Daniel McCullers enters first practice with new weight of high expectations

Jones: Leaner McCullers will be key to defense

Tennessee defensive lineman Daniel McCullers during practice in Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday, August 2, 2013.

(AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

Photo by Saul Young, AP 2013

Tennessee defensive lineman Daniel McCullers during practice in Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday, August 2, 2013. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

UT's Daniel McCullers says he has to step up to the plate

Butch Jones joked earlier this week that for all of Daniel McCullers’ progress since his arrival at Tennessee, it was still difficult to get the big man to say more than five words.

So let it be said that during interviews on Friday night after Tennessee’s first practice of training camp, McCullers had several sentences that ran for eight, nine, even 10 words.

McCullers’ reticence is understandable, given that he is quizzed exhaustively about his weight every time he faces the media.

You would clam up, too.

But on Friday, after a summer of positive steps, the senior defensive tackle could share much happier news.

McCullers is down to 352 pounds, a weight he thinks is lower than at any time since high school. His goal is to drop another 10 or so by the end of camp.

The lost weight has done more than boost McCullers’ confidence. It’s made him more nimble and mobile on the field.

A year after the Vols asked McCullers to do little more than plug the hole in the middle of the line, the new coaching staff is heaping responsibilities on the soft-spoken senior.

“We’ll be as good as Dan McCullers goes,” Jones said on Wednesday. “It is what it is.”

In 2012, McCullers was seen as a novelty, and the expectations were appropriately minimal. He couldn’t play for long stretches without huffing and puffing, and coaches kept his responsibilities simple.

“It was an OK season,” McCullers said. “It wasn’t who I wanted to be.”

McCullers said he didn’t seriously considered going to the NFL.

“I knew I had to come back,” he said. “I had a lot more learning to do.”

Now he’s playing primarily at the three-technique tackle spot, which means he won’t be lined up over the center like a nose guard. He’ll still have to stop the run, but applying a pass rush will be an important part of the game.

That has made the weight loss essential. He hovered near — but never over, he says — 400 pounds for much of his junior college career.

He’s still a large man, but even with just 50 pounds shaved off his frame, he looks firmer and less pudgy. His face even seems tighter.

“I think Dan has had a great summer strength and conditioning season. He looks great,” Jones said. “We talk all the time. I’m excited for him because he’s worked himself into having that opportunity to really make an impact.”

Wielding a practice microphone, Jones would ride McCullers throughout spring ball, urging him to run faster and push harder.

On Friday’s first day of fall practice, the teasing was noticeably absent.

McCullers said he’s grown accustomed to aggressive tactics from coaches determined to turn his promise into production and mold him into a star.

It’s only Day 1, and despite the confidence of his coaches, McCullers was adamant that he hasn’t arrived yet.

“I haven’t won them over at all,” he said. “We all have got a long process before us. We know that.”

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

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Comments » 27

sameolvolalum writes:

Big Dan't going to give our LB's some mighty big gaps to shoot. Doing that effectively, which is a plus provided by mammoth D-linemen, makes the overall team pass rush far more fearsome. CBJ's right in assessing that the big fella's crucial for making a potentially good defense into a much feared one. Go Big Dan and GBO!

CroKev writes:

Man, if he lost another 10 pounds we might want to put him in the "Wildcat" formation. Probably would need to change the name "Wildcat" to something else though...

Henley-Street-Bridge writes:

HEY HEY HEY.. It's Fat Albert!

This guy plays 3 styles of Football

1. Agile
2. Mobile
3. Hostile

GO VOLS!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I doubt McCullers likes the "Fat Albert" reference above. How about Unstoppable Albert?

I pray and hope he'll trim down some more. I hate to see people take chances with their future by not being health conscious. I've had 2 heart attacks that could easily have been avoided with proper food and exercise.

That said Go McCullers and pancake some OLs.

BolivrBob writes:

Mount McCullers

BolivrBob writes:

in response to CroKev:

Man, if he lost another 10 pounds we might want to put him in the "Wildcat" formation. Probably would need to change the name "Wildcat" to something else though...

"BullDozer"

antonio14313 writes:

in response to CroKev:

Man, if he lost another 10 pounds we might want to put him in the "Wildcat" formation. Probably would need to change the name "Wildcat" to something else though...

Wildbear.

go vols.

t

antonio14313 writes:

350 is a good weight for him. 330 might be a little too light. 340 would probably be perfect. For him. McCullers has the potential to be as great as Haynesworth or Henderson was.

Go Vols!

t

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Somethings gotta give here..17 team sacks is just a few more than Clowney had by himself. Let that knuckle head Troy QB sit back there and throw for 500 yards and never touched him one time. Sentimore was the only one getting in the backfield but I guess he thought his 4 sacks was a sure fire ticket to the NFL. Looking forward to Vereen taking some heads off

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CroKev:

Man, if he lost another 10 pounds we might want to put him in the "Wildcat" formation. Probably would need to change the name "Wildcat" to something else though...

The Rhino set?

kazoo writes:

No, he needs to be at 335 to be able to move, show stamina and be REALLY effective. 350 is still too heavy. He's getting there but more work to do. As for being as good as Henderson, that would be something as Henderson was not just big but strong as an ox--he was on the of the strongest guys in college AND the NFL.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BolivrBob:

Mount McCullers

Nope. No FG catching man-boobs.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Nope. No FG catching man-boobs.

Too funny..I guess that's why Daniel Lincoln was called the man-boob assassin..lol

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Keep working hard Daniel! Give it everything you have. It will pay dividends. We are expecting big things from you! We want the QB to look for you everything he goes to the line of scrimmage.

