Cut's tempo put several Rebels in hospital

Since his days at a high school in Birmingham more than 25 years ago, Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe has always been a high-energy coach. He likes a fast tempo. He likes practice reps. He likes moving from one drill to another without wasted time.

``It's what we do and how we do it,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We had that issue when we first went to Ole Miss.

``The first practice we had 19 guys that had to go to the hospital for IVs because they weren't used to the speed of the practices and tempo and demands. Our trainer came to me and said, `Coach, I don't know if we can do this.' I said, `We're gonna do it.'''

The players adjusted, not Cutcliffe.

He knew the players could adjust, because they did so at Tennessee. He knew how far he could push the envelop.

When Cutcliffe returned to Tennessee before the 2006 season after a six-year stint at Ole Miss, not many Vols found the IV table. But they did find the pace much quicker than before.

The results showed on the field. The Vols averaged 46 more yards and 9.2 more points per game under Cutcliffe.

``The first day in shorts (at UT), it shocked them all,'' Cutcliffe said. ``The speed of practice, the tempo, the demands. And it just didn't go away. I think they thought maybe we'd have three periods of this and settle it.

``But I had so much fun and the coaches did such a great job start to finish. It didn't take any time for the coaches to understand what the expectations were. I was kind of smiling afterwards because of that. I knew we'd end up with good staff offensively because demands where there.

``I thought we had a great start. It wasn't where it needed to be, but we had a great start.''

Great start means a move toward a higher goal. Cutcliffe liked the way the Vols rebounded from a 5-6 season, but he was very disappointed with the performance in the last two games.

After averaging almost 30 points through 11 games, the Vols scored just 27 combined points against a weak Kentucky defense and a less talented Penn State team.

It left a sour taste in Cutcliffe's mouth. And it left him committed to taking yet another step with the offense.

Cutcliffe said he's used up notepad after notepad designing news plays that he hopes will help the Tennessee offense this season.

Cutcliffe said the transition from being a head coach to an offensive coordinator was made easier because of his relationship with Phillip Fulmer, who was mainly responsible for Cutcliffe coming to UT as a graduate assistant some 25 years ago.

``Being so close to coach Fulmer, the transition wasn't near as great as it could have been,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I also knew how we did things. If I'd been going someplace where I was frustrated about how they were doing things, it would have been much more difficult for me to transition back to not being the primary decision maker.''

Cutcliffe still has a desire to run his own program, but he will be selective.

``I am absolutely having a ball and believe in who we are, what we're doing and I know the best is yet to come at Tennessee,'' Cutcliffe said.

For a program that hasn't won an SEC title since 1998, Vols fans hope Cutcliffe is correct.


Like most coaches, Cutcliffe has had concerns about job demands that keep him away from his family.

But he remembers the words he heard from a former Tennessee graduate assistant some 20 years ago.

Jon Gruden, coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, was on the UT staff in 1986-87. Gruden's father was an NFL coach and executive and spent many an hour in the office away from the kids.

``Jon made a statement to me when my kids were young,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He said, `Coach, I'm a product of a coach. You're kids will love it. I'm proud of my dad.'

``I always found a little comfort in that. … Jon was bright and very disciplined, mature ahead of his time. He had a hunger to learn the game. He had a hunger to coach the game. When you're raised in it, it probably gives you a leg up on most people.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories