Hands of Stone: Center getting a grip on right handed

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.

Willie Bohannon on bulking up

Eating habits have changed.

Picking up laundry is different.

If James Stone is walking somewhere these days, he might even take a basketball with him to give his right hand a little extra work.

Formerly an unorthodox left-handed snapper with an old-school grip on the football, Tennessee is using spring practice to change both of those things and remake Stone into a traditional righty in time for the fall. And the sophomore is using the rest of his time away from the field to help smooth the transition as well.

"I feel like I'm coming along quite nicely with it," Stone said after the first workout in pads on Thursday. "I'm just trying to use my right hand more doing just everyday things, everyday activities, then just getting a lot of extra snaps with Tyler Bray and Matt Simms and all the quarterbacks, before and after practice, whenever we get free time.

"It's just a lot of stuff like that to get more acclimated with it."

Stone had little time to adjust to playing the position in the first place last fall, sliding down from guard as it became increasingly obvious he had all the tools to be a productive center.

But in the middle of the season a year ago, UT was more concerned about Stone simply being able to complete a snap than how he did it - allowing him to stick with his left-handed, pop-up style and forcing the quarterbacks to make a much simpler adjustment with the way they received the ball.

With a couple months to spare though, the major change is now the delivery. And considering that every play will start with Stone's hand on the ball and no other position would ever entertain the thought of switching away from a dominant hand or foot, his development this spring is perhaps the most important of any player on the UT roster.

"Unless you told the quarterback to throw left-handed or a kicker to switch-hit, it's a major deal," Vols coach Derek Dooley said. "I've never had to do it, nobody on our staff has ever been around having to do it. That's what we've got. That's what we're doing. He's got a lot of time between now and September to get it right.

"Every day is a good day for him at work. He's getting better, but the more (variables) there are (the better). There's hitting involved now, fatigue is involved. It's easy to practice those snaps in shorts, not a lot going on, but the more things happening in the trenches the more it can disrupt the snap. But he's doing better."

The third practice of spring certainly provided an early barometer of that as UT put on pads and started hitting, adding to the responsibility for Stone up front.

The contact and blocking have always come naturally though, and he was clearly excited to do that again with the rest of the offensive line on Thursday. Along with that came an early test for his snapping, and apparently some proof for the Vols that Stone's bid for ambidexterity is paying off.

"He's put in a lot of work," guard Zach Fulton said. "He's come in here early or is always staying afterwards. He's my roommate, so I'll wake up and he'll be gone - probably over to the complex getting extra work in and meeting with (offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand.

"He's putting a lot of work in."

And to speed up the process, Stone is doing a lot of it without even touching a football.

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 30

RoadTrip writes:

You have to love his determination and dedication. Go Vols!

TommyJack writes:

Got the makins of a stellar vol.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I love to hear stories about the big uglies getting bigger and stronger (and uglier! lol)! Put the bricks in that Big Orange wall and be the foundation this team needs! Is it September yet?

richvol writes:

Next year could be a championship year with a line that can dominate the run game. We have the backs to make it happen. The weight room is key.

CroKev writes:

I'm right-handed and I just tried eating with my left-hand... You have my utmost respect James!

ctownvol writes:

The most difficult thing you will ever do with your opposite hand is cleaning up after a sitting session. I've broken my left hand/arm 4 times, and learning to wipe was an experience. Try it some time.

VOLinATL writes:

As an ex-center, I am impressed that he is making this switch. Very tough to do.

mcvol75 writes:

It's so good to hear this. Stone came in very highly rated, and not as a center. The fact that he made the switch to center, and now him switching hands, is very much a testament to this young man's character. This is the kind of player that UT needs more of to get us over the hump. GO VOLS!

BNCafego writes:

So our left-handed center is going to snap the ball with his right hand--a metaphor for the university's athletic program.

ncvol17 writes:

when I was a kid, the nuns tried to break me of being left handed by beating it with a ruler every time I picked up a pencil left handed. Go get him a nun...of course I am still left handed.

Coach_K writes:

Stone is the offensive counter to another Vol great. He reminds me so much of John Henderson it's not even funny. Nashvillian, smart, well spoken, great guy, great team mate, natural leader, etc, etc, etc. He has the chance to be one of the best ever. Not because he is uber talented (ie:Albert Haynesworth), but because he wants it (ie:Jason Witten).

illinoisvolfan writes:

If all the Vols work as hard as Stone is this spring, Dooley's second season will be much better than his first. GBO!!

law_vol writes:

Has anyone explained why they are making him switch hands and delivery style? I understand that a left-handed pop-up delivery is not the norm, but the article makes it seem like it was no big deal for the quarterbacks to adjust.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to law_vol:

Has anyone explained why they are making him switch hands and delivery style? I understand that a left-handed pop-up delivery is not the norm, but the article makes it seem like it was no big deal for the quarterbacks to adjust.

