Vols with plenty of physicality

Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers took to the field for the second day of fall camp Wednesday afternoon. Read as InsideTennessee.com brings you up to speed on all the latest from Haslam field.

The Tennessee Volunteer veterans have now moved through two afternoon practices with head coach Derek Dooley.

The intensity level is spot on considering the attire through the first two days of fall camp.

"I feel like we are playing with a lot more physical toughness and we are not even in pads yet," Dooley said. "I can tell there is a lot of anticipation for tomorrow when we put the shoulder pads on."

Musical Chairs: Offensive Line

Before tackle Ja'Wuan James came down with mono during spring football it seemed as though Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard would get a look at center. Now it appears as though the dream has become a reality.

"We are still in the experimental stages. Each day you try to start settling in. We are rolling a bunch of guys up front trying to figure out who our best five are," Dooley said.

"We are playing James (Stone) and Alex (Bullard) at center. We are playing James at guard and we are moving Alex around. He really has an ability to play everything."

While Stone may have been shuffled more than any other player, he seems to be adapting to various positions in the trenches.

"I feel like since I started at guard and moved to center that I am able to pick them up and transition pretty smoothly," said Stone, a second-year letterman from Nashville. "I have been getting a little bit of both (positions). I feel like it's good for all of us to be able to go out there and be able to play wherever we are needed to play."

The continuous movement of players has sparked a new sense of continuity between the Tennessee offensive linemen.

"I feel like it has gotten a lot stronger through this summer when we worked together," Stone said. "Coming into camp we are a lot bigger and stronger unit."

Rivera is red hot

Derek Dooley says in comparison to the landscape of the SEC, Tennessee isn't all that hot. Don't tell that to tight end Mychal Rivera, who is still trying to adjust to the heat of afternoon practice.

"This first practice is a lot tougher because you are in the heat," said the Valencia, Calif., native. "That is a big difference just being in the heat. And the tempo is a lot faster."

Following the loss of now NFL tight end Luke Stocker, Rivera must prove that he is ready to walk into a starting role on the offense.

"He has been pretty steady, but we are going to have to put the pads on," Dooley said. "He is going to have to prove it over time. That position requires so much dependability and consistency."

Strong Summer for Rogers

Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was a steal from the Georgia Bulldogs late in the recruiting process, and he may prove to be worth the battle. Dooley made it apparent that Rogers followed his freshman effort with a strong offseason.

"He has had an exceptional summer when he gets out there and is running routes," Dooley said. "His biggest challenge is his stamina, being able to run like a gazelle over and over, but he makes plays every day.

"He is very talented and we need him to be a big-time player for us and I think he has that capability."

Rogers, now listed as a starting wide receiver, played in all 13 games as a freshman and reeled in 11 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Raw talent in evening session

Dooley seemed to have a glow about him Tuesday night as his new stock of players took to Haslam Field and for good reason. It looks as though his 2011 signing class may be some of the most athletically gifted that have stepped on campus in a number of years.

"I saw a lot of good-looking players," Dooley said. "Height, weight, speed, athleticism — just what I anticipated when we signed them.

"I saw good work ethic, but I saw a real bunch of young guys whose heads were spinning with all the stuff we were throwing at them. They were really fatigued and they weren't even in the heat, so they are still freshmen."

Dooley now will seek a steady progression out of his newcomers in hopes that they will contribute equally as much as his now sophomore class.

"The big thing you look for is, how much do they retain, No. 1," Dooley said. "How much do they not make the same mistakes, over and over?

"Then what is their level of intangibles? How tough are they, the effort they give, and those kinds of things," he said. "We can't expect them to know what to do and I told them that. We just have to try to get a little each day."

Dooley and the new Volunteers will take the field for another separate session Wednesday night at 7:45.


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