published Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Freshmen end day strong

Brown and Oku give the offense the edge at the end of Tennessee's second Monday practice.


by Wes Rucker
  • photo
    Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty is tackled during football practice Saturday, Aug. 8 2009 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE -- Thirteen hours after starting their first practice of the day on the same Haslam Field grass, Tennessee football players fought through one final goal-line drill.

The object was simple: Score or stop. And with rap music blaring on the speakers, freshman tailbacks Bryce Brown and David Oku powered through the line on the final two plays, giving the offense a 6-4 win and celebratory dance party.

Most of Monday didn't feel like a party, though.

"It's been a long day and a tough day ... but a good day," coach Lane Kiffin hoarsely said moments after the final drill. "You can't simulate coming out and pounding your body as long as they did this morning, and then coming back and doing it again.

"It's tough, but it's supposed to be. Two-a-days aren't supposed to be easy. They don't give you as many of them anymore, so when you get them you have to maximize them."

The Volunteers will practice twice again Wednesday and Friday, with normal days today and Thursday, and their second major scrimmage has been scheduled for Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

"You have to practice and then come back out and go through a whole new practice. As tough and hard as our practices are, it's difficult physically," Kiffin said. "And you have to keep up with your mental stuff as well, and when the body gets tired the mind gets tired.

"We try to go as hard as we can, so that the games can be easier."

Kiffin said the defense responded better Monday night than it did Monday morning, which was somewhat surprising considering the offense's clear-cut victory in Saturday's scrimmage.

Again, though, it was the offense -- with two freshmen toting the ball -- that left with bragging rights.

"The ending could have been a little better, but it was a great day," associate head coach and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said. "Our guys got after it, and that's what you love to see."

Crompton cooking

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton maintained momentum from his Saturday scrimmage in Monday's morning session, squeezing several passes into tight spaces and not throwing an interception.

"That doesn't matter," Crompton said. "All I care about is if the team's getting better. That's the biggest thing. Individuals don't win ballgames."

The 'Nuke gun'?

Kiffin said he didn't necessarily expect much from touted freshman wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson's first shot at college quarterbacking. And sure enough, Richardson's special-package duty didn't have the smoothest start.

"To put him there was obviously difficult," Kiffin said. "That's putting a lot on a kid. He's just a pup, and he's playing two different receiver spots, and we're looking at him (at quarterback). We'll continue to evaluate him and see what he can do to help us."

Richardson said Sunday that Kiffin's playbook and East Tennessee allergies have been his biggest collegiate hurdles to overcome.

"I'm loving it, though, and I know everything will slow down pretty soon," Richardson said. "You try to tell yourself, 'It's still just football ... just go out there and make plays.'"

Kiffin said he had two reasons for playing Richardson and not junior receiver Gerald Jones at quarterback in those situations to this point, even after Jones enjoyed moderate success in that role the past two seasons.

"One, Gerald's got a cast on (his wrist), and it's pretty hard to play quarterback with a cast on," Kiffin said. "Also, we're trying to make Gerald a great flanker for us, and he's shown that he's got the chance to be that, and we don't want to deter him from that."

MIAs

Senior linebacker Rico McCoy (knee), junior cornerback Brent Vinson (hamstring), senior defensive lineman Wes Brown (knees) and sophomore cornerback Art Evans (knee) were joined by several other Vols on the sideline for Monday's second practice.

Senior center Josh McNeil (head), junior defensive end Chris Walker (knee), junior fullback Kevin Cooper from Chattanooga (head), redshirt freshman middle linebacker Herman Lathers (undisclosed) and sophomore safety Stephaun Raines from Dalton (undisclosed) also sat out Monday night, but Kiffin said none of the injuries were "serious." He said many of those players would have been cleared to play in a game.

about Wes Rucker...

Twitter - @wesrucker Facebook - /tfpvolsbeat

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