The end of fall camp is finally in sight for the Tennessee football team.
The Volunteers held their final “real” practice Tuesday morning and will have a “mock game” Wednesday night in Neyland Stadium.
“I’ve been very pleased with the body of work of the team this camp,” coach Derek Dooley said. “We asked them to come here with the right mindset every day and get better every day. I feel like for the most part we have. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to an opponent and see what all of this hard work has done and where we are.”
The nearly month-long grid has taken its toll on the team that features a roster composed of over 70 percent underclassmen.
“Probably the freshmen are more fried than anybody,” Dooley said. “The upperclassmen, it’s really not that hard. You really see it in the younger guys, but you also see them come out of it. I’ve seen a lot of the freshmen have some good days here. Everybody needs the recovery.”
Older players, like redshirt sophomore nose tackle Daniel Hood, knew what to expect going into fall camp and understands the two-a-days and early morning practices should pay dividends during the year.
“It’s tough, but that’s what we signed on to do. This will train us,” Hood said. “I think we’ve got our bye week (in) early September. Then right after that, we hit a huge stretch where we’ve got I think Bama, LSU, Georgia (and) South Carolina all in a row without a bye week. That four weeks will be just as tough as this camp.”
Defense getting better
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said Tuesday the entire defense has made positive strides in fall camp.
“Overall, I think we have improved,” Wilcox said. “I don’t think we are where we need to be by any means. But I definitely think we have improved as a club from the front to the linebackers to the secondary. So that’s what is encouraging. You just have to continue that curve.”
Secondary battles
With Janzen Jackson and Brent Brewer enriched as starters at the two safety spots, and Prentiss Waggner locked in at one cornerback position, the second starting cornerback, as well as the nickel back, are still undecided. Wilcox said those positions could stay undecided until the third or fourth game of the season.
“To name a starter at our second corner spot or the nickel is still up in the air,” Wilcox said. “But at the same time, all those guys, (Justin) Coleman, (Marsalis) Teague, Art Evans, those guys have all improved. It’s a good thing.”