Spring awards

Coaches measure spring practice in terms of progress, which is why Tennessee's top two spring awards each April are presented to the guys who made the most improvement.

The winners for 2010 are sophomore Dallas Thomas and junior Austin Johnson.

Thomas won the Harvey Robinson Award as the offensive surprise of the spring. His quality work on the offensive line in recent weeks enabled him to lock down the all-important left tackle position.

Head coach Derek Dooley has been praising Thomas all spring for being "a steady hand" in the vital role of protecting the quarterback's blind side.

Junior Austin Johnson won the Andy Spiva Award as the defensive surprise of the spring. The converted fullback made a smooth transition back to middle linebacker, the position he played at Hickory (N.C.) High School.

"He got a surprise-of-the-spring award because he went over there at Mike (middle linebacker) and it was as if he'd been there for two years," Dooley said. "He's going to be a solid player for us."

Senior wideout Gerald Jones, redshirt freshman cornerback Eric Gordon and mid-term freshman defensive end Jacques Smith shared the Big Lick Award, given to the players who consistently exhibit physical toughness. Jones, in fact, played the Orange & White Game on a sore ankle but still led both sides in catches (6) and receiving yards (84).

"Gerald wants to have a good year," Dooley said. "He got the toughest award, and it didn't surprise me.... He played well. I asked him Wednesday (when UT seniors drafted the O&W rosters), 'Hey, you're in here picking teams. Are you playing?' He said yeah."

Of Smith, Dooley added: "These mid-year guys are incredibly mature, and Jacques played probably the most consistently of all those young cats. He's a good physical presence. He's got a great attitude, great character. I've been impressed with his consistency over 15 practices."

Junior tailback Tauren Poole, senior tight end Luke Stocker, senior linebacker LaMarcus Thompson and sophomore safety Darren Myles shared the Fourth Quarter Award for such intangibles as attitude, discipline, toughness, effort and team spirit.

Dooley praised Poole for being "a hard worker, a hard runner (who) can go out and do some things in the pass game and breaks a lot of tackles." The coach noted that Myles "flashed out there" in the Orange & White Game.

Junior center Cody Pope and sophomore defensive end Willie Bohannon were recipients of the John Stucky Off-Season Awards for physical conditioning in the offseason.

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