Scenes from UT football practice, Aug. 8, 2012
Jim Chaney's players know his philosophy, his schemes and all the X's and O's he can cram into a playbook.
But the best thing about being a veteran coach on a veteran team, Chaney said, is that the players know him personally. They know when he's joking, when he's serious and how all that yelling has a purpose.
"They know it isn't personal when we're getting on their hiney," Chaney said. "They're accepting coaching pretty good right now."
Chaney, Tennessee's offensive coordinator, is one of only two coaches remaining from last year's staff. He came to Knoxville as former coach Lane Kiffin's coordinator, so he predates even current head coach Derek Dooley.
The Vols enter Chaney's fourth year with a veteran quarterback in Tyler Bray, a battle-tested offensive line and one of the most talented receiving corps in the league. That experience, players say, has sped up the pace of the offense in practice.
"You don't have to describe to the young guys what to do. You just call a play and snap the ball real quick," Bray said. "This year I'm much more comfortable."
Chaney said that comfort comes from familiarity, and he feels it, too.
"It goes without saying, if you do something more and more, you get better at it," Chaney said. "So we're more advanced in that way. We understand the concepts a little better, but I think we also know each other a little better, which is what I like the best. It is easier to coach guys you know."
Chaney spoke to reporters for the first time this month after Wednesday's practice. He estimated the Vols have another four days or so of base installation before getting into more specialized preparation for the season.
"It's usually about 10 practices before we start identifying who we are as a football team," Chaney said. "We'll have some big personnel meetings about who's going to be playing and who isn't. Coach (Dooley) is going to make those decisions."
Many of the toughest decisions will come at running back, where this is no established starter in the race between Rajion Neal, Marlin Lane and Devrin Young. Running backs coach Jay Graham said it's too early to establish a pecking order.
"After this first scrimmage (Saturday), things will start to shake out as we get closer to the season," Graham said. "I like their effort. They're trying to do the things that we talk about in the meetings. They're trying to be physical, trying to finish runs, trying to pass-protect and do things the right way. That is the biggest thing that I have been impressed with."
Chaney said there was too much giggling and "silliness" in years past. This year, he senses a more businesslike approach, and he cited the running backs as the best example.
"They're going out and competing with a real professional attitude," he said. "There's no giddiness."
He hopes that maturity will give him the opportunity to try more things on offense.
"I think their brains are better, so with that there's more playbooks, there's more schemes that are available to you," he said. "The aptitude will dictate how deep you're going to play."