Miller, Smith handling challenges of college life

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."

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Comments » 9

Melveen writes:

We need Jacques and Corey to step up big-time. Make us proud, guys!

tnsportsman writes:

Yep Smith & Miller will make a huge impact on the D Line! Just like Stone and James will on the O line when they get in this Fall!

Freshmen and Sophomores can and will make a huge difference now days starting in the SEC.

Love this Dooley quote from todays practice:

"I did a little research for the team to show them how important those last few minutes are," Dooley said. "The last two years we have had a chance to win seven times in the last four minutes when it was a one-possession game or maybe a ten-point game. We didn’t win one of them."

This Team will get what CDD is coaching and when they fix the last 4 minutes, THE BIG ORANGE will be winning games! Also proves just how close UT was to major wins! So much for THE NO talent at UT, coach them up CDD that is what we have been missing!

Confirms my prediction, VOLS 8 or more regular season wins, BOOK IT!

GO VOLS! Going to fun!

vol_in_bigten_land writes:

I love the optimism.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Brandon Willis wanted to go to UNC. Don't need ya. Corey will complement Jacques just fine and hopefully these 2 studs will be a major part of UT football's return to greatness!!!!

Thanks for coming men!

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

By the way, good article Ward.

nocleats writes:

Keep em in that weight room!!!For incoming Freshmen that havent arrived in KTown yet, Get In the weight room!!!
ps. No more whooo in Rocky Top, Replace it with Go VOLS!!

TNParker writes:

in response to tnsportsman:

Yep Smith & Miller will make a huge impact on the D Line! Just like Stone and James will on the O line when they get in this Fall!

Freshmen and Sophomores can and will make a huge difference now days starting in the SEC.

Love this Dooley quote from todays practice:

"I did a little research for the team to show them how important those last few minutes are," Dooley said. "The last two years we have had a chance to win seven times in the last four minutes when it was a one-possession game or maybe a ten-point game. We didn’t win one of them."

This Team will get what CDD is coaching and when they fix the last 4 minutes, THE BIG ORANGE will be winning games! Also proves just how close UT was to major wins! So much for THE NO talent at UT, coach them up CDD that is what we have been missing!

Confirms my prediction, VOLS 8 or more regular season wins, BOOK IT!

GO VOLS! Going to fun!

I 100% agree. There is a lot of negativity on the message boards lately that doesn't need to be here. Dooley is a smart guy and Wilcox is a GEM. Florida loses almost the entire defense (not to mention a QB whose names I am tired of hearing) and the rest of the east is mediocre. I wouldn't write this team off to reach Atlanta.

Dooley and staff have my full support. Let's get it done. Go Big Orange!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Well, the Hope diamond didn't look that good when they dug it up.

We can only support and watch as Corch Dooley tries to mess this bunch into a contenda!

CroKev writes:

in response to AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons:

Brandon Willis wanted to go to UNC. Don't need ya. Corey will complement Jacques just fine and hopefully these 2 studs will be a major part of UT football's return to greatness!!!!

Thanks for coming men!

Man, you know Miller is talking to his old teammate Willis now. I can just hear it, "Dawg, we've got Wilcox and, even better, Smith coaching us up to NFL potential. Plus, we're probably going to get some playing time as freshmen. I know you would have come here if you had it to do all over again..."

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