There are a couple of reasons new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley wants to clone Luke Stocker.
First, the senior tight end is one of the few proven players on the football team.
Second, he plays an integral position for the 2010 edition of the Vols.
"I think there's no question, Luke has a lot of ability," Dooley said Saturday. "He's got good size. He's got the right competitive character. And he's produced. He's one of those few guys that have shown good production. So I think he's going to play an important role in our offense."
Stocker is ready. After catching 29 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns last season, the senior is riding a wave of positive energy.
"I have a lot of confidence right now," Stocker said after Saturday's practice. "That's a good feeling."
After Stocker, it gets a little more complicated, especially for a coach like Dooley that would like to play two or three tight ends on most every play.
"The key is going to be who behind Luke is going to be effective and productive," Dooley said. "I'd like to have two, three, four guys who can do what Luke does."
Stocker is the only Tennessee tight end to catch a pass last season. For depth (and likely a lot of blocking), the Vols can turn to junior Ben Bartholomew. Junior Daniel Adderley could bring some athleticism to the position after transferring from Miami last year.
"I think Daniel's a good athlete," Stocker said. "I don't think he's played tight end before so he's got some work in front of him but he's got a lot of potential."
Adderley needs to return to practice to impress his coaches. He missed Saturday's practice because of a thumb injury he suffered Thursday.
It's no surprise which UT tight end caught more passes in Adderley's absence?
"Right now Luke is what we've got," Dooley said. "He's good and we're going to use him."
Much Different: UT's once vaunted secondary isn't what it used to be a year ago. Then, it was a team strength.
Now, safety Eric Berry and cornerback Dennis Rogan are off to the NFL, so it's yet another rebuilding project for the Vols.
"You've got to learn more of the defense because Eric knew the whole defense by the time the coaches were here," junior Anthony Anderson said. "Now we all have to learn the defense so we'll all be on the same page."
Another coaching change means another opportunity for Anderson. The former Austin-East High School star was practicing with the first-team late into preseason camp last year but saw his playing time vanish when other cornerbacks got healthy.
"Just knowing I have a chance to start a whole year, I'll be ready," Anderson said.
Anderson is recovering from hernia surgery he underwent in mid-January. There is still soreness, but nothing that is limiting him during spring camp.
Learning a new defense hasn't limited Anderson either.
"It's actually easier than (former UT) coach (Monte) Kiffin's defense. He makes it more simple," Anderson said, referring to defensive backs coach Terry Joseph.
Simple often means more man coverage, which has proven to be the case with Joseph.
"Almost every time I'm playing man it seems like," Anderson said.
Just Go: UT offensive line coach Harry Hiestand wants anything but tentative.
"Coach is telling us if you go out there and go 100 percent and make the wrong block, it's going to be on him if we don't do the right thing," junior offensive lineman Cody Pope said. "He said he'll raise his hand and say 'That was my bad.' He said he'll stick up for us 100 percent. It's really cool to have a coach that comes and tells you that immediately."
Pope should have an advantage as he vies for a starting role. He's practiced every offensive line position during his tenure at UT. Still that experience only goes so far.
"This is my third head coach. It's like every year we have a new playbook," Pope joked. "I'm almost expecting next year for them to give us another playbook."
UT's offensive line continues to be a work in progress this spring as the Vols try to replace their starting five so long as sophomore tackle Aaron Douglas deals with personal issues.
"I think there's an open spot right now for anybody," Pope said. "We don't have a starting offensive line. As of right now, there are four or five spots wide open."
Pope has been close to seeing significant playing time before. He got first-team practice snaps last August before being relegated to a backup.
"I'm a junior so it's kind of a now or never kind of thing," he said. "For me, I'm going into spring just knowing that I have to do the best I can do, not only for me but for Tennessee. They're depending on me.
"We've got to get better. We can't get any worse."
Practice Report: Stocker said UT's new offense has many of the same concepts, but far different terminology. That won't hold offensive coordinator Jim Chaney back this spring.
"Knowing coach Chaney, he's going to fit in as much as he can," Stocker said with a smile.