Each pass a receiver drops in practice means extra running at the end of the workout for ALL of the wideouts. A few times this spring the receivers were still on the field well after the rest of the Vols were in the showers. Quarterback Erik Ainge, who had probably two dozen passes dropped last fall, thinks the penalty is having an impact. He's seeing fewer drops by wideouts this spring.
"They know that if they drop the ball they're going to pay," he said.
Of course, sometimes an incompletion is the quarterback's fault. If he misses a wide-open receiver, he'll pay the price instead of the wideout.
"I know that if they're open and I miss them I'm going to pay," Ainge said.
Usually he'll pay by doing "up-downs." These consist of running in place, dropping onto your stomach on command, then bouncing back onto your feet and running some more. The penalty doesn't end there, though.
"I pay in the meeting room more than anything," Ainge said, grinning sheepishly. "I'll pay out here (practice field) a little bit. If we throw interceptions or fumble snaps we do drop drills or run afterward."
About this time Trooper Taylor, the wide receiver coach who instituted the penalty running, passed by Ainge and the circle of reporters interviewing him. Grinning smugly and speaking loudly enough for Taylor to hear him, Ainge noted:
"They're trying to ingrain in us right now that if you don't execute, Trooper Taylor's going to run you into the ground. We've got to make sure we're doing stuff right."
So far, the tactic seems to be working.
"We're not playing scared at all but there's a sense of urgency," Ainge said. "It's not like they (receivers) drop it and think, ‘Dang, I should've caught the ball.' Or like I make a bad throw and think, ‘Aw, he was open.'
"It's a lot more important to us now. In the long run I think that'll really help us out a lot."