I was wondering the same thing. Having never played quarterback or center, I don't really understand why a center has to snap with his right hand.

DenverVol writes:

in response to law_vol:

Has anyone explained why they are making him switch hands and delivery style? I understand that a left-handed pop-up delivery is not the norm, but the article makes it seem like it was no big deal for the quarterbacks to adjust.

That a good question. I was wondering the same thing. Seemed like there were no issues late last season after Bray got used to it in practice. Why change if it's not needed.

I'll tell you this, I'm as proud of this O-Line as anyone can be. I've watched as many interviews of them that's out there. They're all so well spoken and smart yet so young. Each one of them seems 100% dedicated to team as well as each other. Awesome to see. The next couple of years are gonna be fun to watch them grow and dominate. Go VOLS!

Pompey writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....I don't see a championship in 2011 but I do see this team surprising a lot of "experts"....

OrangeinCarolina2 writes:

Stone's work ethic tells us that he wants to be the best player he can be. His willingness to change tells us he wants to be the best team player he can be. If I were an O lineman I would be excited about having this guy next to me in the trenches. O line may have been young and inexperienced last year but this year and those to come are gonna be great. Looking forward to a great football season. GO VOLS!

VOL1972 writes:

I was left-handed until the 6th grade when I broke it playing football. My left hand went into a cast for about 6 weeks and I had to switch to my right hand (including writing). I never went back to my left hand.

Of course, it is probably easier to adjust when you are 11 than 19 or 20, but (after classes end this spring) James might want to have the trainers put his right hand in a cast for the summer.

givehim6 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stone we be a great center for the Vols! But let's not forget to have a back ready to step in for him, injures happen every year.

gohawks1 writes:

in response to ctownvol:

The most difficult thing you will ever do with your opposite hand is cleaning up after a sitting session. I've broken my left hand/arm 4 times, and learning to wipe was an experience. Try it some time.

Already faced that hurdle... had to do some switch sitting after shoulder surgery last year. Difficult indeed.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

in response to gohawks1:

Already faced that hurdle... had to do some switch sitting after shoulder surgery last year. Difficult indeed.

I had a good friend in high school who broke both arms after falling backwards while lifting weights. He had to try to recruit someone to assist him every time he went to the bathroom. As it turned out, I guess I wasn't a very good friend after all.

StuAberdeeneFan writes:

Wipe and brush with your right. Guessing bad breath and a rash might speed things along.

KC_Vol writes:

I'm glad the kid is at UT. He's going to be a special player and will play on Sundays in a few years.

gohawks1 writes:

in response to civilianvol_formerly_marinevol:

I had a good friend in high school who broke both arms after falling backwards while lifting weights. He had to try to recruit someone to assist him every time he went to the bathroom. As it turned out, I guess I wasn't a very good friend after all.

Friendship only goes so far. Kinda like the guy who was snakebite in a sensitive area. After calling the doctor and was advised on how to remove the poison, his buddy said, "Doctor says you're gonna die."

SummerfieldVol writes:

I do not understand the reason for making him switch hands. Tyler did not seem to have any problems taking the under center snaps. I would think the most important thing would be making sure of a good exchange between center and quarterback. Has their ever been a lefthanded pro center? I would think Tyler would have alot to say about changing his center's hand, after all James is a natural lefty. What you do naturally you will be more consistent with what you do. So don't make him change him hand.

rockytopwestone writes:

in response to FirstAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I truely beleive Coach Dooley and this staff are very much in the process of turning this entire program around. There is so much more positive than negitive. When they get-er-dun, it`s gona be SWEET !

CharlotteVol writes:

I don't recall another article where the posts turned into potty humor.... All comments pretty funny though! GO VOLS

bobbytodd writes:

in response to Whatthehellsgoingonoutthere:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We (southpaw's) do that because our hand moves from left to right as we move across the paper. If we don't bend our hand we are unable to see what we are writing. Right handed people are pulling their hands away from the letters as they write them. It proves a right handed person decided to go from left to right on the paper...also probably why write can be spelled write, right, wright, rite etc.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

I remember that James Stone didn't like kiffScum at all which proved to me that Mr Stone was a very smart senior and a good judge of character.

He was headed to alaBummer to add another great player to the depth Nick saTan has.

Then comes CDD and company and Mr Stone saw integrity, honesty and a coach that knew football well but that also really cared about the kids he was helping turn into young men.

Thank God James Stone is such a smart young man and changed his mind and came to Tennessee.

He's a very special person both as a player and a person and I believe he'll become a player that we'll all be talking about many years from now.

Dedication and hard work like his will only push everyone else to work harder too and that's what builds teams that become Champions.

Mr Stone...I'm sure proud to call you a Vol for life and I wish you all the best for your life.

VFL...GO BIG ORANGE!!!

AWOLVol writes:

Young men like this make me proud to be a Vol fan and a college football fan. Thanks, James!!!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features