Steve Stripling calls Vols defensive end Corey Vereen 'most motivated freshman I've ever seen'

There apparently is little time for frivolity in Corey Vereen’s mission to play college football.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling called Vereen, a first-year player from Florida, one of the most serious and hardworking young players he’s ever encountered.

“I love him,” Stripling said. “I promise you, at nine o’clock at night you’ll find him in here doing something. He is the most motivated freshman I’ve ever seen in my career. He is unbelievable.”

There’s another way Stripling can tell Vereen apart from the crowd.

“He never smiles, which is a little scary,” Stripling said. “He’s a very pleasant kid, but he just never smiles.”

UT assistant coaches went through their weekly interview session Thursday. In addition to Vereen, coaches singled out several other players for praise, including defensive end Jacques Smith, linebacker Dontavis Sapp, defensive back Brian Randolph and reserve offensive linemen Mack Crowder and Kyler Kerbyson.

Stripling said his team still lacked a “pass-rush mentality,” but that Smith was one of the few who seemed to “get it.”

“We talk about third down being the money down because that’s where you make all the money in the NFL,” he said. “You have to have that mentality, and (Smith) is the closest we have right now.”

While Crowder has been working almost exclusively as a reserve center, Kerbyson has been getting work at both guard and tackle to fill a utility role off the bench.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney said Crowder may be a step ahead because he’s only working at one position, but that Kerbyson also had come on strong during spring camp.

Both players are third-year sophomores who are unlikely to start in 2013 unless the Vols sustain injuries, but are positioning themselves for winning jobs in 2014. Mahoney said he needs to see more from reserves Alan Posey and Marques Pair.

Running back Marlin Lane returned to practice Thursday after missing Tuesday’s session due to a family illness. Receiver Jacob Carter and defensive back LaDarrell McNeil were out or limited due to injuries.

Freshman receiver Paul Harris is back to No. 91.

He started spring camp at No. 1, was stripped of the jersey as a motivational technique, earned it back on Tuesday and then apparently lost it again sometime this week.

It’s not personal, said receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who has repeatedly stressed how much he likes Harris and how a difficult spring will pay off for him in the fall.

Speaking of motivational techniques, coach Butch Jones introduced one of the pre-practice one-on-one battles involving Harris as being a competition for “soft-batch cookies.”

He wasn’t being literal.

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, a star running back at Florida not long ago, said he constantly tries to impress upon his backs the importance of blocking.

“Anybody can run through a hole,” he said. “I could still run through a hole.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 19

gerwmor writes:

I saw a post on another site comparing CBJ to General Neyland. OK, I am thrilled with what we are seeing from this staff. I am also aware of how many players UT loses after this year so that CBJ is facing a rough road. This kind of comparison is just silly at this point. But when I see in articles like this what is happening in Knoxville now, I am ready to be patient and excited about what we may be seeing 2015!

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

I truly hope that Coach Jones has a long and ultra successful career at Tennessee but at this stage comparing him to General Neyland is like comparing Ryan Leaf to Peyton Manning.

oldster writes:

Depends on what they are comparing. Maybe they are the same height or weight.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

I'd say they are comparing coaching styles. Let's hope in a few years they're also comparing results.

A great Alabama coach -- a legend -- never beat a Neyland-coached UT team. Let's dream of a Neyland-like UT coach going unbeaten against another great Bama coach. (We can dream, can't we?)

OwensboroVol writes:

So far I really like Butch Jones. I think Spring Practice is the time to teach Football especially to Freshman and that appears to be what they are doing. The thing I really like is that Jones has been a successful Head Coach. Derek Dooley had not been a successful Head Coach when Tennessee hired him. I know that Mike Hamilton was under intense pressure to get someone hired because of the upcoming national signing day. Looking back now, it would have been much better to have lost that years class to have been a little more selective in hiring a coach.

Stringmusic writes:

in response to gerwmor:

I saw a post on another site comparing CBJ to General Neyland. OK, I am thrilled with what we are seeing from this staff. I am also aware of how many players UT loses after this year so that CBJ is facing a rough road. This kind of comparison is just silly at this point. But when I see in articles like this what is happening in Knoxville now, I am ready to be patient and excited about what we may be seeing 2015!

I agree, next year will be brutal and great attitude and motivation will get trumped by better talent..2014 will see us close the talent gap but won't reap the rewards till 2015

Stringmusic writes:

Corey's hard work is sure to pay off but I've never seen a player that could add 30lbs in 4 months..Keep in mind Clowney played at 240lbs as a freshman..His game is all about speed and techniques..He has bulked up to 275lbs

DC82_Vol writes:

I feel we are trending in the right direction. These coaches teach, not preach. I believe we will see continuous improvement with this team going forward.

I often wonder, what was Dooley doing the last two years if we are this far off from being competitive. I will give him the first year as a wash.

