ELIZABETHTON — Tennessee’s final morning football practice at Milligan College on Wednesday was cut short by dark, ominous skies and lightning in the distance.
Coach Derek Dooley was satisfied enough with the team's progress, however, that he canceled the evening practice and let the team return to Knoxville a day earlier than planned.
"When Smokey's been hunting the way you want him to hunt, you throw that dog a bone," Dooley said in a UT release.
Dooley said practice was a bit more "edgy" than normal Wednesday morning, as the grueling week has taken its toll on players.
"It's been good for team camaraderie, but at some point they start getting on each other's nerves," Dooley said. "But they're handling it the right way."
Even coaches have seen too much of each other.
"It's getting a little edgy in that staff room, too," Dooley said. "I need to see my wife."
* During the portion of practice open to reporters, Dooley can often be seen exhorting players, teaching technique or striding from station to station to monitor drills.
On Wednesday, he added quarterback to his job duties. Dooley tossed passes during a drill for receivers and defensive backs. He showed nice form, if not a Tyler Bray-like arm.
"I just got bored. I'm trying to get a little energy out there," Dooley joked. "I hadn't thrown it in a while and I've got a pretty good arm, I think."
* The last day at Milligan was greeted with relief by players eager to return home, but most still found value in the weeklong off-campus training camp.
"Coach Dooley has preached about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and I think this will help us a lot in the upcoming season," said junior nose tackle Daniel Hood. "Up here we don't have a lot of the things that we have in Knoxville. You get used to playing without having a cold tub or not having 1,800 Gatorades. Up here I barely have my phone on me. We don't have Internet. We weren't allowed to bring our computers. The only thing we have is our teammates."
Sophomore safety Brian Randolph said dorm life at Milligan involved "a lot of funny jokes that no one will know about."
"There have been a lot of good memories," he said.
* Speaking of Hood, Dooley praised him extensively Wednesday. That would suggest that Hood still will have an important role in the defensive line rotation, even after falling behind Dan McCullers at nose tackle.
"I kept telling (the defensive coaches) that they were going to like Dan Hood, and it's proven out," Dooley said. "He's tough, he's smart, he's dependable, he's a fighter and he's going to help us."
* Senior tight end Mychal Rivera (knee) is close to 100 percent and should be practicing without any restrictions soon, Dooley said. Freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil (hamstring) also wore a red jersey Wednesday.