Excessive force

Tennessee's Thursday practice at Haslam Field was supposed to feature "thud" drills in which a defender bumps the ball-carrier but doesn't take him down.

On several dozen plays, however, there were two thuds - one when the defender slammed into the ball-carrier and another when the ball-carrier slammed into the turf. Simply put, Tennessee's defensive players were so pumped up about their first day in shoulder pads that they got a little carried away and did a bunch of full-speed tackling.

Although he wants his troops to be physical and aggressive, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said following the workout that he regretted their use of excessive force.

"They really hustled but we shouldn't have been tackling," Kiffin said. "You saw some people tackling. That wasn't fair to the offense."

The veteran coordinator realized that his players were excited about the first day in limited pads but insisted that was no excuse for their overzealous behavior.

"They were very anxious to put the shoulder pads on for the first time. They were very gung-ho," Kiffin said. "But we can't do that. We'll get somebody hurt doing that."

Lane Kiffin, Monte's son and Tennessee's head coach, gathered the defenders at one point to remind them that there was to be no tackling. The warning worked ... for a few minutes. Then the tackling resumed.

"There's a time to tackle," Monte Kiffin said. "On these shorts days, you're supposed to just butt off. Our guys were pretty fired up but we can't do that.... That's not fair to the backs. They're figuring on getting butted up but all of a sudden you're taking 'em to the ground and stuff."

The elder Kiffin can't be too upset with his troops, though. After all, it's a lot better for your defenders to be too aggressive than too passive. Kiffin's closing comment on the subject suggested as much.

"They were just fired up," the coordinator said. "A lot of energy's coming from within themselves."

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