Tennessee freshman Jacques Smith goes through drills during spring practice on March 18 at Haslam Field. Smith and classmate Corey Miller are adjusting to college life and football well, says UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
Corey Miller and Jacques Smith clearly don't waste time.
The Tennessee true freshmen made that clear before spring practice started by skipping the rest of their senior years of high school to get a head start on campus.
Now the defensive linemen are making that just as apparent on the field, impressing the coaching staff at every turn, taking some snaps with the first-team defense and perhaps moving up the timetable for contributing to the Vols.
Though given their reputations, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.
"I've been around a couple guys that came in (ready) like that, but traditionally it's more rare than it is commonplace," UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "That's not usually a physical thing, there's a lot of guys that have ability. But to come and handle going to class, they've got study hall, they've got to be here for workouts, they've got to be here for meetings, they've got practice, they're away from home and living in the dorms for the first time, and really it happened in a two-week window. They were in high school, now they're in college.
"There is no bridge, so for them to handle that says a lot about them and they're upbringing and their ability to change gears and jump right into it. You know, it'll be tough at times. It's a struggle for everybody at times, but I've been impressed with those guys."
There are still some occasional issues, like there are for any freshmen. But for the most part, the two - currently unavailable for interview per UT policy - have come into camp and hardly looked out of place.
Miller has established himself as a real threat at end, and he could be a major factor along with seniors Chris Walker, Gerald Williams and Ben Martin in the rotation there. Smith could be as well, though the versatile Ooltewah product might wind up as a candidate to help on the inside.
Either way, both are drawing praise from teammates and the coaching staff alike and looking like viable candidates to play a lot early.
"Let me tell you, those two guys are going to be really good football players for us," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "Jacques Smith and Corey Miller - great attitude, great character, they play with tremendous effort and toughness and got a lot of good physical skills. I'm glad they're a part of our program.
"I think they're progressing at a real rapid pace and they're going to be important to us this year."
And though there are some talented veterans ahead of them, the fact that there's a need for more bodies up front hasn't hurt their chances any.
Of course, Miller and Smith had to prove first that they could handle the opportunity if it came, and so far there hasn't been much that slowed them down.
"I mean, obviously they have physical tools, you look at them and they're physically put together," Wilcox said. "But to mentally be able to put it together and handle that change, they've done a great job with that. It's not every play there's something that they've got to fix or something's not quite right, and they go hard, they practice hard, they're accountable guys, they work for you, they're going to show up every day with a great attitude. Those guys have been awesome.
"At defensive line (the transition) is really the physical aspect. You're playing against big, physical guys in the offensive line and at tight end, so for any freshman you've got to be a little bit of a unique guy to be able to handle that, not only physically but mentally as well."