Position coaches provide Vol education

The InsideTennessee beat writers were out in force at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center to speak with Tennessee coaches on Wednesday. Check out this story and video interviews to get updated on your Volunteers.

Tennessee safeties coach Josh Conklin will have to take on a whole new challenge Saturday night in Starkville in the game with Mississippi State and it's not just the Bulldogs' offensive attack.  

Conklin will be nursing along true freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil in what is setting up to be his first ever start in his college career — on the road, in the Southeastern Conference no less.  

McNeil, who is known to be a bruising hitter, will no doubt have to aid in run defense against a Mississippi team that is averaging 179 rushing yards per contest.  

Watch as Conklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice at Haslam Field:  


With head coach Derek Dooley unable to grace the sidelines against State, Tennessee tight ends coach Charlie Coiner will be a vital person in relaying the head coach's message to the Vol sideline.  

Coiner, who spends his games on the sidelines working with his position group, says that Dooley being in the box could be a rallying point as they hunt their first conference win.  

Watch as Coiner spoke to the media Wednesday:  


Tennessee's rushing attack could be coming off of it's best game in several seasons after rattling off 197 yards against the Georgia Bulldogs.  

The majority of the work came from junior runner Rajion Neal who galloped for 104 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries.  

Running backs coach Jay Graham has noticed an improvement in Neal's game as the season has developed, mostly stemming from his hard work on the practice field.  

Watch as Graham addressed the media following practice Wednesday:  

With freshman Jason Croom no longer available at wide receiver, other classmates are having to step up in Cody Blanc and Drae Bowles.

"Cody had a really good week of practice," wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw said. "So, he's got to continue to learn — true freshman — and got to continue to get better."

Neither Blanc or Bowles has made a collegiate catch. While Blanc has appeared in five games, Bowles is yet to take a snap and appears headed toward a redshirt unless other go down with an injury or suspension.

Hinshaw talks about the importance of Blanc's enrolling last spring, sideline communication, Zach Rogers' role and more in the footage below:

One of the greatest assets of the Southeastern Conference and what makes it a consistently talented league is the bevy of ability along the defensive fronts.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the experienced offensive line for the Vols continues to show signs of improvement weekly. First-round NFL Draft talent has been commonplace for Tennessee foes of late.

"It's an incredible league," offensive line coach Sam Pittman said. "As an O-line coach, the first thing that I heard was that it's a defensive lineman league. I thought, 'Well, I'm sure they've got some good players,' but I had no idea there was going to be as much talent as there is in the D-line in the SEC. Every week somebody's got someone that's a water moccasin or two of them."

Get more of Pittman's thoughts after Wednesday's workout in the video below:

From his time at Wisconsin, defensive line coach John Palermo has experience dealing with a head coach who can't man the sideline on Saturday.

"It was (a smooth transition) because the first game he wasn't there, he was at the Mayo Clinic," Palermo said. "It went real smooth, and we won."

It's going to be an interesting situation as several staff members don't have the experience with the void that Palermo does. However, the coaches that spoke with InsideTennessee appear confident that communication and decision-making will be sound.

Palermo said more on the topic in this video:

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