- Don Mahoney on the Vols' first week of spring practice
- Zach Azzanni on the Vols first week of spring practice
- Steve Stripling on the Vols' first week of spring practice
- Willie Martinez on the Vols' first week of spring practice
- Tommy Thigpen on the Vols' first week of spring practice
- Mike Bajakian on the Vols' first week of spring practice
- John Jancek on the Vols first week of spring practice
- Highlights from Vols' practice - March 14, 2013
The first crack of the pads, and the first sign that Thursday’s practice might be a little different, came before it had even begun.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones gathered his team in a circle at the 50-yard line of the indoor practice facility and proceeded to shout his lungs out. The exact words were muffled by the shouts of the players, who engaged in some motivational shoving and then a few mid-circle one-on-one drills.
The practice itself contained plenty of one-on-one blocking drills, and score was kept. Coaches also unveiled a big stoplight. The lights represented the types of contact allowable — ranging from full tackling to “thud” tackles that don’t take a ball carrier to the ground to non-contact drills.
“I think we’re a poor tackling team right now,” said defensive coordinator John Jancek. “There are a lot of things we need to get cleaned up.”
Receivers coach Zach Azzanni said his young unit had a “long way to go” to handle the pace of Tennessee’s offense.
“It’s not a habit yet,” he said. “It’s not like brushing your teeth.”
The route-running skills in his current crop of receivers are “well below average,” he said. “There’s no foundation there ... There’s a lot of raw guys out there.”
The good news? He gets to mold them from scratch.
“They’re coming back for more. They’re living in my office. They’re living in the meeting room. They’re trying to get better, and I can appreciate that.”
Azzanni said running-back-turned-receiver Devrin Young had done well and was eager to learn.
“I had to kick him out of the office last night,” Azzanni joked. “I was ready to go home.”
Tennessee returns four of five starting offensive linemen, and although offensive line coach Don Mahoney has emphasized that no one is guaranteed a job, his group has some of the fewest questions on the roster.
But while coaches often focus only on the present, Mahoney admitted he thinks about 2014 “always.” That’s when Tennessee could have nearly 100 percent turnover on its starting line.
He sat down with second-teamers Mack Crowder, Kyler Kerbyson, Alan Posey and Marques Pair and asked, “What kind of discussion are we going to have a year from now?”
The battle for those 2014 spots, Mahoney said, starts “now. The urgency has to be there.”
Mahoney said he believed many linemen were carrying unneeded extra weight when the new staff arrived. He said he wants offensive linemen to be “functional, powerful and violent.”
He cited Ja’Wuan James, who dropped from 337 pounds to 317.
“We don’t have to win with 337,” Mahoney said.
All of Tennessee’s 2012 seniors who are pursuing a pro football career and the four early entrants — quarterback Tyler Bray, receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and defensive linemen Darrington Sentimore — are expected to work out at the university’s pro day on Wednesday.
The session is closed to the public but will be open to the media.
Additionally, former players Da’Rick Rogers and Montori Hughes have been invited to attend.
Rogers, a wide receiver, was dismissed last August after what he acknowledged were multiple failed drug tests. He finished his career at Tennessee Tech.
Hughes, a defensive tackle, was dismissed after the 2010 season amid drug and academic problems, he said. He finished his career at UT-Martin.
Tennessee confirmed that recruiting assistant Keith Pantling has left the program. Pantling had served as director of recruiting operations under Butch Jones at Cincinnati.
When he came to Tennessee, Jones hired J.R. Sandlin to be director of recruiting. Sandlin spent the last three seasons at Alabama.
Pantling was scheduled to make $50,000 annually at Tennessee. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.
Jason Carr, a defensive line signee from Memphis, watched Thursday’s practice ... In addition to linebacker Curt Maggitt (knee) and safety Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), tight end Justin Meredith missed Thursday’s practice due to an undisclosed injury.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.