Tennessee: Building a football bully – Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee: Building a football bully – Knoxville News Sentinel
  • Butch Jones discusses recruiting changes
  • Highlights from Vols' 13th practice
  • Larry Scott: "They're like sponges right now."
  • Jashon Robertson: Ready if needed at center
  • Marcus Tatum says playing against Alabama made him better
  • Vols wide receiver coach Kevin Beard meets with media
  • Highlights from Vols' 11th spring practice
  • Vols' Quay Picou wants to get comfortable and confident
  • Vols' Trey Smith: I will not eat you
  • Tommy Thigpen: Shanon Reid is everything we thought he was
  • Highlights from Vols' 10th spring practice
  • Vols' Jonathan Kongbo: 'I feel like I'm finally at home'
  • Justin Martin wants to be a good teammate
  • Highlights from Vols' 8th spring practice
  • Vols WR Tyler Byrd meets with the media
  • Brady Hoke goes back a long way with 'Strip'
  • Butch Jones likes his young receiving corps
  • Highlights from Vols seventh spring practice
  • Raiders' Joey Clinkscales likes Vols' Pro Day talent
  • Video: Hunter Duff is Tennessee football's newest insider
  • Vols coordinators meet with the media
  • Trevor Daniel  is one Vol who can be counted on
  • Cortez McDowell talks after spring practice No. 8
  • Highlights from Vols fifth spring practice
  • Vols DL Darrell Taylor meets with the media
  • UT RB John Kelly embraces teacher role
  • Secondary coach Charlton Warren
  • Vols' fourth spring practice highlights
  • Darrin Kirkland Jr. meets with the media
  • Todd Kelly Jr.: "Everyone wants to get better. "
  • Highlights from UT's second spring practice
  • Video: Vols quarterbacks meet with media
  • Tennessee opens spring practice
  • Emmanuel Moseley says it's about details and "eyes"
  • Butch Jones talks spring practice, staff changes
  • Video: Butch Jones ready for spring practice
  • Video: Recapping Butch Jones' news conference on spring practice
  • Video: Tennessee quarterback competition
  • Fulmer speaks at charity dinner
  • Brady Hoke introduced at UT
  • Vols new receivers coach Kevin Beard on starting the process
  • Vols O-line coach Walt Wells is all about competition
  • Video: Vols offensive coordinator Larry Scott
  • UT Football Players Talk Rock
  • Video: Offseason changes to Tennessee football staff
  • Tennesseee's 2017 signing class
  • Butch Jones: I'm ecstatic about Josh Palmer
  • VIDEO: Scenes from the UT Football Recruiting Announcement Event
  • Tennessee enrollees for 2017 signing class
  • Tennessee's Larry Scott, Mike Canales share history
  • Meet new Vol QB coach Mike Canales
  • New Tennessee defensive backs coach Charlton Warren

We see so little of Tennessee’s spring practice, a stretch here, a punt there. I wasn’t aware what was actually going on at Haslam Field the past few weeks.

“Right now we’re in the process of building a bully,” Jashon Robertson revealed Tuesday. “That’s what we talk about every day.”

Building a bully, huh. Like Dr. Frankenstein did?

Let’s assume no grave-robbing for limbs and organs is involved. (There is a body farm right across the river). Tennessee’s bully is more a state of mind.

“Demeanor,” Robertson clarified.

Dr., uh, coach Butch Jones said at the start of spring practice one of the main missions was to get tougher, to play more physical. The first step was hiring Rock Gullickson away from the NFL to rev up UT’s strength and conditioning program.

Another piece of the puzzle was elevating Walt Wells from quality control clerk to offensive line coach.

“He brings a unique edge to the room,” said Robertson.

Playing with an edge is necessary if you’re going to bully SEC foes around. Eventually, you have to back it up. Offensive coordinator Larry Scott thinks the Vols can.

Scott said Tuesday any smart offense plays to its strengths. Right now, with new quarterbacks and a bunch of young wide receivers, the strength of this offense, is the guys up front.

Robertson has started for three years at guard. Brett Kendrick and Coleman Thomas are veteran seniors. Juniors Jack Jones and Chance Hall are halfway through their cycle. Venzell Boulware and Drew Richmond are ready to take the next step as sophomores. True freshman Trey Smith is a grown man.

“In any good offense,” Scott said, “you’re relying on the guys up front. When they go, we all go – as a team. I don’t care if you’re good at the skill positions, good at quarterback, you’re only as good as those five guys up front.”

The five guys up front in 2017 have the potential to be pretty good. They weren’t bad last year, in fact. Otherwise, the Vols wouldn’t have averaged 443 yards of offense a game, the best figure since Peyton Manning was running the huddle.

Granted, the mobility of quarterback Joshua Dobbs enhanced that total offense average. He made yards when plays broke down. Dobbs is gone but maybe plays won’t break down as often in 2017 if this line lives up to its potential.

If they’re bullies, in other words.

Scott says Tennessee’s offense will always aspire for balance. “But I will say this,” he added. “When it’s time to put the ball on the ground we’re going to be able to run it.”

Tailback John Kelly runs like a bully. He’s angry that somebody wants to tackle him. Receiver Jauan Jennings has some bully in him. Ask Georgia.

What about the quarterback? That one we don’t know yet and won’t for a while.

Spring practice has shed little light on the battle between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano. The Orange and White Game on Saturday will offer a window but only a small one. The process is just getting started.

Asked what advice he would give the two candidates to carry into the summer before fall camp opens, Scott said: “Lead. Lead. Lead the guys. … lead by example.”

A strong quarterback is a strong leader. Don’t think for a minute Manning or Tim Tebow or Deshaun Watson didn’t bully their teammates into doing what he thought they ought to do.

So it’s worth keeping in mind that when Tennessee is building a bully. Don’t forget the quarterback.

Mike Strange may be reached at mike.strange@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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