JOHNSON CITY — Tennessee’s off-campus training camp began Friday not on the campus of Milligan College, but at a mammoth high school that might pass for a small college.
Tennessee players are lodged at Milligan, but heavy rains forced the Vols to practice on the artificial surface of Steve Spurrier Field at Science Hill High School, about 15 minutes away.
Regardless of the location, UT coach Derek Dooley wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort.
“Part of the reason we came here was to change environments and get (players) out of their comfort zones, and we didn’t handle it very well,” Dooley said. “It was disappointing, but we have a scrimmage tomorrow and we’ll be ready to amp it up.”
Spurrier, South Carolina’s head football coach, played football, basketball and baseball at Science Hill.The high school has an enrollment of about 2,700 students, according to Greatschools.org. Milligan has about 1,200 students.
Dooley, prodded for a comment about practicing on a field named for a rival team’s coach, offered only that it was “nice that (Spurrier) gave back to his high school.”
* Dooley said team-building on the Milligan campus had been productive, but it failed to transfer to the practice field.
“When it is ball time, you have to be a baller,” he said. “You can’t come up here, hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ the whole time. We have to go practice.”
* Freshman linebacker Kenny Bynum tweeted that he underwent successful surgery Friday. Bynum is out with a torn meniscus.
Freshman tailback Davante Bourque has been out with a neck injury that Dooley compared to “whiplash.” Dooley said Friday there was no update on his condition.
Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) wore a non-contact jersey and even caught some punts with one arm.
“He was a little better today,” Dooley said. “He tried to go but wasn’t quite ready. We’ll see if we can play him a little bit in the scrimmage without contact.”
* Players are accustomed to well-appointed coaches when they go on the road, but the trip to Milligan was made in yellow school buses.
It helped hammer home the change in environment.
“A lot of the guy’s reactions were like the movie ‘Remember the Titans,’ ” said senior linebacker Herman Lathers. “They thought we were going somewhere like that. It was great for us to get together, and when we go back it will make us appreciate what we have in Knoxville. A lot of guys don’t have what we have.”
* Milligan isn’t all rustic. Several players tweeted about its beauty. At least two complimented the food, which is being prepared by Milligan staffers at the school cafeteria with input from Tennessee’s nutrition staff.
“It’s a little odd, but it’s still football,” said sophomore tight end Brendan Downs. “I’m trying to stay focused and look at it as another day coming to work.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.