Hope 'springs' eternal

Observing Tennessee's 2008 offense was about as painful as getting a root canal and about as exciting as watching paint dry. Realizing as much, the players were a downtrodden bunch by season's end.

As they prepare for today's first major scrimmage of spring practice, however, there is a snap in their step and a gleam in their eyes. That's a credit to new coaches who have instilled confidence and installed a brisk practice tempo that has the Vols excited about playing football again.

"I love it," fullback Kevin Cooper said of the energy and focus the new assistants bring to practice. "They don't drag it along. They keep us intense every day. Even when you don't want to, they make you go to work everyday. That's what I think we needed.

"They're kind of lifting us up every day. As long as they keep up their end, we're going to keep up ours."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is pleased with the level of intensity and confidence at practice, although he hints that the players deserve more of the credit than the staffers.

"I don't know what took place last year but in my short history here there hasn't been anything that leads you to believe they don't enjoy playing football and playing with excitement," he said. "I don't know if it has to do with anything we (coaches) have done or not. They (players) seem to be doing a good job with it."

Regardless, this time last spring the Vols were struggling to learn Dave Clawson's West Coast offense. They seemed tentative in scrimmages – unsure of the scheme and unsure of themselves. The Vols are anything but tentative this spring – playing with passion, if not always precision – as they continue assimilating Chaney's pro-style attack.

"You never know how fast your kids are going to pick things up but I feel comfortable they're doing a good job of that," Chaney said. "The thing I've enjoyed the most is that they're like sponges. They're all working very hard when they leave us to learn the offense. That's important; it shows they care."

Because the players care, they're buying into the new offense and working hard to master it. The results are showing on the practice field.

"They're demonstrating courage on the football field every day, which is important," Chaney said. "I'm real pleased with how hard they're trying to learn. Right now I think they're right where they need to be. I can't say we're ahead of schedule or behind schedule because I really don't know the development of this team. But I'm happy."

Asked to pinpoint the most encouraging development of spring practice so far, Chaney answered without hesitation.

"Just the attitude," he said. "Their attitude toward work ... they seem to do a fine job with that. And they're sponges about the game. It's very important to them, which is good."

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