Maggitt's improvements are 'mind blowing'

InsideTennessee brings you the best Tennessee Vols news around. Scroll down to read about the strides Curt Maggitt took last season.

Practice after practice, the most peppy player on the field was a scout team member.

Game after game, the most energetic player on the sideline wasn't even in pads.

It was the same player.

Tennessee linebacker Curt Maggitt didn't sit idly by as he recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined him for his entire junior season.

As his teammates trudged through Year 1 of the Butch Jones era, coaches will tell you Maggitt worked every day to better both himself and those around him.

"Curt holds everyone to a very high standard," Jones said. "He elevates the effort of everyone. I cannot wait to have him back and ready to go."

Added Vols linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen: "It's going to be great to have Curt back. He's the heartbeat of this team and you hate to not have a guy like that 100 percent. I'm excited to get him back."

It's obvious why coaches are counting the days till Maggitt is full go.

In 20 career starts, Maggitt pocketed 86 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, tallied three sacks and three forced fumbles with his patented high-motor-style of play.

But it's not statistics coaches talk about when discussing their excitement for Maggitt's return.

It's his leadership.

Jones said several times this offseason that Maggitt needs to "step up" and lead next season's team.

Jones doesn't say it to challenge Maggitt. He's simply pointing out a fact. He knows Maggitt will lead.

"We know he will step up and do just that. It's just who he is," Jones told InsideTennessee. "He's naturally a leader. He's energetic. You need someone like him on your team to be successful. We're fortunate to have him and that leadership."

"That leadership" is more than needed considering the make up of Team 118.

The Vols bring in several talented, yet inexperienced defensive newcomers with the 2014 recruiting class – newcomers who will be forced to compete for playing time right away.

Thigpen is confident Maggitt's leadership will speed up the development process for the incoming youngsters.

"We have some studs coming in, but it always takes time to get used to college football ¬– you know, the work you need to put in, the time, the speed of the game, just everything," Thigpen said. "Curt is a guy who's going to help those young kids grow and get used to all of that right away. He'll make sure no one is left behind. He'll get after those young guys."

While both Thigpen and Jones obviously would have preferred to have Maggitt on the field last season, they also see advantages in his redshirt.

Just like his energy level at practice and on game days, Jones said Maggitt hit the weight room with a purpose all season.

The Vols had Maggitt on a special lifting and conditioning program, focused on increasing size and speed.

And according to Jones, the program did just that – and then some.

Maggitt told Jones after the season that he's "the strongest he's ever been."

"I saw him go from a good player to a great player this season, and it's all because of his work ethic," Jones told IT. "I've seen him take great strides, especially in the weight room. His strength level is amazing. He's the strongest he's ever been. He's worked exceptionally hard. He's worked on his agility. He transformed his body this season."

But Maggitt's improvements weren't limited to the weight room.

It was more of the same in the film room.

"He spent a lot of time on his own in the film room – a ton of time," Jones told IT. "His overall football intelligence is outstanding. He's like another coach out there. There's only one way to put it, the improvements Curt's made are just mind blowing."

Jones paused mid-sentence, a grin crawling at his stare.

"And you want to know the scary part?" he continued. "There's still a full offseason ahead for Curt to continue to get better."

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