Derek Dooley says weather is 'good preparation'

Derek Dooley talks after Thursday's practice, March 24, 2011

The weather hasn't exactly been on the same page through Tennessee's first three spring football practices.

Unseasonably warm, sun-soaked conditions Tuesday gave way to a blitz of lightning and heavy rain Wednesday. On Thursday, temperatures resembled those similar to what the Vols faced in November games against Memphis and Ole Miss.

That's spring in Knoxville and that's OK with Derek Dooley.

"Good preparation" is what the UT coach called it after Thursday's two-hour session at Haslam Field, the first of eight where the Vols don full pads and engage in full-contact drills.

"Yesterday we didn't handle it well at all when it started raining," Dooley said. "We were about 0-for-5 right out of the gate when it was raining. We talked to the offense about that, and it's what I said about young players - things don't go your way, you get affected, you start thinking about the elements, that's what we've got to learn to play through.

"We're going to have a lot of adversity, a lot of competition so we can try to mature faster."

The first dose of contact - a hearty one at that, according to players - since last year's Music City Bowl loss to North Carolina was enough to keep the Vols distracted from the inclement conditions.

Moments after reporters were ushered away from the field at the end of the open viewing period, whistles blew and players hollered in excitement. Shortly thereafter, the thud of pads crashing against each other could be heard from outside the gates.

"It was great," middle linebacker John Propst said. "As a linebacker, you love it. You want to get out here and hit people."

Sound tackling was a problem for UT all last season, as a number of the explosive plays it allowed could have been stopped at their onset. That, combined with an inordinate amount of young players, is why the Vols have focused on the basics of tackling at the start of practices this week.

"It's a mindset," Dooley said. "You know there's going to be a lot of mistakes, but we've got to have guys moving fast and hitting hard and then we'll clean up the mistakes as we go."

Moving On Up: Marcus Jackson, an early enrollee from Vero Beach, Fla., worked with the first-team offensive line at left guard during Thursday's open portion of practice.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 337 pounds, Jackson certainly looks the part of an SEC offensive lineman and has drawn strong praise from players on both sides of the ball. On Tuesday, Dooley said he didn't notice Jackson, "which was good."

"He's pretty good. I like him," right guard Zach Fulton said. "I try teaching him everything I know about the position. He's trying to learn from me and JerQuari (Schofield)."

In a friendly competition to see which offensive lineman can add the most pounds of muscle, Fulton, who is listed at 334 pounds, said he currently has Jackson beat by "a couple pounds."

"It's a little bit of a battle," Fulton said.

Three Days Straight: Dooley didn't want to open the spring with three consecutive practices, but the way spring break fell at UT left him no other choice, he said.

"Usually the first seven practices, I'd rather go every other day," Dooley said. "It allows you a lot of film time in between, but we couldn't do that . . . I didn't want to jam a practice or two at the front end of spring break."

The Vols will have today off before returning to Haslam Field on Saturday morning.

Kiffin Speaks: Former Vols football coach Lane Kiffin told reporters in Los Angeles on Thursday that he doesn't expect to be suspended as a result of his link to the UT NCAA investigation.

Kiffin, now the head coach at Southern Cal, was cited specifically in UT's Notice of Allegations for failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failure to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several assistant coaches.

Unless Kiffin agrees to all of the charges levied against him, he will be in Indianapolis with UT administrators and others for a June meeting with the Committee on Infractions.

"I don't have a concern for it," Kiffin said. "It has to do with how you deal with the NCAA and how you communicate with them through the process and I don't think that is at question at all in this situation."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 8

VOLliven2it writes:

I was liking this article right up until you named the name of the Twinky Soft Cakes head coach out west. We really don't care what he thinks. If the NCAA wants to throw him under the bus for stupidity, it shows the NCAA has some scruples. Please stick to UT football. The USC sites are available for anyone who cares.

TNVol71 writes:

Great job, Coach!!! Just keep improving!!

As to the last topic in the article, it would be so sweet to have the NCAA put a "show cause" on the Kifster and suspend Ed Ogre and him for half to all of this next season. Go Vols!!

PdxVol writes:

in response to VOLliven2it:

I was liking this article right up until you named the name of the Twinky Soft Cakes head coach out west. We really don't care what he thinks. If the NCAA wants to throw him under the bus for stupidity, it shows the NCAA has some scruples. Please stick to UT football. The USC sites are available for anyone who cares.

Twinky Soft Cakes? lol

CroKev writes:

On a somewhat related note, I wonder why we've had so much more success when it comes to improvements in strength and speed with coach McKeefery versus Wylie. Wylie got a lot of press for the guys being in better running and calisthentic strength and for being willing to do all the same workouts himself. However, Dooley wanted the Vols to get stronger and faster and the new guy seems to be making that happening at an impressive rate. I hope we can hold on to him!

crimsonviper writes:

That was a good article,right up to the part about Kiffin...after which it was a complete flop.

tomatosoup writes:

Is anyone else nervous about next season like me? I have to admit, I love CD and all he stands for but honestly...I'm scared!

OrangePride writes:

in response to tomatosoup:

Is anyone else nervous about next season like me? I have to admit, I love CD and all he stands for but honestly...I'm scared!

Here would be how I would approach this fear problem.......put some JD in that tomato soup and just relax. We are going to walk onto that field with a bigger, stronger, faster, and deeper team than last year. We have QB options as good as any team out there. And this staff had a very thin squad and still managed to be very, competitive all season (GA being an exception). So come out to the games, yell like h**l, tailgate, and have a great time! And let this coaching staff keep up the good work. GO VOLS!!

DennisVols writes:

" If progress can be made in the defensive front seven in the next month, including identifying an all-league-type pass rusher, the Vols likely would feel good about legitimately contending for a top-two finish in the division -- and even challenging for the top spot." Rivals.com

http://collegefootball.rivals.com/con...

This is what they are talking about. There is hope in Knoxville again
Keeping it Real
GoVols!!!

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