Freshman James Stone improving his snaps, but needs more work

Tennessee’s James Stone, center, looks to clear a hole during the Vols’ game against Memphis on Nov. 6 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Stone, a left-handed freshman, while have his snap style remade during the offseason.

Photo by J. Miles Cary

Tennessee’s James Stone, center, looks to clear a hole during the Vols’ game against Memphis on Nov. 6 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Stone, a left-handed freshman, while have his snap style remade during the offseason.

Dooley: Why a bowl game is important

A couple days of training camp and an extra week of practice provided a chance to tweak some fundamentals.

It wasn’t enough time for the Tennessee football team to pull off a total overhaul, though.

The Vols were able to get James Stone more valuable reps at center as they prepared for Thursday’s Music City Bowl in Nashville against North Carolina (TV: ESPN, 6:30 p.m.), but the snaps were still left-handed and will continue to come from his throwback “pop-up” style. And while the freshman hasn’t really had any glaring errors with that delivery through four starts and UT is steadily becoming more comfortable with him anchoring the offensive line, his improvement apparently hasn’t changed Derek Dooley’s mind about making over Stone’s approach.

But for now the Vols’ coach isn’t messing with the good thing he’s got going.

“It’s better, but it’s not where I don’t worry about it,” Dooley said. “Because the fact of the matter is he’s still left-handed and he’s still snapping it in an unorthodox way and that won’t change. I’m always worried about it, but it is better than a month ago.

“So I haven’t changed anything. I’m still just trying to win the game, and I don’t want to disrupt anything. I think that’s something we’ll revisit after this game.”

The Vols (6-6) will have much more time to tinker before next season than they did this month preparing for the Tar Heels (7-5), though exactly what changes might be made with Stone haven’t yet been determined.

Based on his four starts working with freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, UT seemed to be making do just fine with its young battery, winning every game in November just to clinch a spot in the postseason as Stone was locking up Freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News in the process.

Even though mishaps were few and far between with Stone on the ball, there’s still been a couple nervous coaches before every play that might be more at ease with a traditional snap — though they’ll have to hold their breath for at least one more game.

“I don’t really think about changes too much right now,” Stone said. “For now, I’m just focused on getting the ball to the quarterback and getting my assignments, making my calls. It’s a new thing for the quarterback as well, so we just keep working it, repetition, trying to get as many reps as we can so we can stay sound and not have any mishaps.

“I’m way more comfortable now. I can get down, get the ball and make calls now as opposed to stumbling around and being nervous. I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was, especially since I had the chance to play some games at center. That really helped once I was able to get out there and have some real game experience snapping and making calls and making blocks.”

The Vols have had no concerns about Stone handling the other parts of the job, consistently raving about his intelligence and knowledge of the playbook as being perfect for a center and his size and athleticism allowing him to handle the physical aspect.

But it obviously all starts with the exchange at center, and when UT is done with North Carolina and gets a little more time on its hands, the coaching staff figures to turn its attention to Stone’s.

“I would argue center, next to quarterback, is the most difficult position to play on offense,” Dooley said. “It’s hard because you’re the quarterback up front. You’ve got to make the calls and the other guys are depending on you. If you don’t have intelligence, it’s hard to play that position.

“It says a lot about him and it says a lot about his mental capacity, it says a lot about his emotional maturity level. It says a lot about his physical skills, but he’s got a long way to go.”

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 16

CalPolyVol writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

EALVOL writes:

in response to CalPolyVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You might be first on this post, bur your post just proves you are a FIRST class jerk.

danisavol writes:

Whats worng about being left handed. I am and I can do anything and more than right handed people. Give us a freaking break!

TommyJack writes:

Sorry I missed that first post. I guess.

tnsportsman writes:

James Stone is a Man Child Stud! He will be All SEC and maybe All American in 2011!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to tnsportsman:

James Stone is a Man Child Stud! He will be All SEC and maybe All American in 2011!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

I agree and hope he will excel. He has the smarts to be an all american center.

abnermc writes:

Just glad we don't have a Pouncey @ center.Plus I would bet that Stone loves STEAK!!

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to danisavol:

Whats worng about being left handed. I am and I can do anything and more than right handed people. Give us a freaking break!

if you are being serious...as a left-handed snapper, the ball comes up at exactly the opposite angle it would from a right-handed snapper.

QB's are mostly used to RH guys.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

what fascinates me is the shotgun snaps. those are tough to make well....even for a trained snapper.

nocleats writes:

Next year with 15-20 more pounds of muscle, he is going to be a BEAST!

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to danisavol:

Whats worng about being left handed. I am and I can do anything and more than right handed people. Give us a freaking break!

Nothing wrong with being left handed.My Grand son is a natural lefty and it has not caused him any trouble.I ,like my Mother can use either hand almost equally, although I'm basically right handed.A left hand center and a right hand QB do have exchange problems sometimes.I don't believe there was a put down towards lefty's intended here.Don't be so sensitive.Some times being left handed is an advantage.I just hope he dosen't have two left feet.

NorthwestVol writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Nothing wrong with being left handed.My Grand son is a natural lefty and it has not caused him any trouble.I ,like my Mother can use either hand almost equally, although I'm basically right handed.A left hand center and a right hand QB do have exchange problems sometimes.I don't believe there was a put down towards lefty's intended here.Don't be so sensitive.Some times being left handed is an advantage.I just hope he dosen't have two left feet.

Kinda hoped my grandson would turn out to be a lefty. Left handed reliever (MLB) may be the best chance at a multi-million sports career out there. Even average ones have long and profitable careers. As it turns out though I'm pretty happy watching him rip through the presents as a healthy, happy
righty.

Merry Christmas Vol Fans and wishes for a great 2011.

utfutbolfan writes:

Here's the deal...there hasn't been a problem with the exchange yet so......."if it ain't broke, don't try and fix it." There's a whole "off-season" to worry about that!
Vols 24
Heels 23
GBO!!!

VOL1972 writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

Nothing wrong with being left handed.My Grand son is a natural lefty and it has not caused him any trouble.I ,like my Mother can use either hand almost equally, although I'm basically right handed.A left hand center and a right hand QB do have exchange problems sometimes.I don't believe there was a put down towards lefty's intended here.Don't be so sensitive.Some times being left handed is an advantage.I just hope he dosen't have two left feet.

Is Bray right handed? I guess I'll have to wait for the MC Bowl to find out.

In any case, we have had left handed QB's with right handed Centers and I don't remember any concerns.

Finally, there are studies that suggest that left handed people tend to be higher achievers than right handed people.

VolAlum2003 (Inactive) writes:

I don't get why the coaches are nervous every time Stone snaps. Sure he's left handed, but Stone hasn't had anywhere near the problems that Florida's center has had this season. I guess it just seems to me that it would be better to get the QB working with Stone's snaps rather than trying to have Stone snap with his non-dominant hand (it's kind of like telling Hendrix to play a right-handed guitar because the left-handed one looks weird in pictures).

mtowntim writes:

Keep working Stone, you are the man now... got to avoid one of those career ending stingers though.

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