Bob Shoop is an admitted optimistic person. The first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator, while rarely smiling when the cameras are flashing, enjoys a healthy outlook on life cast around positivity. When Shoop found out that star linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin would miss all of spring practice with an injury, he decided to view the absence as a way for other players to get valuable repetitions they normally wouldn't receive.
Through five practices, Shoop likes what he's seen from the guys who've been forced to catch up.
"Watching Colton Jumper and Gavin Bryant was very positive," Shoop said after Thursday's practice. "We'll make the best of it. I'm sure glad it's not the regular season. It's the pre-season and, like I've said, we'll coach the guys who're out there and we'll coach them real hard."
Once Shoop found out Reeves-Maybin would not be able to practice at all for the remainder of the spring, he text his linebacking corps and expressed to them how important this opportunity was to improve and put their identity on film.
"They're all great guys," Shoop said. "They've been in with (linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen). They've been in with me watching a little extra film."
There are times in the film room when defensive line coach Steve Stripling will stop the tape and look at Kahlil McKenzie. The 6-foot-3, 344-pound rising sophomore already knows what he needs to do — get low.
"Every day in film, I say let's stop the camera and I say coach yourself," Stripling said. "He says 'leverage. For him, learning to get his pad level down is the key issue and something he's working tremendously hard on."
The self-coaching doesn't bother McKenzie, who's used to getting spirited coaching as the son of former NFL player and Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. According to Stripling, his defensive tackle craves to be taught.
"He wants to be coached," Stripling said. "He's been, not only in his career but more so on the practice field, at a higher level, so he sees what coaching can do. He embraces coaching. He's a very coachable young man and he's very intelligent. He gets it."
Preston Williams isn't just growing up on the field. The rising sophomore and former Scout five-star recruit is showcasing how he's matured both physically and mentally as he goes through his first spring practice with Tennessee.
"Every day he's coming along," wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. "I'm just seeing steps in the right direction: helping guys line up, going harder, all those things are progress. We're just talking about getting a little bit better every day and he's doing that."
Williams has flashed his smooth stride and soft hands during different portions of this spring practice as he works with Josh Dobbs and the rest of the receiving corps. The 6-foot-4, 209-pounder has recovered from a gruesome ACL injury he suffered his senior year of high school and has finally been able to do upper body workouts with the team now that he's healed.
"Winter in the weight room has helped him," Azzanni said. "He wasn't able to do any lower body stuff last year because of the injury, so now he's a lot stronger and a lot more confident in his body. He knows the plays better. Our motto in our room this year ever since we got back off the road from recruiting has just been 'better.' That's it. He's been getting better every day, and that's all we ask of him."