UT coach Derek Dooley talks about Matt Milton
Earlier in the month, when Derek Dooley said he had spent three years working on what is now Tennessee's revamped practice schedule for the upcoming school year, some understandable snickers could be heard throughout the room.
Dooley, though, wasn't joking.
The UT coach is the first to admit that he's a meticulous planner. And even though all the details appear to be smoothed out heading into its debut Thursday, Dooley said Tuesday that there will always be components of the switch that will cause him to lose sleep.
"I'm really more nervous about what we haven't thought of," Dooley said. "This will be a little different. But I feel pretty good about the schedule."
All weekday practices from Thursday until the end of the season will be held in the morning. Previously, the Vols, who are off today, would go through their classes in the morning before arriving at Haslam Field for a practice that typically began around 4 p.m.
Also changing is the team's day of rest. Instead of Sunday, the Vols will now take Mondays off during the season.
Dooley said both changes are designed to help the players and his coaches, who will now start fresh with their focus squarely on the upcoming game Monday morning.
"I think it cleans up the game for the players on Sunday, so you don't have to wake up Monday and still revisit Saturday," Dooley said. "And then, I think it's going to help the players manage their weeks better. They're going to get in bed earlier. They're going to eat better. And they won't be oversleeping for class because they have practice, so I just feel like it will be a better routine for everybody.
"Time will tell."
Wide receiver Justin Hunter initially grimaced at the prospect of early-morning practices, which will typically start at 9 a.m. Hunter said he would have to set his alarm for 6 a.m. to insure that he would make it to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center in time.
Players such as offensive tackle Dallas Thomas and defensive end Marlon Walls were open to a new way of doing things.
"I think for some of the guys, it's going to be pretty hard," Walls said. "But I'm a morning person, anyways. I'm usually up by about 7 o'clock anyways, so now I've just got to push it back a couple of hours."
Bumps and Bruises: Greg King was the newest addition to UT's walking wounded Tuesday, as the oft-injured linebacker nursed swelling in his right knee.
Running backs Tom Smith and Rajion Neal were out for a second consecutive day because of their respective knee injuries.
Prentiss Waggner, DeAnthony Arnett, Steven Fowlkes and Zach Rogers all practiced in red, non-contact jerseys in the evening practice. None of their injuries were disclosed, but Dooley hasn’t identified any of them as dealing with a problem of significance.
Just for Kicks: Michael Palardy said he didn't need to make a 52-yard field goal in Saturday's scrimmage to boost his confidence, but it certainly didn't hurt.
What made it more reassuring was that his longest make as a Vol during a scrimmage or actual game wasn't even his best kick.
"I didn't hit it as well as I should have," he said. "It got in there, cleared it by a yard and a half, 2 yards. I know I can hit it 5, 6 yards further than that."
Palardy, who struggled through a pulled groin muscle that lingered from last season all the way through spring practice, said he has been completely healthy for nearly two months. He credited a less taxing workout regimen for the success he's had not only with long field goals, but longer kickoffs.
He and Dooley both said that the majority of his kicks have landed inside the 5-yard line, a marked improvement from last season.
"I'm feeling good," Palardy said. "It's what I needed."
Bigger is Better: Izauea Lanier is 194 pounds, and he's hoping to use every one of them to his advantage as he vies to become one of UT's starting cornerbacks.
The junior-college transfer played safety at East Mississippi Community College last season, but knew well before camp that he would be moved to cornerback.
"I really try to test every receiver I go up against," Lanier said. "I know most receivers I play against are going to be physical. Me being this big at corner, I really feel like it will be a tougher challenge to a receiver to really push me of."
Dooley has been impressed with Lanier thus far.
"He's instinctive," Dooley said. "He's had a great work ethic and attitude, and so, as long as he stays on that pace, he's going to help us.
"And we need him to, because we don't have a guy right now that we say, 'All right, we're done at corner.' "
Roster Management: The final verdict is in: Geraldo Orta will take the final scholarship available spot this fall, with Tino Thomas taking a grayshirt and sitting the season out.
The Vols confirmed the move prior to the evening workout on Tuesday night, one day before classes were set to begin this morning. Both players are coming off shoulder surgeries in the summer, but Orta appears likely to be cleared physically first — which perhaps gave him the edge in getting on UT’s roster right away.