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April 3, 2014
Wiesman's tough approach beyond his years
It was Saturday night, a long day's practice behind him, and Dylan Wiesman knew his plans would be a snap.
As in, once Tennessee's sophomore offensive lineman ambled out of Neyland Stadium following an intense scrimmage in which he and his peers oftentimes mauled their defensive counterparts, Wiesman convinced quarterback Nathan Peterman to keep the work going once the players returned to the Vols' indoor facility.
"I need to work on under-center snaps. I like it, it's more tools in my toolbox, I can play earlier, go to all these different positions," Wiesman told VolQuest.com. "I'm just doing whatever I can to get on the field the earliest.
"Me and Nate are actually going to go back and get some work in now."
Talk to Wiesman's coaches, the core of Butch Jones' staff including the head man himself, who have known the blue-collar grinder since middle school and they aren't the least bit surprised.
"Dylan's one of those individuals who in order to be successful has to play with an aggressive mindset. He's a great character person. Very intelligent. We've known Dylan for a long time; watched his growth and maturation at Colerain High School in Cincinnati," Jones said. "We had him in our camps every year. He's an individual that you can push every day, that you can challenge."
Added offensive line coach Don Mahoney, "Consistent. There's never any highs or lows with him. Steady with his work habits. Steady with his mental part of it, where he's not having mental mistakes. Hangs onto everything that we stress, technically and fundamentally. He's a tough young man."
Those who have noticed Wiesman's makeup aren't limited to coaches or his offensive teammates. Jordan Williams saw it last August, a night after Wiesman left a similar practice setting inside Neyland Stadium on crutches. Some 18 hours later, he was back on the practice field --- held out by coaches who simply had to protect Wiesman from being Wiesman.
"He's one of them tough guys. He's never complaining. I remember he was a freshman, hurt his knee, and he's ready to come back," senior defensive lineman Jordan Williams recalled. "Most freshmen get hurt and panic or something, but he's eager. He's going to be a good one.
"You can tell in a man's demeanor, him standing there, he doesn't even have to be looking at you. You can tell that's a guy who's not going to give up. He's one of those guys."
Wiesman, who appeared in 10 games during his Vols' rookie season, can't imagine treating the game in any other manner; can't fathom cheating himself, his teammates or his coaches.
"I just kind of approach it like everything is my last. Every rep is my last," said the 6-foot-3, 303-pounder, a former Ohio All-State selection. "You hear about all the horror stories and stuff and something happens and if it's ever my time is called and something happens, I just want to not have any regrets coming off the field. And the coaches always talk about '63 strain' in everything and it's love, care and respect.
"I just want to be out there doing my best for my teammates. Because what if I'm loafing and my teammates get hurt? I don't want that on me. I don't want that on my shoulders. I want to make sure I'm doing everything for them, first of all, and then for myself."
So Wiesman has worked at his natural guard position --- he can play on either side --- and logged reps at center in each of the Vols' spring practices, be it in individual or team settings.
"He's making strides because he's playing both guard and center and he's double-training those two spots," Mahoney said. "Again, from his knowledge and his ability to grasp things gives him a chance to play both. I like the progress he's made."
Jones has seen Wiesman evolve because Jones, since those early days when Wiesman's prep squad camped at Cincinnati, has long known just how much football means to the burly guard.
"He's an extremely competitive young man. He wants to perform and perform well at a high level," Jones said. "He internalizes everything. He's very demanding of himself. It's hard to keep him out."