"I don't think today's players know anything about two-a-days," offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said following the second of Tuesday's sessions. "But I don't think it just tests your freshmen; I think it tests a lot of guys that have been here two or three years."
Tennessee held its first fall workout on August 3rd. The Vols also practiced the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th – usually in temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Many players – especially those who grew up outside the deep South – must have considered such treatment cruel and unusual punishment.
"We had nine practices in a row," Cutcliffe noted. "I promise you none of those freshmen have had to do that (in high school) over a nine-day period in the fall … and I'm talking about HARD practices."
Because 15 spring practices are spread over a three- to four-week period, players rarely practice more than three or four days in a row during March and April. In-season, they practice hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, taper off on Thursday, then have a walk-through on Friday. Thus, the preseason offers the only real opportunity for coaches to push the players to their physical limits.
"This is the only time of the year you really grind ‘em out," Cutcliffe said. "And it happens to be 100 degrees, so you find out a lot about a lot of people."
One thing you find out is who is tough enough – physically and mentally – to withstand the "grind" of so many workouts in so much heat. You also find out how many players are ready to play SEC-caliber football and how many are not. That lesson has Cutcliffe a little concerned.
"We still have a long way to go," he said. "That's the clearest thing to me right now. We have a long way to go to be a really good offensive football team but we have some of the talent to hopefully reach that."
Asked what needs to be the team's biggest step from scrimmage No. 1 last Saturday to scrimmage No. 2 this Saturday, Cutcliffe replied: "Taking care of assignments and being in the right places. Our effort, for the most part, has been good. Technique has improved greatly. Now I'd like to see everybody be where they're supposed to be, so it starts looking like an offense."