Energy and enthusiasm

Tennessee's first two practice days are in the books, and head coach Phillip Fulmer likes the early direction his team is headed.

"There is a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm," Fulmer said. "It's kind of what you'd expect to see from a team coming off a good season and excited about the next one."

The Vols worked for three hours in shorts and helmets Sunday at Haslam Field after a two-hour session to open things Saturday. Monday and Tuesday bring the addition of shoulder pads as the NCAA's mandated acclimation period continues.

The team's first day in full pads comes Wednesday.

"Football's not played in shorts," Fulmer said. "I always say that this time of year but that's the truth. We're jumping around out there, excited, and seeing some athletic guys.

Tennessee's secondary was a highlight of spring practice, and the summer break seems to have done nothing to dampen those sparks. Among the reasons expectations are so high:

-- Eric Berry earned Freshman All-America honors and broke a 37-year-old school record for interception return yards. He is a sophomore.

-- DeAngelo Willingham was the source of constant offseason praise from the coaching staff for improvements he made during his first year out of junior college. Willingham is a senior.

-- Dennis Rogan not only became one of the league's top return threats -- fifth in punt returns at 9.7 -- but also made strides at cornerback. Rogan is a sophomore.

-- Brent Vinson missed spring drills after shoulder surgery but is coming off a Freshman All-SEC campaign.

-- Marsalous Johnson was headed for postseason freshman honors as well before a knee injury halted him at midseason.

-- And Demetrice Morley may be the key figure, returning to the lineup after missing all of 2007 as an ineligible student-athlete. Morley is a junior.

"Our secondary Saturday probably had as good of a day as I've seen on our practice field in awhile," Fulmer said. "There are positive things going on, but until we get the pads on and play football it's hard to say."

The 2008 season opens four weeks from Monday in a Labor Day nationally-televised matchup at UCLA.


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