Early and Ornery

Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Voolunteers to the Haslam field Saturday morning to complete the first week of their spring practice. Read as InsideTennessee brings you the latest on Vols football.

Waking up early on a Saturday isn't the preference of any 20-something college student, but it seems to bring out the best in Derek Dooley's football players.

Dooley and his team took to Haslam field Saturday morning at 11:15 in what would amount to a physical and spirited practice.

"Saturday mornings everybody is usually a little ornery because they are getting up on a weekend," said Dooley. "When the pads starts popping the emotions start going and usually that makes for a pretty good practice."

The Vols integrated red area offense and defense Saturday afternoon and have almost completed most of their offensive and defensive installation. Next, they will move on to situational work.

"The organization part of practice has been good," said Dooley. "Now it is just a matter of coaching, motivating and getting our younger players to turn into dependable starters."

Dooley and the team have been pressed for time due to the university spring break pushing the first four practices into a five-day time span, but looking ahead a practice every other day giving adequate time for film study in between workouts.

The Volunteers will return to the practice field Monday afternoon for the second week for spring ball.

Veterans Beware

If you aren't All-SEC your job is never safe in Derek Dooley's spring camp. The Vols are always looking to trade up so, starter, senior, it doesn't matter. Spring practice is a proving ground for all.

"We recruit to replace who we have no matter how good they get," said Dooley. "You have new guys trying to get your job every year and if you don't have that mind set it is hard to improve."

Example, tailback Rajion Neal, says he is in a friendly competition with senior Tauren Poole for the starting position in the Vols backfield. And Poole better have his head on a swivel considering Dooley's criticism of the tailbacks in the 2010 campaign.

Hughes Working

Defensive tackle Montori Hughes returned to the practice field Thursday afternoon and is now working to reintegrate himself following a suspension for violation of team rules.

"He did a good job of staying in shape, lifting, he has gotten a little stronger, he is a little bit behind because he has missed a lot of work with the team," said Dooley of Hughes.

Hughes says he is up to around 325 pounds, but he hopes to trade some of that weight for mobility by this fall.

Hood on the Move

Daniel Hood is on the move, previously looked at for a center or offensive line spot Hood has now been moved defensive tackle. Possibly seeing opportunity at the position it was Hood looking for the move even before the coaches.

"He is a big body, which is a starting point, which we don't have," said Dooley. "He is playing with good effort and toughness.

"Now it is just a matter of learning what to do. We feel like he might give us a little something. He was probably the one thinking about it before we were."

With any luck Hood could work his way into the starting rotation quickly at defensive tackle with a depth chart that is eerily thin in the middle.

Big Shoes to Fill

Mychal Rivera is no Luke Stocker, but at this point that isn't the mission for the Vols new starting tight end.

"Big shoes to fill – what he can't do is try to be Luke. He has to try and get better every day," said Derek Dooley.

Having seen action during the 2010 season Rivera must now shift his focus from back up to starter.

"He did some nice things in the games last year so he has gotten his feet wet, played, made some big plays, but he has a long way to go in his development to be a dependable tight end."

Looking for More

Channing Fugate was able to snag the starting fullback role from in the middle of the 2010 season and held it for the remainder of the year. With a quiet attitude and a team mentality look for Fugate to be a big factor in 2011.

"I think Channing is going to be an important role player for us on offense," said Derek Dooley. "He has some instinctive running ability that most fullbacks don't have.

"We are going to create as much of a role for him as we can, we are going to push him, put him out wide some and move him around."

It may not have been his playmaking ability that earned the respect of his head coach, but his old school attitude has him primed for a big time role in the Vols offense.

"What I was surprised with was he wasn't coming to me asking for the ball. They come and do one iso play and say coach when are you going to give me the ball.

"I purposely didn't give him the ball to see when he would come and he didn't. Then I decided we should probably give him the ball. He is a great team football player."

Big Bullard Surprise

Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard is making some noise early in spring camp. It isn't often that you get a gift for free ninety-nine.

"He has been an incredibly big surprise," said Derek Dooley. "Rarely do you get a guy for free with that kind of size and ability. We played him at tackle early and we are going to look at him at center. He is really a good football player."

Early Praise

The new Tennessee players continue to earn the praise of their football coach. Derek Dooley acknowledged every early enrolls success in spring camp.

It appears as though Marcus Jackson has taken hold of the starting left guard spot and Dooley says he is doing well.

Dooley did not fail to mention the big plays of Vincent Dallas, the twitch of Justin Coleman and good play of every other newcomer to the Vols lineup.


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