One of Lane Kiffin's new mottos for his Tennessee Volunteers is to Lock In.
The players come out to practice everyday and slap the Lock In sign, demonstrating they are buying into Kiffin's concepts, every last one of them.
It appears to be paying off, this year's version of the Volunteers appear to be in the best shape of their lives, something that is helping the team work through some of the most aggressive and grueling practices they have ever endured.
"Coach tells us that our practices will be much tougher than the actual game," Eric Berry said in a previous interview. "We feel that we will be well prepared and ready on game day."
Veteran defensive line coach Ed Orgeron admitted Monday night that the toughest part of two a days is getting through the mental ups and downs that fatigue brings.
"The mental part of your game is always the first to go when fatigue sets in," Orgeron explained. "These guys love playing for Lane Kiffin. They are giving it everything they have, they have truly bought into our program."
Kiffin's troops returned to the practice field Wednesday morning in full pads for the first of two practice sessions. The team will return to the field at 7:00 p.m.
One player was visibly disappointed with his performance Wednesday morning. Junior quarterback Nick Stephens who is battling Jonathan Crompton for the starting role, promised that he would return this evening more focused than ever.
"I'm not happy with my performance at all," Stephens told the media after practice. "I didn't play well at all, I'm disappointed in my play and I promise my teammates and my coaches that I will have the best practice of the fall tonight. I will come back more focus and ready to perform at a higher level."
When asked if the competition for the quarterback race, was some thing he was focused on , Stephens quickly pointed out that wasn't the case.
"From day one I haven't thought about the competition," Stephens said. "I just want to do my best and what I'm capable of doing, everything else will work it self out."
ONE BACK NOT GIVING UP STARTING ROLE
Montario Hardesty isn't going to give up his starting role without a fight. Hardesty broke several big runs Wednesday morning and seems to be in the best shape of his career. When asked Monday about his health, he quickly responded "I'm 110 percent healthy." He is showing that at every practice and is working hard to maintain his starting role.
NU'KEESE A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
True freshman Nu'Keese Richardson has already shown he can do multiple things for the Vols. Either at his wide receiver position or lining up at quarterback in the Wild Vol formation. On Wednesday he showed he can lay a lick, he ran over one defender, causing his offense teammates to heckle the defense.
ERIC GORDON RETURNS TO PRACTICE
In the shortest exit of the season, Gordon who was pulled off the practice field Tuesday due to a NCAA Clearinghouse question, was back on the practice field this morning.
EDWARDS KEEPS GETTING BETTER
True freshman Mike Edwards is working extremely hard to find his way on the playing field against Western Kentucky. Edwards, a defensive back continued to shine Wednesday morning, picking off a ball during one of the 7 on 7 competition. Look for Edwards, who Kiffin has praised several times, to make an instant impact.
SHAW BATTLING FOR STARTING ROLE
Jarrod Shaw has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, including losing weight and getting in better physical shape. "We are working extremely hard," Shaw told InsideTennessee.com Wednesday morning. "I'm in the best shape I have ever been in. We are all excited about this upcoming season."
WILLAMS BEGINNING TO SHINE
Defensive end Gerald Williams finds him in an unique position. It's called a starting role. The athletic defensive end has moved up the depth chart and had another great performance Wednesday morning, racking up several sacks if he was allowed to hit the quarterback.
SULLENS SUDDENLY SEEING SOME ACTION
Senior center Cory Sullins saw a lot of action Wednesday morning, coming up with a couple of key blocks.
CROMPTON PERFORMING AT HIGHER LEVEL
Jonathan Crompton is proving every day why he will probably be the starter against Western Kentucky. He is performing at a higher level of consistency, something that he is still working on to improve. The senior signal caller had another good practice Wednesday while Stephens admitted to having one of his worst practices.