John Adams: UT hopes one Daniel McCullers play will lead to others

Daniel McCullers couldn’t pinpoint the cell number of the text he received Saturday night. But he knew it was a coach’s.

Turns out it was the head coach, which made the message that much better.

The subject of the text was a defensive play Tennessee’s largest lineman had made in the scrimmage that afternoon. McCullers had broken free from the traffic jam at the line of scrimmage, hustled downfield and swatted the football loose from Pig Howard as he tried to advance a screen pass.

First-year UT coach Butch Jones was as excited by the effort as the turnover it produced. So were McCullers’ teammates, who watched the play again in the video package assembled and disseminated by Jones two days later.

Usually, such videos are a compilation of highlights and mistakes. This one was highlights only.

“I wanted the players to see just how close they were (to doing things the right way),” Jones said.

McCullers’ play showed something else as well. It demonstrated the potential of UT’s 6-foot-6, 347-pound tackle.

When former coach Derek Dooley signed him out of Georgia Military Academy last year, the significance was measured in pounds. McCullers was 377 at the time, appropriately constructed to clog the middle of the field in Tennessee’s new 3-4 alignment. A few games later, it became apparent McCullers’ attributes weren’t limited to occupying space.

Getting him to perform consistently at a high level has been the challenge. And, as McCullers will tell you, that has been a recurring theme.

High school, junior college and college coaches came to the same conclusion.

“They always were on me because they knew what I could do,” he said. “I’m used to it.”

There’s a sense of urgency about his potential as Tennessee seeks to bounce back from the worst defensive performance in school history.

The Vols need big plays. And he can’t make them from the sideline.

“I’ve got to continue to work on my conditioning,” McCullers said. “So I can make more plays.”

If he needs extra incentive, he can check the schedule. Game Three is against Oregon, which runs plays at such a blurring tempo, defenders can grow weary just watching.

Senior Corey Miller, one of McCullers’ sidekicks in the defensive line, already has taken notice of the Quack Attack.

“I see the pace they run plays and the type of plays they’re running,” said Miller, who has been watching video of upcoming opponents. “They really go fast. I remember my freshman year (Oregon 48, UT 13). That was a wake-up call.”

The Vols will take on the rematch with a new staff. And a new mind-set on defense, too. The catchphrase is “Orange Swarm,” which came up again during the highlight video.

“In some clips, we had the whole defense running to the ball,” linebacker A.J. Johnson said proudly.

You might surmise that a player of McCullers’ size in pursuit of a ballcarrier could constitute an “Orange Swarm” unto itself. His teammates would welcome repeat performances.

“I know he can do it,” Miller said. “It’s all about whether or not he wants to.

“I told him straight up, ‘Look at yourself on film. Look what you can do.’ ”

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 14

BluezVol writes:

He can most certainly set the tone in every game much like Al Wilson, Leonard Little, Big John or even Haynesworth did. We need him desperately to make "plays" and get the monkey off the collective backs of this defense.

The_Power_T writes:

I am optimistic about players like Mt McCullers for this 2013 squad. He seems to be an intelligent player with a drive to improve both conditioning and skill set under the new regime. It speaks to his character, and the new coaches' ability to motivate. Though the previous coach failed to succeed with the majority of these players, I feel with a solid game plan along with a fundamental and inspired style of play will lead to a surprisengly successful season. I believe, due to his track record, it's safe to say Butch Jones is more than capable of meeting the standards of a good coach. Proven coaching ability matched with the recruiting prowess he has shown so far equals a recipe for a monster known as THE TENNESSE VOLS! I've dealt with the hard fall to the bottom as a Vol, now I'm ready to follow Butch's charge to the top. Tennessee is not lucky to have me as a fan, I'm lucky to be a Tennesse fan. Let me refer to the bible on this matter: On the first day, God created Tennessee and saw that it was great Butch:16. Go Butch and Go Vols

MooseandSquirrelVol writes:

in response to The_Power_T:

I am optimistic about players like Mt McCullers for this 2013 squad. He seems to be an intelligent player with a drive to improve both conditioning and skill set under the new regime. It speaks to his character, and the new coaches' ability to motivate. Though the previous coach failed to succeed with the majority of these players, I feel with a solid game plan along with a fundamental and inspired style of play will lead to a surprisengly successful season. I believe, due to his track record, it's safe to say Butch Jones is more than capable of meeting the standards of a good coach. Proven coaching ability matched with the recruiting prowess he has shown so far equals a recipe for a monster known as THE TENNESSE VOLS! I've dealt with the hard fall to the bottom as a Vol, now I'm ready to follow Butch's charge to the top. Tennessee is not lucky to have me as a fan, I'm lucky to be a Tennesse fan. Let me refer to the bible on this matter: On the first day, God created Tennessee and saw that it was great Butch:16. Go Butch and Go Vols

"On the first day, God created Tennessee and saw that it was great ..."
============================================

And on the seventh day God rested. This allowed Alabama to sneak in while nobody was watching.

CroKev writes:

Down to 347 lbs.! Man, one stiff breeze and the kid is going to blow away...

RealisticVol writes:

It comes down to PRIDE. It does not matter how much ability you have if you don't use it every play. The play you goof off may be the play that COULD HAVE, WOULD HAVE won the gams. Do you have the pride to say "I don't want to look at the replay and have everybody thinking if McCullers had just played to his ability on that play, we would have won the game."

RealisticVol writes:

in response to RealisticVol:

It comes down to PRIDE. It does not matter how much ability you have if you don't use it every play. The play you goof off may be the play that COULD HAVE, WOULD HAVE won the gams. Do you have the pride to say "I don't want to look at the replay and have everybody thinking if McCullers had just played to his ability on that play, we would have won the game."

Game, not gams. I have got to change my keyboard or my glasses........or both.

bUTch_please writes:

My personal fantasy for Team #117?????

Starting right Defensive End - Daniel McCullers

givehim6 writes:

ould love to see McCullers bust through there O line and put there QB on his Quack.

givehim6 writes:

would

thevoice writes:

in response to givehim6:

would

And "their."

VolinCalif writes:

Put the pedal to the metal and just do it.

antonio14313 writes:

ORANGE SWARM!!! look out, rest of the nation: tennessee is a comin'... go vols.

t

6972 writes:

in response to CroKev:

Down to 347 lbs.! Man, one stiff breeze and the kid is going to blow away...

It was a real struggle, but with great determination the kid overcame anorexia.

jmaples54 writes:

please. john adams, you must stop writing these interesting, positive articles! we have regular posters who cannot bring themselves to praise you, so they are ready to burst with pent-up bitterness. have mercy on these twisted souls.

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