KNOXVILLE — Tennessee players continue to praise new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson, saying the longtime NFL strength coach has brought increased explosiveness to the Volunteers' roster.
Just a few practices into preseason camp, senior safety Todd Kelly Jr. said he's seen positive effects of the workout regimen Gullickson has implemented.
"Transferring that over to the field I think is huge for me," Kelly said. "Just being in the college business for four years now, I've kind of been interested in how the weight room transfers over to the football field. I think this year has been the most improved year and the most amount of time that I've seen us put in at the weight room and see it transition over so early in the process."
Senior tight end Jakob Johnson noted that Gullickson's strength program has brought a renewed emphasis on individualized plans.
"We've gotten a lot stronger and a lot more explosive," Johnson said. "I got a lot stronger and more explosive, and a bunch of the freshmen made big jumps."
Kelly said it's no secret that the Vols dealt with numerous injuries during last year's 9-4 season.
"I think we're making sure we take care of our bodies more than we have in the past," he said, "and that's something we really need to take into consideration."
Tuttle in regular jersey
Shy Tuttle wore a regular jersey in practice Friday. The junior defensive tackle had worn a green, noncontact jersey during the previous preseason practices open to media. Tuttle, a former five-star recruit, is rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered against Alabama last season.
"Shy is continuing to progress," coach Butch Jones said. "He's working individual drills. He's not done any team activities yet, but he continues to progress and we're very, very encouraged with what we've seen so far."
Jones said Tuttle is "maybe a little ahead of schedule," though it remains unknown when the coaches expect him to be ready for game action.
"It's really encouraging when you get him out here," Jones said. "He's in full pads today and doing individual drills with his teammates. He's worked very hard, and you can see the excitement in him in his demeanor."
Kirkland, Bituli also
Middle linebackers Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Daniel Bituli also practiced in regular jerseys Friday after being limited early in preseason practice. Kirkland, a junior, is a likely starter while Bituli, a sophomore, is regarded as a promising talent.
"Both those individuals went through individual (drills) today," Jones said. "So that was good."
Defensive line 'weird'
Johnson was asked about Tennessee's defensive line and chuckled as he assessed the group against whom he regularly competes in practice.
"They're weird, but they have their own flow going on now," the tight end said. "I think some of them watch 'Planet of the Apes' too much, because they like to scream and holler. But I think they'll step up to the plate."
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