KNOXVILLE — Football isn’t played in shorts, which is pretty much why Phillip Fulmer was so eager for today.
After four days of mandatory practices in helmets and shoulder pads only, Tennessee opens its full-scale fall camp today.
“There are only so many drills you can do and so many individual things you can do,” Fulmer said following Monday’s practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. “When you are not in full pads you don’t have 11-on-11 scrimmaging where you see the young man coming all the way from the back and makes a play that’s really special.”
Practicing in full pads oftentimes is a revealing process, Fulmer said.
“You get surprised occasionally,” Fulmer said. “You get a guy where you wonder if he’s fast enough or athletic enough, and then he gets the pads on and makes up for it because he is so intense and aggressive.
“Or sometimes you get a guy who looks great in shorts and he turns around and he’s not the bravest guy around or something like that when he crosses the middle looking for the ball. It tells you a lot once you get the pads.”
What it tells regarding some players could determine whether or not Fulmer and his coaching staff move guys to a different side of the ball. “Some point in this week, we will try to look at some guys on the other side of the ball,” said Fulmer, who declined to elaborate on who those players might be.
RICO SUAVE: Sophomore linebacker Rico McCoy is feeling much more comfortable in the Vols’ defense. The talented 6-foot-1, 215-pound native of Washington, D.C., said he’s relying more on his instincts and less on “just memorizing plays.”
“It’s a big difference. I’m more comfortable just playing,” said McCoy, who tallied 38 tackles as a redshirt freshman. “I’m not having to think as much and am just reacting. It’s a big difference.
For me, I think in spring practice, something just clicked. I felt like then that I could focus on playing more and wasn’t just memorizing plays.”
HITTING ON HOLD: Senior linebacker Ryan Karl, nursing a back injury, hopes to join his teammates in full pads next week.
“If I sit out this week and hit next week, I’ll be fresher and a lot sharper with what I need to do,” said Karl.
A cerebral player who serves as a virtual on-field coach, Karl isn’t wasting his time on the sidelines.
“With me not being able to hit right now, I’m just trying to watch and work on my mental preparations,” the Battle Ground Academy product said. “With (Jarod) Mayo at Mike (middle) linebacker and some younger guys at Sam (strong side), I just want to watch them and learn and help where I can.”
NO-HUDDLE, NO PROBLEMS: Fulmer said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the newcomers’ work in the Vols’ no-huddle formations, indicating the freshmen are aided by the extra repetitions and up-tempo pace.
“It’s really not and I’m really surprised how well and how quickly they have caught on,” Fulmer said. “We are getting more reps because we are at the line of scrimmage quicker. It really makes them continue to focus and not go back to the huddle and think about the last play. Instead, they are right back on the line of scrimmage thinking about the next play. I like our tempo; we have most of our cadences in that we are going to use and that’s going to be real good for us.”
QUOTE THIS: Defensive tackle Demonte Bolden, a target of coaches, fans and media for his inconsistent play, doesn’t worry about press clippings.
“I’m being real honest, I don’t care what the media has to say about me,” Bolden said. “I have a job I have to get done and all I’ve got to do is get it done. That’s it.”
HEATED EXCHANGE: Junior College transfer Kenny O’Neal, expected to make an immediate impact at wide receiver, left the practice field Monday on a golf cart, which Fulmer said was the result of cramps. Also skipping practice was offensive lineman Michael Frogg, with what was believed to be a minor virus.