KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee football team appeared to hit hard near the end of Tuesday's practice at Haslam Field.
The pad-popping and trash-talking seemed loud, but there was no way to be sure. Rap music blared over everything on that corner of campus, including the baseball game across the street.
First-year head coach Lane Kiffin, as he's done several times this spring, played some of the players' favorite songs to inspire a furious finish.
"That's not my playlist, but it was edited (for language) today," Kiffin joked. "The other day it wasn't."
Kiffin's ploy worked. The offense - trailing 6-2 when practice was initially whistled complete - called out the defense to "come get some" and won all three extra plays.
The defense still won the competition, 6-5, but the head coach raved about both sides' desire to compete.
"We had an extremely physical practice today, and the guys are really responding," Kiffin said. "I thought their energy level was great. They really responded to what we needed. That was one great practice."
UT has just one more practice before Saturday's Orange and White game, something that apparently disappoints several players.
"Saturday's going to be the end, but it doesn't really feel like the end," offensive guard Vladimir Richard said. "It's easy to count down the days, and I know a lot of guys do that. But right now, on this team, we haven't been thinking about when the spring game is. We haven't been thinking about how many practices we have left. We just come out here and work hard. We totally just forgot.
"Coach Kiffin just said that we've got one more practice and then the spring game. We're having so much fun out there that it seems like, 'Man, just one more practice?'"
Added wide receiver Gerald Jones: "We have a clear purpose, but we're also having fun. A lot of fun."
Tuesday featured two noticeable changes. Cornerback Dennis Rogan and safety Prentiss Waggner reappeared on the first-team defense, sending C.J. Fleming and former Dalton High School star Stephaun Raines to the second unit.
Berry still restricted
All-America safety Eric Berry would rather return to his normal role Saturday, but the Orange and White game will be no different than the rest of his frustrating spring: Dress in full pads but sit out every full-contact period.
Offseason surgery to correct a torn labrum has temporarily left Berry without permission to hit. Several coaches and managers have been instructed to monitor his physicality and report directly to trainers, who have promised to promptly sideline him.
"It gets kind of frustrating, but I just try to get the mental reps to make sure I know where I'm supposed to be," Berry said. "It's a 'better safe than sorry' type of deal, and I understand that.
"It's not as much fun right now, but the important thing is to be ready for the season."
Berry's positive spin is that the sideline view has helped him understand different nuances of coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme.
"It's not too much different (than John Chavis's defense), to be honest with you," Berry said. "I've just got to make sure I'm perfect everywhere where I line up, whether I'm covering or blitzing or just filling a gap."
Berry said he's also studied extra video of former All-Pro safety John Lynch's role under Kiffin.
"It looks like fun to me," Berry said. "I just want to go out there and really do it."
Senior-to-be tailback Montario Hardesty said he appreciated the head coach singling him out as a team leader despite a loud vocal presence.
"I try to lead by example, I guess," Hardesty said. "I don't do a lot of talking: I just try to go out there and play, try to go out and do what I need to do and just make plays. I feel like that's contagious. If one guy makes a play, somebody else will make a play. It's kind of a trickle-down effect on the team."
Hardesty said he was saddened by fellow tailback Lennon Creer's decision to leave the program, but he wouldn't let that - or this summer's arrivals of highly touted runners Bryce Brown and David Oku - change his views on the starting competition.
"My goal is for our team to get to the SEC championship, get an SEC East crown and compete for the championship," Hardesty said. "And I want to be a starting tailback here at the University of Tennessee, so I'm going to go out there and go hard. The rest of the guys - Toney Williams and Tauren (Poole) - are still here, and they've been having a good spring also. It's just going to be more competition, and I think in the end it's going to help our team out."