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

I still have not bought into Jones yet... but I do have one eyebrow lifted

Ayres_Hall writes:

The core of this staff has been together for 6 years. In the 6 years they have found success with their coaching style and philosophies at different programs and at different levels.

This is so different than the past 4 years.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

The core of this staff has been together for 6 years. In the 6 years they have found success with their coaching style and philosophies at different programs and at different levels.

This is so different than the past 4 years.

I'm going to watch from afar and not comment yet. I made it very clear from day one I was upset with the Dooley hire, and was bashed repeatedly. Now this new"General Neyland" as some over zealous fan described has tons to prove. First off he has never stayed anywhere for more than three years. He has never landed a 5 Star recruit. He won with very good talent in small venues left to him. And the last thing and most important is the fact this so called great new staff lost to Dooley terribly in Knoxville. Jones may turn it around but I must see more proof than a few spring drills. Last year everyone was so happy Dooley took kids Mountian climbing. Let's see some on field improvement then I'll be impressed. Not knocking Jones, just cautious. He did lose to Dooley with Isiah Pead and a great QB..

mikethehistorystudent writes:

I see good things with this coach. Although, I said the same thing about Dooley. We will see in three years.

movol77 writes:

It is understandable. As a Vol fan, you want UT and its people to succeed.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

I'm going to watch from afar and not comment yet. I made it very clear from day one I was upset with the Dooley hire, and was bashed repeatedly. Now this new"General Neyland" as some over zealous fan described has tons to prove. First off he has never stayed anywhere for more than three years. He has never landed a 5 Star recruit. He won with very good talent in small venues left to him. And the last thing and most important is the fact this so called great new staff lost to Dooley terribly in Knoxville. Jones may turn it around but I must see more proof than a few spring drills. Last year everyone was so happy Dooley took kids Mountian climbing. Let's see some on field improvement then I'll be impressed. Not knocking Jones, just cautious. He did lose to Dooley with Isiah Pead and a great QB..

Good. You keep watching from afar.

And.............stay far away...........and do not comment

BigOrangeFreak writes:

This gets me fired up hearing about guys like Vereen who obviously are excited about playing at Tennessee.

This team is going to be easy to get behind and root for with players exhibiting this kind of attitude.

Can't wait for the Fall. GBO!

gohawks1 writes:

in response to mikethehistorystudent:

I see good things with this coach. Although, I said the same thing about Dooley. We will see in three years.

I didn't say the same thing about Dooley. I was hopeful and tried to be onboard with Dooley, but I had an uneasy feeling from the start. I love what I see so far with Coach Butch.

The_Power_T writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

So far I really like Butch Jones. I think Spring Practice is the time to teach Football especially to Freshman and that appears to be what they are doing. The thing I really like is that Jones has been a successful Head Coach. Derek Dooley had not been a successful Head Coach when Tennessee hired him. I know that Mike Hamilton was under intense pressure to get someone hired because of the upcoming national signing day. Looking back now, it would have been much better to have lost that years class to have been a little more selective in hiring a coach.

That's a very intelligent and logical comment. One of the better perspectives on the Dooley hiring than many of the conspiracy theorists.

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to The_Power_T:

That's a very intelligent and logical comment. One of the better perspectives on the Dooley hiring than many of the conspiracy theorists.

Mike Hamilton's incompetence led to "intense pressure to get someone hired". Reminds me of a bad day on the course.

1. Feel a little pressure because the same game I've been playing has been producing a couple of less than satisfactory rounds. The press conferences after the round want to know what I'm going to do. Instead of firmly stating I'm going to play the game with the same clubs and caddie, I jettison everything.

2. I get shiny new clubs with a questionable caddie. Press and gallery likes decision but when the surprise hooks out bounds appear, decision is questionable.

3. Approaching the 16th green after a difficult round and having to make hard choices, caddie abandons me on course and attempts to take some of the best clubs in my bag.

4. Having to get to the clubhouse, I hire the only caddie that is available and might give me a chance on the back nine in the next round.

5. The caddie does the best he can but isn't able to deliver in the big show.

6. I can't even complete the round because all my terrible decisions have removed all support of my sponsors.

Don't ever, ever think Mike Hamilton was the victim of where our football program has been and is. He is the cause. Can never, ever be excused for publicly undermining the basketball coach before an NCAA appearance, even if he was going to be fired for cause.

rtrchatt writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

I'd say they are comparing coaching styles. Let's hope in a few years they're also comparing results.

A great Alabama coach -- a legend -- never beat a Neyland-coached UT team. Let's dream of a Neyland-like UT coach going unbeaten against another great Bama coach. (We can dream, can't we?)

I realize the UT domination of Kenty and Vandy is the cornerstone of your "storied" tradition but give me a break. Coach Bryant sure had little trouble beating UT at UA with career record of 17-7-1 and 11 wins in a row from 71-81. CNS is halfway to breaking that record and I certainly would not bet against it. History does repeat itself..... just ask UK/Vandy.

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