Linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt have made quite an impression on Tennessee first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.
Sunseri, a 27-year coaching veteran, heaped praise on the two sophomores Wednesday.
"I didn't realize this until I finally got the two of them out there together, but those two kids might be the finest young linebackers that I have ever coached," Sunseri said.
Ever? Sunseri spent the past three seasons coaching Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower at Alabama, where he won two national championships. Still, he gave a glowing report on Johnson and Maggitt.
"Their attitude, their work ethic, their toughness — I am really, really pleased with those two guys," Sunseri said. "They have shown great leadership as young kids."
* Sunseri said he wants his players to strive for production, not just execution when they're on the field this year.
That means gap-fitting is great, but making tackles, breaking up passes and forcing turnovers is better.
Who has stood out to him so far? He listed defensive backs Brent Brewer, Brian Randolph and Prentiss Waggner.
"But I want plays on every down," Sunseri said.
* Receivers coach Darin Hinshaw said he expected freshman Alton Howard to eventually make his way back to receiver, but he's also getting work at running back.
* Sunseri said he's been thrilled with Darrington Sentimore's play. He said Sentimore has realized that "power and speed" are more important than size.
* Both Hinshaw and Chaney praised junior receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
"He's done nothing to disappoint us or make us say, 'Wow, what was that?' " Chaney said. "We were comfortable that we knew him pretty well and he's about what we thought he'd be: A big, fast kid who can make plays."
* Defensive line coach John Palermo said incoming freshman Dante "Omari" Phillips has plenty of work to do to play in the SEC.
"Dante is a ways away," Palermo said. "He was not in very good condition. He's a little overweight. He's got a lot to do from a conditioning standpoint."
Palermo was more encouraged about new junior college transfer Daniel McCullers.
"He has worked his fanny off all summer," Palermo said. "When he reported to camp, I would say he was 362 (pounds). In the spring, he was like 390-something. He can still stand to lose some weight. But that kid has made a commitment to try to be a good football player."
* The Vols will depart for Milligan College near Elizabethton on Thursday evening after a final practice at Haslam Field in the afternoon.
The team will stay at Milligan through Aug. 16.