The Tennessee football team put their pads on for the first time this week in spring practice on Thursday, but the biggest news was who would not be suiting up for the Vols this season.
In a meeting with head coach Derek Dooley on Thursday, offensive tackle Aaron Douglas informed Dooley that he wanted to be released from his scholarship because he did not want to be a part of the football program anymore. The Freshman All-American had been absent from practice dealing with what Dooley called “personal issues.”
“It’s unfortunate that we never got a chance to coach him,” Dooley said after practice Thursday. “Our concern is not with who we don’t have, but who we do have.”
Without Douglas, Tennessee will have to replace all five starters from last year’s offensive line.
Pads On
After a week of non-contact drills, Dooley was eager to see the team engage in physical drills.
\"The first thing [coaches] do is see who shows dramatic differences over time between pads and shorts,\" Dooley said after practice Tuesday.
Dooley added that some players start impressing coaches more once pads go on because of their toughness and explosive power on the field.
Emphasizing Tackling
The Vols spent much of Tuesday’s practice working on tackling under defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Since arriving in Knoxville, Dooley has stressed the importance of having solid fundamentals on the football field.
\"It doesn\'t matter what scheme you put in defensively, if you\'re not a good tackling football team, you\'ve got no chance,\" Dooley said. \"We\'re going to work tackling a lot.\"
Special Teams Importance
A former special teams coordinator under Nick Saban at LSU, Dooley places a high value on having a very sound kicking and kick coverage unit.
\"Special teams is a critical component of winning,\" Dooley said Tuesday. \"We\'ve got a lot of work to do in finding the right guys and then understanding how to work at it and get good at it.\"
Running back David Oku, who led the team in kick return yards and average last season, is finding out how important special teams are to Dooley and special teams coach Eric Russell.
“If we aren’t top five in the country [in special teams], then [Dooley] is going to be mad at us,” Oku said after practice Thursday.
King Injured
Linebacker Greg King left practice early Thursday on crutches with a left knee injury. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but Dooley said that King tweaked the knee that he had previous problems with.
Brown Sighting
Running back Bryce Brown was in attendance at practice Thursday. Not currently a member of the football team, Brown is still enrolled in class at UT.
Buying Into the System
With the football program entering its third straight season under a new head coach, the players will again have to adjust to another coach’s system. Through four practices, senior wide receiver Gerald Jones believes this team is adjusting well.
“A lot of people are buying in [to this coaching staff’s philosophy] because they want to win so bad,” Jones said. “[With] all the adversity this team has been though in the past three or four years is crazy.”