"Coach is always telling us to get noticed," tight end Jeff Cottam said, "and the best way to get noticed is to go down and hit somebody real hard, being real physical and trying to knock somebody on their butt."
After knocking somebody on their butt regularly during the 1980s and '90s, Tennessee became more of a finesse team the past few years. Things got so bad that third-and-two became a passing down. The Big Orange is working very hard on the power-running game this spring, and coaches appear determined to re-establish it as the cornerstone of UT's identity.
"They're teaching it, telling us to be as physical as we can in firing off the ball," Cottam said. "If you make a mistake it's going full speed and you just hit somebody as hard as you can."
In an effort to facilitate better drive blocking, Tennessee appears to be turning to smaller, more athletic offensive tackles. Whereas recent tackles tended to be 340-pound behemoths, the current candidates include third-year sophomore Cody Pope (6-6, 288), along with redshirt freshmen Aaron Douglas (6-6, 280) and Dallas Thomas (6-5, 268).
Douglas was a tight end until about a month ago, so Cottam was asked for his thoughts on making a TE-to-tackle switch.
"I imagine it would be pretty tough but Aaron's taking it real well," Cottam said. "He's improved a whole lot over just the last week. He's done a lot better than I thought he would ... just from a week of practice."
Offensive tackle is considered a shaky position for the Vols but line coach/coordinator Jim Chaney likes what he's seeing from some of the youngsters this spring.
"I'm real pleased with Dallas and Aaron, how they're coming around," Chaney said. "They're doing a real nice job, and I like those guys a lot. Cody (Pope), too. I'm pleased with all of those guys. They're all doing a good job."