Stone's improving

It's rare, but every once in awhile that 25 minutes of drills media get to watch at the start of Tennessee football practice can be revealing. Thursday was one of those times.

I zeroed in on sophomore center James Stone, a natural left-hander who is learning to snap right-handed this spring. After taking a dozen or so under-center snaps, quarterback Tyler Bray backed up several steps so that Stone could work on his shotgun snaps.

Stone's first effort fluttered two feet to the right of Bray's chin. His next snap was a spiral but it was fielded down around the quarterback's ankles. Shotgun snap No. 3 was caught in front of Bray's right knee and snap No. 4 was down around the QB's ankles again.

Stone must have made an adjustment at this point because snaps 5 and 6 were absolutely perfect - tight spirals that Bray caught directly in front of his chest.

Developing Stone into a consistent right-hand snapper is Job One this spring for second-year offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. So far, the Vol aide is pleased with the progress he sees.

"He's doing a good job," Hiestand said of Stone. "He's working at it. Spring ball ... that's what it's for. It's a process, and he's doing good."

Thursday's pre-practice work notwithstanding, Hiestand also is encouraged by Stone's shotgun snaps.

"He's doing OK," the line coach said.

Stone snapped well enough left-handed to start the last five games of 2010 at center. Because a quarterback gets the ball differently on a left-handed snap than a right-handed snap, however, Tennessee's coaches decided Stone should learn the conventional right-hand snap and ditch the unorthodox left-hand snap.

"Obviously, in the shotgun doesn't matter but under center it's awkward," Hiestand said. "When all of the other centers are right-handed, the ball comes up differently, so it's better for him to be a right-handed center. It's more consistent. Everybody takes the ball the same way, and there's not as many adventures."

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