Depth affects UT workouts

Tennessee's bench isn't the only thing that's shorter these days; Tennessee's practice schedule is, as well.

With the Vols down to six scholarship athletes due to a dismissal and three suspensions, they can't risk an injury to one of those six. As a result, their recent workouts aren't nearly as taxing as they were earlier this season.

Head coach Bruce Pearl recalled that a few weeks ago "The day before the game we would normally have a very violent, full-contact, half-court scrimmage."

With the scout team simulating the upcoming opponent, these scrimmages eventually would conclude with the first-teamers getting four stops in a row. That's no simple task, even against scout-team opposition.

"I can't tell you how many times we went to the fourth stop and the scout team would get a basket," Pearl noted, "then we'd spend 45 minutes to an hour longer practicing because we couldn't get that fourth stop.

"That drill doesn't exist anymore with this group."

So, what has replaced the concluding portion of these "very violent, full-contact" scrimmages?

"Now it's got to be a walk-through," Pearl said. "Now we'll have one contact practice a week and there will be more mental preparation - more preparation through film and less preparation through doing."

That doesn't mean Tennessee practice has become a fun time, though. It's more of a run time. Fewer scholarship players means each one must play more of each game, which means stamina takes on added importance.

"I've got to continue to condition these guys harder," Pearl said. "There will be will more sprint work because they're going to have to play more minutes."

So far, the reduced practice workload has not created a problem. The Big Orange beat Charlotte 88-71 in Game 13 and shocked No. 1 Kansas 76-68 in Game 14. The ninth-ranked Vols (12-2) will try again Thursday night, when they host Auburn in their SEC opener at 7 o'clock.


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