While many Tennessee fans may think they are fully aware of who will be competing for the starting quarterback role this fall, what they may not realize is the change in one of the two signal callers battling for the position.
Junior Nick Stephens of Flower Mound Texas missed most of the spring due to a hand injury; the talented quarterback has definitely made some self improvements over the spring and summer.
"I feel that I'm a totally different player than who I was last year," Stephens told media Tuesday in Knoxville. "I have my hand back almost all the way back; it's not slowing me down throwing at all."
That isn't the only changes Stephens has made since last fall and since the arrival of the new coaching staff.
"I have put on 10 to 15 pounds of muscle, I'm in great shape, the best physical shape of my life," Stephens said. "I feel a world of difference from last fall; I'm a totally different person and player."
New Tennessee Head Coach Lane Kiffin, new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and quarterback coach David Reaves spent a lot of the spring working with the former Texas gunslinger.
"I met will all three of those guys and we have been working on changing my throwing motion some," Stephens said. "I was holding the ball up more by my shoulder. We have watched a lot of film of NFL quarterbacks. Now I'm more relaxed, I have the ball more towards the center of my chest. It has really helped my accuracy, it feels right."
According to Stephens, the Vols have been throwing at least three times a week on their own on a voluntary basis and even a little extra.
"This summer has been great so far," Stephens said. "We are all getting on the same page with each other. Even with the injury to the wide outs, we aren't using that for an excuse but making a positive out of it. The younger guys are getting a lot more action and gaining valuable experience. When everyone gets back we will be that much better."
It appears that Stephens's physical appearance and throwing motion aren't the only changes for the Vol's quarterback. A more confident, competitive Stephens is ready for fall camp.
"I don't feel I'm in a catch up mode anymore due to my hand," Stephens said. "In fact I feel I have already caught back up. I have a good grasp of the offense. I feel confident going into the August football camp. I know what I'm capable of doing, I just have to go out and perform at the level I'm capable of and everything will work out fine."