Tennessee safety Brian Randolph bulkier to absorb hits

Tennessee safety Brian Randolph bulkier to absorb hits

August 2nd, 2014 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee Vols defensive back Brian Randolph (37) works on his blocking during practice Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Knoxville (AP Photo/The Daily Times, Mark A. Large)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - Brian Randolph was tired of the ribbing from his head coach.

The Tennessee safety was even more tired with the pain in his shoulder.

In one fell swoop -- or an offseason in the weight room -- Randolph took care of both.

The Volunteers' former All-SEC safety has added 15 pounds this offseason and looks noticeably bigger in the upper body, and the bulking-up was aimed at increasing his durability after he played through most of the 2013 season with a banged-up shoulder.

"I wanted to get some more weight around my neck and my shoulders so I could take hits and give hits better," Randolph said after Tennessee opened preseason practice Friday night.

"[The coaches] definitely stressed that. They talked about getting rid of stingers by getting your traps bigger and your neck bigger. That was one of my main focuses of the offseason."

It also was driven by some good-natured joking from Vols coach Butch Jones, who claimed at SEC media days that his starting safety had put on 25 pounds over the summer.

"He thought I was extra small last year," Randolph said. "He was always talking about, 'We've got a 180-pound safety in the SEC.' He's always joking around like that. I probably added about 15 pounds."

Randolph was Tennessee's second-leading tackler last season after tearing his ACL against Florida in 2012, and he was fifth on the team in stops as a freshman in 2011.

For most of last season, Randolph practiced in a noncontact jersey with a bulky wrap on his left shoulder. He's now fresh, but he doesn't expect that to last long.

"It's definitely a good feeling to be fresh right now," he said. "But every football player has to play with injuries. There's not a healthy football player out there. We know it's just a part of the game."

Sutton's next step

Cornerback Cam Sutton showed last season he is a good football player, but the sophomore also knows there's another step he can take and how he can get there.

"Just taking it day by day and developing my game and keep encouraging and helping the others around me," said the All-SEC freshman team selection.

Sutton, who was sixth on the team in tackles in 2013 and added a team-high nine pass breakups, one interception return touchdown, two fumble recoveries and a sack, said back in the spring he wasn't satisfied, and he said Friday secondary coach Willie Martinez is continually reminding him to push toward reaching his potential.

"He's always in my ear," Sutton said. "That just kind of pushes me to go harder. From my aspect, I'm never satisfied. There's always extra I can be doing, and that'll make me become a great player."

Though just a sophomore, Sutton is essentially a veteran to Tennessee's handful of freshman defensive backs.

"Even with that one year of experience," he said, "I have to coach the younger guys and get them accustomed to our playbook and accustomed to our system."

Crowded room

There were a total of nine newcomers, including nine true freshmen, working with the defensive line Friday night as the Vols retool those positions.

"I think that was the most crowded I've ever seen the defensive line room since I've been here, when they first all came in in the summer and we had that first meeting," redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Danny O'Brien joked.

"It's great, because we need guys so we're reloading every year. Even when I'm gone, there's guys ready to go, and they're learning the system. It's good to have depth, and it's great to have competition, because that's what builds championship programs."

Blanc injured

Junior receiver Cody Blanc left practice on crutches with an injury to his right ankle.

Jones said Blanc was undergoing an MRI after practice, and the injury could be to his ankle or Achilles' tendon. Blanc started the South Carolina game and caught a 43-yard pass against Alabama last season after playing mostly special teams in 2012.

Tennessee tidbits

Freshmen Dewayne Hendrix and Derek Barnett worked at defensive end during Friday's practice, while fellow freshman Jashon Robertson worked with the defense at tackle. Junior college transfer Chris Weatherd worked with the linebackers. ... Freshman defensive back Elliott Berry missed part of one drill to have his left ankle retaped by a trainer. ... Tight end A.J. Branisel, who tore his ACL late last season, was a full participant at practice despite wearing a bulky brace on his left leg. ... Receiver Ryan Jenkins, who redshirted after a lingering knee issue kept him off the practice field most of last season, also was a full participant.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com