John Adams: Sizing up the Vols

John Adams
University of Tennessee football players Dallas Thomas, left, and Justin Hunter are interviewed during a media luncheon Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 at Neyland Stadium. The Vols' first fall practice is Tuesday and the team opens the season Sept. 3 against Montana.  (PAUL EFIRD/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Paul Efird

University of Tennessee football players Dallas Thomas, left, and Justin Hunter are interviewed during a media luncheon Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 at Neyland Stadium. The Vols' first fall practice is Tuesday and the team opens the season Sept. 3 against Montana. (PAUL EFIRD/NEWS SENTINEL)

It's early yet for some nicknames, but not for "Double-D"

As Tennessee coach Derek Dooley updated the media on personnel matters Monday, he pointed out that freshman offensive tackle Antonio Richardson wasn't 100 percent after undergoing shoulder surgery. He added, "But he can still bench press more than 98 percent of the team."

That says as much about the team as Richardson.

In another year or so, perhaps no incoming UT freshman will handle weights with the ease of the team's most accomplished veterans. But in Dooley's second year, the Vols are still trying to get bigger and stronger.

The theme isn't new. Dooley belabored it after his first UT spring game, noting how much larger his defensive linemen were at Louisiana Tech. That theme extends beyond a position where one's success is partially determined by bolder-like properties.

Dooley wants everybody bigger, stronger and faster. He has delivered that message on the Big Orange Caravan as well as in the locker room.

"Big, fast guys will usually beat slow, little guys," is a popular line from his booster-club speeches.

Players don't run 40s at press luncheons, so I can't speak to UT's improved speed. But there are signs of growth.

Take safety Brent Brewer, for example. He now looks like a linebacker, which means significantly bigger than his media-guide weight of 215 pounds.

The recruiting class also indicates a bigger future. Two of the linebackers are A.J. Johnson (6-3, 245) and Christian Harris (6-2, 235). Those numbers wouldn't look out of place on Alabama's depth chart.

They would stick out on last year's Tennessee preseason depth chart. The starting linebacking corps averaged 223 pounds and under 6 feet.

Most of the freshman linemen are super-sized to the extent that Tennessee fans should fear the biggest of them falling on slender sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray. Of the nine freshman linemen, seven weigh 305 or more, and four weigh 325 or more.

The Vols aren't just recruiting size. They're building it.

For proof, they even have a before-and-after picture, according to junior offensive tackle Dallas Thomas. The pictures were the idea of new strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery. Thomas shakes his head at the contrast.

You might think that all strength and conditioning coaches come from the same gene pool. They're usually disciplined, authoritative, and loud. But their regimens vary.

Dooley apparently has fallen in love with McKeefery's approach, which includes pushing more heavy weight.

"That's what you do in a football game," Dooley said. "You're pushing around heavy guys."

That's not to suggest UT is being transformed into Body Builders U. Bray is still the skinniest starting quarterback in the SEC. He and wide receiver Justin Hunter look so thin on the cover of Athlon's preseason football publication, I had to eat something before I read the magazine.

Because of the emphasis on size and strength, more reporters are asking more players, "How much do you weigh?"

The most common answer for these Vols: "More than last year."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 11

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

I'd like to super-size that UT roster!

TheOpinion writes:

Hunter said he's up to 192. Brewer did look like a LB.

CrankE writes:

In like manner, Adams-the long-standing starting columnist for KNS is outclassed by . . . well . . . just about anybody else who writes anything about UT.

Fire John Adams.

VOLliven2it writes:

Have to say this is one of John's better columns. But then when one considers so many of the ones he has done and their quality(or unquality), that might not be saying a lot.

born2ride writes:

Size matters.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Maybe Brewer can switch to LB since they're so thin at the position like on 3rd downs or something?

tennrich1 writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

Maybe Brewer can switch to LB since they're so thin at the position like on 3rd downs or something?

Actually that probably will happen a lot...not so much as a LB but playing up more in the box to help stuff the run.....you will for sure see that...

MilitaryBrat writes:

I am not a fan of John Adams. But lately his writing has improved. For once he is talking about the some of the improvements of our team, instead of just the negatives.

I can handle an article like this one. It is mostly positive, but he still gets in his jabs.I understand he is not a fan, but most of his readers are fans.
I don't mind him being realistic about the Vols, just as long as hate isn't behind it.

Just because Tennessee football isn't back yet, we can see it is improving. If you can't see that then you are looking.

transplantiam writes:

Can't wait for the season! Our big uglies are just as ugly as the rest of the SEC now, and twice as BAD! Come on Bama, MAKE MY DAY! lol. Getting a bit more serious,, this S&C Coach is forming our Vols into the team that we want to be, and getting them ready for the rest of the SEC. I don't know how Hammy did it, but he sure scheduled us into some pretty heavy back-to-back games in October this year! Our boys better be ready! We need to be able to open a big can of whoop-a** on some SEC teams, not just the gimme games. We are being so overlooked by a lot of teams this year. Those Georgia boys have relly been running it on some of the blogs, and it seems no one is even mentioning us to be a contender for anything, much less the SECe!

GO VOLS!

keviningeorgia writes:

Good column John Adams.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

in response to CrankE:

In like manner, Adams-the long-standing starting columnist for KNS is outclassed by . . . well . . . just about anybody else who writes anything about UT.

Fire John Adams.

I second that adams dont know

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