Respert sees Vols bonding

One of the most popular explanations for Tennessee's mediocre 8-5 football season last fall was a lack of team chemistry. Guard Jason Respert thinks that issue is being addressed this offseason.

''I think the bonding process is already better than it was,'' he said recently. ''I think we need to get out and work hard with one another. That can help a lot. When you work hard and put out sweat like we do day-in and day-out with people, you know they are going to be there in the fall. We are in the process of building those bonds and making them stronger. We are just ready to keep going on what we have built so far.''

Tennessee's blocking front was not up to its usual standards last fall. Sensational sophomores Cody Douglas and Rob Smith are pushing the veterans now, which is likely to make the returnees better.

''Always. ALWAYS!'' Respert said with a smile. ''Any time the talent around you is better, you are going to have to step it up or get left behind. I told Rob to compete to win one of those slots because that will only make the eventual winner that much better. We all understand the situation and look forward to the challenge when August gets here.''

Although the competition for starting jobs in the O-line is fierce, Respert says the competition remains friendly.

''I think it would be very tough if any of us were selfish guys,'' he said. ''If us four or five (projected starters) were selfish, it would be a hard situation. We don't look at it like that. We want the best for this football program and we DEFINITELY dont want to go 8-5 again.''

Respert missed spring practice rehabbing a shoulder injury but expects to be full speed by July.

''My strength and conditioning is the top priority when it comes to being off this long and not being able to lift weights with my upper body,'' he said. ''I think it will all come back pretty quick. All I have to do is put the effort in.''

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