August 3, 2011

Dooley likes team's physicality; eyes next step

Praising his team's physical nature despite the absence of any pads, Derek Dooley said he looked forward to the Vols' impending work Thursday in shoulder pads and would watch for newcomers to cut down on mistakes tonight as Tennessee moved through its second day of pre-season camp.

"Saw a lot of good-looking players. Height, weight, speed, athleticism. Just what I'd anticipated and why we signed them," Dooley said of his newcomers, who worked Tuesday night in split-squad practices. "I saw a good work ethic, but I also saw a real bunch of young guys whose heads were spinning with all the stuff we were throwing at them. And they were really fatigued and they weren't even in the heat. So, they're still freshmen.

"The big thing you look for is how much do they retain, No. 1. How much do they not make the same mistakes over and over. And then what is there level of intangibles. How tough are they? The effort they give, those kinds of things. We can't expect them to know what to do, and I told them that. We've just got to try to get a little bit each day."

"I want the pressure, most definitely. With pressure comes something great. Pressure makes diamonds, so that's OK with me." - Da'Rick Rogers

Freshman tight ends Cameron Clear and Brendan Downs certainly made an impression on incumbent starter Mychal Rivera.

"They impress me a lot," Rivera said of the rookie duo. "They are really good players. They have great hands and good speed. They are big guys coming out of high school. I don't know that California had many big tight ends like that coming out of high school."

Dooley, hesitant to take too much from a couple of days in extreme heat and no gear, nonetheless said he was pleased with his team's physical presence on Haslam Field.

"In helmets you can't tell a whole lot, but what we have found is that we look a little bigger. We look a little stronger. We're in really good condition. There's been great carryover in how we practice and schemes," he said. "And I feel like we're playing with a lot more physical toughness, and we're not even in pads yet. So I think that's a good thing. So there's a lot of build-up, I can tell there's a lot of anticipation for tomorrow when we put the shoulder pads on. It starts getting a little more physical. I'm encouraged by two days. Tomorrow we play real football."

And while Dooley is building his Vols football program by laying his foundation, he also noted the physical work being done around Tennessee's Neyland-Thompson Sports Center as a positive sign as well.

"I tell them not to get distracted, but I couldn't help it one time. That crane rolled over and I heard a little horn and this big ole sheet of something was kind of swinging around. So, I told them I'll keep an eye out and they can keep practicing," Dooley said. "But no, it kind of gets me excited because it tells you what's coming.

"We made some improvements here in the pit here. You all see the pit? I mean, that's the best-looking o-line pit in college football right there."

The work for a new "play area" for the Vols' trenchmen was necessitated by the worn-out nature of that corner of the practice field.

"Well, we had that o-line area and d-line area there. They tear up your grass. They have no regard for field management, they don't," Dooley said. "So you have to kind of put them over in the sandbox and say, 'Y'all go over there and we'll tell you when we need to run some plays.' So it's kind of like your kids. They tear up your yard and you build them a sandbox. That's kind of what we've done with the o-line, and coach (Harry) Hiestand loves it. He's kind of the leader and he doesn't like anybody to come in his area."


Both James Stone and Alex Bullard got work at center on Wednesday, with Dooley noting he wants his linemen cross-trained to play multiple positions as much as possible.

"We're rolling a bunch of guys up front, trying to figure out who our best five are," Dooley said. "And our best combination of five. We're playing James and Alex at center. We're playing James at guard. We're moving Alex around. He's really got an ability to play everything. We're still in the experimental stages, doing the same thing with the freshmen. And each day you try to start settling in."


Da'Rick Rogers readily admits the Vols' wide receiver corps are missing a stable of proven playmakers from last season, noting that Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones and Luke Stocker made a number of big plays a year ago. But Rogers isn't shrinking from the spotlight that has centered upon him and classmate Justin Hunter.

"I want the pressure, most definitely," said the sophomore from Calhoun, Ga. "With pressure comes something great. Pressure makes diamonds, so that's OK with me."

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