UT bosses put O-line into new situations
Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 7:00 pm
KNOXVILLE — The rock steady Tennessee offensive line has felt some shake-ups this week.
These changes are thanks to offensive line coach Don Mahoney and the UT coaching staff, who feel that versatility is a key factor in being a good offensive lineman.
“Football is a game of situations,” said Mahoney. “Every series of plays is a game of situations — sudden changes, where are we at on the field, what’s the down and distance. It’s a constant training of the mind that coach Jones preaches that mentally and physically we have got to be stronger. It’s all part of the process.”
One lineman who has already registered starts at multiple spots on the O-line as well as tight end, Alex Bullard is used to the change.
“To be able to be versatile and to play that many positions, mentally and physically, is huge for us,” said Mahoney. “From the center spot to guard to tackle, to do all those things and really do them well is huge. It really helps the rest of the group. (Last) week we did some different things. We moved some guys into some different positions. [Bullard] sets a standard in the fact that he wants to be competitive and the other guys want to be competitive in having to play other positions as well”.
Thought Bullard might have been unfazed by the changes, it was a little different for Ja’Wuan James, who has played and started all 37 games of his college career at right tackle.
James got the shift to left tackle during practice last week while Marcus Jackson moved to right guard and Zach Fulton moved to the outside at right tackle.
“We never want our players to know what’s next,” said Mahoney. “We want the unknown. We can go out and have an hour practice or a two and a half hour practice. They don’t know. Part of me wanted to call the night before and say, ‘Are you ready to go to right tackle?’ But I said no. I want to see how they respond.”
“As we were leaving the meeting I said, ‘Zach, you’re going to right. JuWuan, you’re going to left. Marcus, you’re going to right guard. Oh by the way, Alex and James, you two are going to switch up at center.’ I wanted that process to start working as they hit the field. I wanted to see that sense of urgency by their body language and those type of things that come of creating the unknown.”
Football is a game of unknowns; anything can happen at any time. That is what Mahoney wants his line to realize.
GROWING UP FAST: Though the Tennessee defensive line is one of the most veteran positions on the team with six seniors, there is a new face that is making a big impact on the line this spring.
According to UT’s assistant head coach and defensive line coach Steve Stripling, quiet Corey Vereen is making a loud impact in the trenches.
“Vereen is exceptional,” said Stripling. “His attitude right now as a freshman, he is a mid-year freshman. He should be going to prom this week and he is here at 9 o’clock doing things. After practice he was the first one that walked up and said, ‘Let me make sure I am clear on this.’ His attitude and appetite for football right now is unbelievable.”
Vereen came to Tennessee in January as a linebacker, but with his size and speed has been moved up to the front four primarily in the role of the LEO.
With the move to the front line, Vereen has been learning from and competing with senior Jacques Smith for the position this spring.
“First of all they have little more fast twitch capabilities, Jacques and Corey,” said Stripling. “Corey has been a great surprise, he has been showing up and he is a young man that really gets to it. He just has an unstoppable attitude. Beyond the athletic ability we need everybody to get into it.”
“It is unusual for anybody, but for a mid-year those young men come in and there is an adjustment phase,” continued Stripling. “But he has adjusted, the kids like him, he is not afraid to get out in front of the line.”
EMERGENCE: Run-ning backs coach Robert Gillespie has been quoted as saying that when he got to Tennessee he would not watch past film of the running back corps and would judge them based on what they showed to him this spring.
Two young running backs in particular have stood out to Gillespie, Alden Hill and Deanthonie Summerhill.
“To be honest [Alden Hill] is probably one to have shown the most growth this spring,” said Gillespie.
Published in The WCP 4.16.13