Pearson still learning the ropes

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A different Zach Azzanni is roaming Tennessee's practice field this spring.

"I'm having a lot of fun," Azzanni said. "That's not something you can always say."

Yes, Tennessee's wide receivers coach still does plenty of yelling, he still must correct hair-pulling mistakes more often than he'd like and there have been no shortages of frustrating film sessions this spring.

The biggest difference form last fall to this spring?

"The attitude," Azzanni told InsideTennessee.

Oh, and one other thing.

"Also, just to be honest," Azzanni continued, "we just have more weapons."

With that pairing in mind, Azzanni likely owes a big "thank you" for his improved practice attitude to JUCO transfer Von Pearson.

After what feels like every spring practice, Azzanni praised Pearson for his work ethic and fun-loving attitude.

"I don't think Von has ever had a bad day in his life," Azzanni once said.

Pearson, on campus for just three months now, has already cracked Sportscenter's Top 10 plays for a one-handed, leaping snag in the corner of the end zone during one-on-one drills.

He has the attitude and certainly qualifies as a "weapon."

But Pearson is also the recipient of much of Azzanni's still-remaining yelling.

While Azzanni says the sky is the limit for Pearson's talent, he also adds that if the term "raw" applied to anyone, it's Pearson.

"The game is going fast for him," Azzanni told IT. "At Feather River (Community College) it was, ‘Hey, Von, line up over here and we'll throw it to you."

In Azzanni's eyes, Pearson is the epitome of why Tennessee scrimmages so much during spring camp.

Azzanni said Von Pearson was "awful" in the first scrimmage, "less awful" in scrimmage No. 2 and "a little bit less awful" last Saturday.

With those three scrimmages in the books, Pearson has tallied just two catches for 22 yards.

So, Azzanni spent Thursday afternoon calling the former Scout four-star "22."

It's a nickname Pearson isn't exactly fond of, but Azzanni knows he can handle the harassment.

"He doesn't get down as fast as some of the younger guys," Azzanni said. "Kid is all smiles."

Again, it all comes down to attitude.

And with Pearson's in mind, Azzanni says he's confident Pearson will "figure things out." But Azzanni's also not shy to say he's got a lot of figuring out to do.

In attempts to cut down on the mistakes, Azzanni said he's been making things simple for Pearson.

"I'm not worried about him being a leader right now," Azzanni said. "I just want him to line up and play as hard as he can right now."

Until that day when Pearson "figures it out" — should that day ever come — the yelling from Azzanni will continue.

But one thing's for sure: The yelling won't last for long.

"He's got so much energy and juice, it's hard to stay angry at him for more than about 10 seconds," Azzanni said. "He's gonna be fine. He's fun to coach."

Kerbyson surprises

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KERBYSON
When Kyler Kerbyson first spoke with the media this spring he talked about a rebuilding offensive line that would prove to be as good as last season's group. He said he was more determined than ever to develop into "one of the best" to sink into a three-point stance in the orange and white. He talked about being "hungry" to prove doubters wrong.

Talk is cheap, but he's apparently walking the walk.

Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney called Kerbyson the most pleasant surprise of spring, praising the Knoxville native for his consistency, work ethic and leadership.

"He's really been a guy that's emerged big time," Mahoney said.

Mahoney calls Kerbyson "a surprise" because he remembers a day when he wasn't sure how big of a contributor he would be.

Mahoney said when this staff first arrived, Kerbyson was overweight, out of shape and didn't have the "right" mental approach. He says all those things are fixed now.

"He's doing a really great job," Mahoney said.

Big Orange Weekend

Tennessee coach Butch Jones revealed several events that will take place as a part of what he dubbed "Big Orange Weekend," which is focused around Saturday's Orange & White spring scrimmage.

On Friday, Jones said there will be a lettermen's golf outing and "VFL reception" at night.

The true festivities begin Saturday, with kickoff slated for 3 p.m.

But besides watching the Vols crack pads at Neyland, Jones said there will be what he called the "VFL Classic" — a flag football game featuring past players. Jones said the MVP from the game will take home a 13-foot, 9-inch trophy.

"Why?" Jones said. "Because we're Tennessee."

Jones said at halftime of the scrimmage he'll announce the winner of a newly unveiled trophy, the Al Wilson leadership award. It will go to the player who displayed the most leadership during the spring and offseason.

John Jancek, per university

Mike Bajakian, per university


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