By Will Woodbery, Correspondent
KNOXVILLE — Add translator to Dave Clawson’s job description.
In his second day of spring practice, the first-year University of Tennessee offensive coordinator has had to deal with players who are struggling to become familiar with new terminology under his play system.
Clawson said that process of acclimation just takes time.
“I think you’ve just got to get to the point where you just stop translating it and our language becomes their new language,” Clawson said Thursday.
“I think right now they’re still lost in translation a little bit, and that slows them down. And you can’t play a football game slow. Guys can’t be thinking. They’ve got to be able to react. And that’s something we hope gets better with every practice.”
Running back Arian Foster said certain expectations have changed in the new system. What was once the proper method of footwork in the backfield is now the wrong way.
“How we do it now, if we did it then we got in trouble,” Foster said. “We’re just unlearning what we’ve learned. It’s a bit unnatural for everybody, but it’s going to be OK.”
But before progressing too far, Clawson is taking a “Football 101” approach.
“I don’t think you can do many good things in football if you don’t have a good fundamental base,” he said.
His players don’t seem to disagree.
“You’ve got be polished. If you can’t hand the ball off, you can’t run,” said quarterback Jonathan Crompton. “I think it’s been good to take that approach, to get all of that out of the way in the beginning.”
Foster can attest to how hard it is to adjust to the new coaching additions at Tennessee.
He hasn’t forgotten former UT assistant coach Trooper Taylor, who left to help coordinate the offense at Oklahoma State.
“Every now and then, I call out Troop’s name,” Foster said. “In my head, I’m like, ‘Where’s Troop?’ I miss that guy. He’s like a second dad to me. That’s a little awkward now. (But) the beat goes on.”
Crompton doesn’t have any admonishments for his teammates to behave as they embark on spring break. They wouldn’t be necessary, he said.
“In my opinion, we have a very mature football team,” Crompton said. “We trust everybody on the team to do the right thing. ... On this team, I don’t think we have to be that kind of leader and say, ‘Do this, do that’ because everybody’s smart enough to do that.”
Nonetheless, some senior players instituted a team curfew before spring practice began.
“We were getting a bad label, so we had to do something,” senior defensive tackle Walter Fisher said Tuesday. “When we get to college, you leave your mom and parents at home and you become a man. It’s on us. It’s on us. Only thing he can do is set standards. It’s up to us to abide by them.”
Berry on offense?
Head coach Phillip Fulmer made a recruiting promise to Eric Berry that he would get a chance to play some on offense. Tuesday, Fulmer indicated that he would follow through on that assurance this season.
“If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Berry said Tuesday. “I just want to focus on defense, but if he does pull me over on offense, that would be nice. But the way things are looking with Gerald Jones, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Sophomore wide receiver Gerald Jones, who last year occasionally lined up as quarterback, rushed eight times for 58 yards last season.
Another thing Fulmer said Tuesday was that at least one of the spring practices would be full-contact for quarterbacks Crompton, Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman.
E-mail Will Woodbery at firstname.lastname@example.org