Kiffin keeps score

If you want to make an event truly competitive, the key is simple: Keep score. That's precisely what Tennessee's football coaches are doing this spring.

When linebacker Rico McCoy intercepted a pass on the final play of Thursday's workout at Haslam Field, Vol defenders reacted as if they had just beaten Florida. In fact, they had just beaten UT's offense.

"Rico got an interception on the last play of the day to win the competition for the defense," head coach Lane Kiffin noted afterward.

The new Vol boss went on to explain that each play of each drill is charted, with either the offense or defense getting the edge. With so much pride at stake, the intensity is just as high at the end of a taxing workout as it is at the beginning.

"Practice is long," Kiffin said. "By the time you get to that point they've run a lot of plays and they're tired. We make every drill competitive. We keep score of the drill, so they know the score when it's going on.

"It creates more energy about it. Instead of just going through your 24th play of the day, you have a new phase, a new thing you're going to and you have a way to keep score that we do.... They've responded really well to it."

Because athletes are naturally competitive, keeping score is a great way to maintain focus and energy as they go through drills that otherwise could become mind-numbingly monotonous. After losing a spirited practice on Tuesday, the defense avenged itself in an equally competitive workout on Thursday.

"I thought the defense really responded at the beginning of practice after getting pushed around a little bit yesterday," Kiffin said. "They came out in 9-on-7, the first drill, and really showed great intensity."

The head man said the pass rush from Tennessee's defensive ends has been especially encouraging in the first two workouts. The flip side of that coin, of course, is that Tennessee's suspect offensive tackles are getting whipped a lot.

"We've got to get better," Kiffin said. "But they're doing OK. We'll continue to work on it and get better. We've got a ways to go there. Right now we're better in the run game upfront than we are in the pass game.

"But that's OK. That's what we've emphasized right now. We're learning how to run the ball first, then we'll continue to develop our pass protection."

In a competitive way, no doubt.

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