First fall practice goes well despite heat
Tennessee running back Toney Williams, center, runs behind the blocking of fullback Sam Edgmon, right, after receiving a handoff from quarterback Tyler Bray on Wednesday during the first day of fall practice.
Hey, anybody remember Toney Williams?
Williams, a redshirt freshman running back, hopes Tennessee fans remember him before the 2010 season gets very far along.
For those paying attention to spring practice - spring practice 2009, that is - Williams was the signee who enrolled early and then proceeded to turn heads with a strong spring showing.
About a month later, however, he tore up a knee in a 7-on-7 drill at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex. Surgery. Redshirt.
" Football is a big part of my life,'' Williams said Wednesday after the opening session of 2010 fall practice. "It's good to be back out here doing what I love to do.
"I couldn't be more happy. I'm at a good place in my life right now.''
While Williams was on the shelf, Montario Hardesty assembled a terrific senior season in 2009 and Bryce Brown came and went.
Tauren Poole emerged from spring practice as the No. 1 tailback, followed by David Oku. Furthermore, freshman Rajion Neal has arrived.
Williams, from Alpharetta, Ga., is confident he can get back in the mix. Before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, he flashed a nice running form and had the size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) to get physical.
"I feel like I'm back to my old self, but stronger at the same time,'' he said. "I felt like I've got a lot to prove because in the spring (2010) I felt like I let my teammates and myself down.
"This fall I need to come out here and prove that I'm as good as I was at first, if not better.''
On one hand, he feels good that he got to show his potential before the injury happened. On the other, the promising start made it even more depressing to fall to the wayside.
And the way he got hurt only made it worse.
"I was celebrating,'' he said. "I caught a pass and got excited with my teammates and jumped up and came down wrong on my leg.''
Now, he hopes there will again be reason to celebrate - just more carefully.
Split Squads: The two-deep depth chart guys worked in broiling heat Wednesday afternoon. The newcomers and other younger players practiced in the evening.
"Only half the team is there,'' said coach Derek Dooley, "so the tempo is quicker. Not a lot of breaks (between reps).''
Quarterback Matt Simms said it took some adjustment.
"It was just me and Tyler (Bray) out there so we were taking every rep,'' Simms said.
"It was fun, though. You're out there with guys you know are going to be on the field.''
The only freshman to practice with the veterans was Neal and that was because Oku had a class conflict, Dooley said.
Malik Jackson, the junior transfer from Southern Cal, practiced with the newcomers in the evening.
Brothers In Arms: Simms said it's a difficult time to keep in touch with older brother Chris, who is in the Tennessee Titans camp.
"They're getting into their two-a-days and now we're starting,'' Simms said. "It's going to be tough to stay in contact.
"After this tough part of camp gets over it'll start back up, I hope.''
No Porter?: There were indications Wednesday UT is not pursuing freshman offensive lineman Elliott Porter, who has been given his release from LSU.