Vols do ‘splits’ in practice
Posted: Thursday, August 5, 2010 2:16 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Volunteers won’t don pads during practice for a few days. Their coaches are still planning on getting as much out of them as possible in the mean time.
For the first three practices, veterans and newcomers are reporting separately. The split squads give coach Derek Dooley and his staff a chance to give players more individual attention and drill them a little harder with extra repetitions.
“The tempos are quicker, and there’s not a lot of breaks in between,” Dooley said Wednesday. “I think once they get used to it they’ll see the value in it, but it’s a little different because you have half the squad gone so it’s ones, it’s twos, it’s ones, it’s twos.”
Sophomore linebacker Greg King and sophomore defensive tackle Marlon Walls joined the veterans for their first practice on Wednesday afternoon after returning from a monthlong suspension. King and Walls were suspended following a July 9 bar brawl that left an off-duty police officer severely injured and another bar patron bruised.
King and Walls both said they respected Dooley for his decision to punish them but were glad to rejoin their teammates.
“I would love to apologize again for my actions,” King said. “I want to apologize to the young man because it was just the wrong thing to do. I reacted in the wrong way, and I just put it on me.”
Walls added: “Me and Greg both have a chance to start this season, and that’s just not what you expect in your starters. Right now, all I could do is apologize and say I made a mistake I should have never made because I should never have been out there at that time of night anyway knowing I had workouts the next morning.”
The veterans are scheduled to practice in the hot afternoons for the rest of the week while the newcomers and inexperienced players are practicing at night. The two groups will merge on Sunday, when the players can practice in pads for the first time.
The heat index during Wednesday’s first practice session reached 104 degrees, and Dooley said some players needed to become more mentally tough in dealing with the heat.
“It’s hot. So what? It’s hot in Athens, and it’s hot in Tuscasloosa, and it’s hot in Gainesville. So what?” Dooley said.
Senior wide receiver Gerald Jones likes the idea of having split practices because it gives the younger players a chance to show more of what they can do. The Vols’ depth is painfully shallow at many positions this season, so the inexperienced players might have to contribute even more than usual, he said.
“My freshman year I got thrown out there with the older guys and got knocked around a couple times, so I had to learn the hard way,” he said. “But when you play against people your age and people that are just coming in with you, you have a little more confidence going into it.”
That the coaching staff is putting in twice the work this week is inspiring too, said senior linebacker Nick Reveiz.
“He feels like this is the best position for our team to have success, therefore he’s going to do whatever it takes,” Reveiz said. “If he’s dead-tired, up until 2 a.m. and getting up at 6 a.m., that’s what he’s got to do. I respect him so much for that.”
Dooley wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s only limits on what you can do with the players, not the coaches, so we try to grind the coaches to oblivion because there’s no regulations on coaching,” he said.