't called him to confirm that his scholarship offer would be honored, but UT remains in the picture to land the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder.
Dave Hooker contributed to this report.