Tennessee donned the pads for the first time in 2008, practicing for the better part of 21/2 hours Wednesday at Haslam Field.
“It’s a good start for us,” head coach Phillip Fulmer said. “There are a million things we’ve got to take care of
— first and foremost is the ball. We had a couple of balls on the ground and an interception.
“But that’s how you learn and there were some really positive things on both sides.”
Fulmer said the Vols ran 58 scrimmage plays, 20 each with the first two offensive and defensive units. The staff plans to arrange the rest of this week with Saturday’s first full scrimmage in mind.
And “rest” might be the operative word for this team considering the lengthy practices and hot weather mixed with summer semester class work. The current school term ends Thursday.
“We’re on the fifth day of camp and we’ve had some three-hour practices,” Fulmer said. “Today and tomorrow are the last two days of class, so we’ll be out of this business of having to practice late here in a couple of days.
“It took awhile to really get started with the pads popping and everything, but I think it will be great film study. It’s a chance for us to get better heading toward the scrimmage on Saturday.”
Among Wednesday’s highlights was the annual “Tennessee Drill,” a one-on-one line of scrimmage competition matching offense against defense. Spirits soar during the seven-minute period as teammates surrounding the tackling area bark their encouragement.
“The intensity was good in the ‘Tennessee Drill,’” Fulmer said. “After we got the peer pressure going, the guys responded and seemed to get better.”
Among the experimental personnel moves during this first week has been Smyrna native Rod Wilks shifting from wide receiver to defensive back.
“Rod has shown he’s a very good athlete,” Fulmer said. “He’s about 220 pounds and it looked like it probably would be difficult for him to get into the top six of the receiving corps, so we moved him to safety to see how he looked. He did a really good job from what I saw. He doesn’t know much about what he’s doing right now but if he can help us in different packages, it will be a plus.”
Faison calls it a career
Defensive back Vince Faison, who joined the Vols in spring practice after a nine-year professional baseball career, has heeded the advice of his family and doctors to end his playing career. Fulmer said continued high blood pressure is the cause.
“He’s going to be a student coach for us, help us out that way and finish up his degree.”
Faison, 27, enrolled at UT in January and completed the spring semester with a 4.0 grade-point average. The Lyons, Ga., native was a 2000 first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres. He also played in minor league organizations for Seattle, the New York Yankees and Oakland.