Double-duty coaches

Tennessee's football coaches are operating on a divide-and-conquer theme. By dividing the first three practice days into shifts, they hope to conquer the problem of limited repetitions for freshmen.

That's why the Big Orange will hold two workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - a 2:15 session for veteran players and a 7:30 session for newcomers and inexperienced players.

Although NCAA rules prohibit two-a-days for players the first week of fall camp, Tennessee is operating well within the rules.

"It only counts as one practice, even though there's two for the coaches," Vol head man Derek Dooley said, grinning broadly as he added: "There's only limitations on what you do with the players, so we try to grind the coaches to oblivion."

What Dooley refers to as "coaches' two-a-days" consists of splitting the squad into two groups of roughly 50 players each. The 50 most experienced players work out first, with the 50 least experienced players working out a few hours later.

By separating the rookies from the veterans, Tennessee's coaches are able to teach at a more deliberate pace and give the first-year players more individual attention.

"That allows us to really slow things down and do a really good job of evaluating our freshmen," Dooley said.

The Vol system is something of a throwback to the 1980s and '90s, when freshmen got in a week of preliminary work before the varsity players reported for practice. This enabled the rookies to close the gap a bit as far as technique and terminology.

"In the old days freshmen came in early and you had a chance to evaluate 'em and work with 'em," Dooley recalled. "I've found when you throw 'em all out there together (with the veterans) they just get lost, so this gives us a chance to really evaluate our freshmen and see who we need to invest in further."

Tennessee's veteran players like the split schedule, even though they're forced to work out in the humid afternoon hours.

"I think it's smart," senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "When they mentioned it I was kind of confused but then I thought about it. We need a lot of guys to step up. We need young guys to step up. We need guys who haven't played to step up.

"What this is creating is more practice time, more reps. When you've got four strings on defense and one practice, you're not going to get every string an equal amount of reps. This way younger guys get an equal number of reps and more opportunities to learn. There's no better way to learn about a defense than getting in there and actually getting to play, so I think it's a great idea."

So does senior defensive end Chris Walker.

"I like it," he said. "It's just something to get the younger guys individual reps with the coaches, instead of having to be with us and worrying about getting reps."

Splitting the workouts aids the veteran Vols, too.

"It's really good for us - the older guys - to get controlled work in and have the younger guys get acclimated to how practice is going to be," Walker said. "From what I've heard, it's something that's going to be really good for us."

Several Vols seem impressed that the coaches are willing to take the practice field twice per day in an effort to boost Tennessee's chances of posting a winning season in 2010.

"That's something I've really desired for our team - that whole persona of hard work and perseverance," Reveiz said. "Whatever it takes we've got to do it. I believe that's what Coach Dooley feels like: He'll do whatever it takes. Even if he's dead tired, up till 2 a.m., then getting up at 6 a.m., that's what he's got to do, and I respect him so much for it."

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