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September 3, 2013Tennessee worked intense special teams situations, among others, during its Tuesday afternoon work as preparations began to hit a crescendo for Saturday's game against Western Kentucky with crowd noise piped in at amplified levels.
Perhaps the most encouraging early sign for the Vols was that Curt Maggitt was fully dressed in the defense's orange jerseys rather than the green, no-contact Maggitt recently has worn. Maggitt was working through consecutive full practices for just about the first time all camp, and his return is something Tennessee needs as it seeks to bolster its pass rush and overall athleticism on defense.
First-year head coach Butch Jones was in full motivational mode from the outset. Jones taunted a pair of his top defensive players, Daniel McCullers and A.J. Johnson.
Jones prodded the mammoth McCullers, saying "We're changing your number to 63 McCullers! We're changing your number to 63!" That's a reference to the Vols' mantra under Jones on defense of six seconds of maximum effort with three great strains.
Then Jones repeatedly needled his junior middle linebacker Johnson. "A.J. Johnson gets to play on the same field as an NFL linebacker. The difference is, he (WKU's Andrew Jackson) is a first-rounder and you're a practice-squad player A.J. Come on A.J.! Come on A.J.! The other A.J. is already practicing."
Jones also challenged his entire team, cautioning "If you walk today, you're playing for Western Kentucky! If you walk today, you're playing for Western Kentucky!"
Tennessee also brought back its physically challenging bull ring drill in the early periods of practice, with LaTroy Lewis a dominating winner over Woody Quinn.
In punt coverage, the Vols still had Michael Palardy starting and the senior specialist boomed a number of punts while also directionally punting very well. Corey Miller, Greg King and even Danny O'Brien got some work protecting Palardy from the upback positions.
Justin Meredith continues to serve as a de facto player/coach. The former highly regarded tight end prospect continues to be likely headed for a medical redshirt but appears to be staying involved in team activities.
VolQuest.com will tweet and post notes immediately following today's post-practice comments --- and will do so each day of practice. Additionally we will have a variety of content items this evening, more Thursday including War Room and have podcast and predictions on Friday. Staff twitter handles are: @VolQuest_Rivals, @VolQuest_Paul, @VolQuest_Rob, @AustinPriceless, @John_BriceVQ and special contributor @GrantRamey.