Go Big Orange!

6972 writes:

Imagine being a SEC running back, getting the handoff and running to the hole and THERE YOU MEET BIG MCCULLERS. My response would be, "Hey let's throw it from now on or run it to the other side."

SewaneeVolFan writes:

As a middle-aged man who weighs more than some UT linebackers at six feet (theirs is muscle weight; mine is pizza and donuts weight), I love the whole Big Dan story. Moves me more than Antone on The Biggest Loser, which I can't watch. As coach is saying, McCullers could really make a difference for the Vols this year. From seeing his video interviews, it appears that that success couldn't happen to a nicer guy, too.

Wish I could lose the same amount of weight, but I don't have an NFL future to motivate me. (Yeah, I know, motivation comes from within, from the mirror, from someone kicking sand in my face, yadda yadda.) Maybe while watching the Vols this season, I'll do situps like Herschel Walker used to do while watching tv. and end up with laundry-board abs like his. Maybe some swamp land in FL is for sale or maybe I could buy a bridge in Brooklyn.

Shake_Bake writes:

I think the management of his playing time by the coaching staff is critical. Last year he ran out of gas in the second half of games. The weight loss and better conditioning will help with that. He is definitely a critical piece of our defense! Stay healthy, and give it your best on every play. I can't wait for this season to start! GBO!!!

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

I cannot express how much I hope Daniel McCullers succeeds. In a world where sports stars don't miss the opportunity to run off at the mouth, McCullers is a freak of both size and maturity.

Good luck Daniel. The Vol Nation is pulling for you!

bUTch_please writes:

That high octane offense in Eugene is a lot easier to deal with when it can only run in one direction.

Gonna have a blown-up backfield the next week as well.

This is going to be fun.

tovolny writes:

in response to CroKev:

Man, if he lost another 10 pounds we might want to put him in the "Wildcat" formation. Probably would need to change the name "Wildcat" to something else though...

Refrigercat

RefrigerVol

Volpedo

Uno-stampedo or mono-stampedo or StamVolpede or Volstampede

Offensive Blitzer

Moses Mosey or Moses Dozer

Vol-gain-o Backfield

Vol-a-tear-hole

Vol de fear

Volcullers

McBeaster

Volnado

BJ's Beast or BJ and the Beast

Ebullient

McSmash or McSmasher

McVol

PrePAT

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to SewaneeVolFan:

As a middle-aged man who weighs more than some UT linebackers at six feet (theirs is muscle weight; mine is pizza and donuts weight), I love the whole Big Dan story. Moves me more than Antone on The Biggest Loser, which I can't watch. As coach is saying, McCullers could really make a difference for the Vols this year. From seeing his video interviews, it appears that that success couldn't happen to a nicer guy, too.

Wish I could lose the same amount of weight, but I don't have an NFL future to motivate me. (Yeah, I know, motivation comes from within, from the mirror, from someone kicking sand in my face, yadda yadda.) Maybe while watching the Vols this season, I'll do situps like Herschel Walker used to do while watching tv. and end up with laundry-board abs like his. Maybe some swamp land in FL is for sale or maybe I could buy a bridge in Brooklyn.

It's alright. God loves every ounce of you. When I was heavy I actually had more friends than I do now.(retired) Those guys on the weight loss show are pretty brave and get a whole country of support I reckon. My motivation was health...'cause I lost 15 or so in the hospital.

McCullers also has youth on his side...He actually looks great in orange...well for a man.

Back to defense. There just won't be many runs past this man.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Too funny..I guess that's why Daniel Lincoln was called the man-boob assassin..lol

Always hits 'em right between the up, er, downrights.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to tovolny:

Refrigercat

RefrigerVol

Volpedo

Uno-stampedo or mono-stampedo or StamVolpede or Volstampede

Offensive Blitzer

Moses Mosey or Moses Dozer

Vol-gain-o Backfield

Vol-a-tear-hole

Vol de fear

Volcullers

McBeaster

Volnado

BJ's Beast or BJ and the Beast

Ebullient

McSmash or McSmasher

McVol

PrePAT

Witch Doctor say they are technically Orange
The Grapefruit
Bones never lie.

HallowedHill writes:

I pray Coach Jones can get a lot more out of this team than Dooley. I can't bear another season like the last few.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to HallowedHill:

I pray Coach Jones can get a lot more out of this team than Dooley. I can't bear another season like the last few.

Good point, UT can not possibly have as bad a team (especially on defense) as demonstrated last season. Whatever Dooley/Sansorry were doing it wasn't teaching or motivating the team.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

I cannot express how much I hope Daniel McCullers succeeds. In a world where sports stars don't miss the opportunity to run off at the mouth, McCullers is a freak of both size and maturity.

Good luck Daniel. The Vol Nation is pulling for you!

Well said. It seems that Big Dan has gained as much respect from fans as a person as he has as a player, though in truth, as a player, we are still talking about potential. Now we need for the big guy to deliver on some of his vast promise. I know I'm pulling for him!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tovolny:

Refrigercat

RefrigerVol

Volpedo

Uno-stampedo or mono-stampedo or StamVolpede or Volstampede

Offensive Blitzer

Moses Mosey or Moses Dozer

Vol-gain-o Backfield

Vol-a-tear-hole

Vol de fear

Volcullers

McBeaster

Volnado

BJ's Beast or BJ and the Beast

Ebullient

McSmash or McSmasher

McVol

PrePAT

Ouch! How long did it take to come up with all of those? I hope the English language can survive such contortions(;-P). I just hope we need a whole LOT of novel terms to characterize Big Dan's play before he is done.

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