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Former All-American Linebacker Speaks To Team


KNOXVILLE - Former Tennessee All-American linebacker Leonard Little was in attendance at Haslam Field for Monday morning’s practice and spoke with the Vols.


“We had Leonard Little today, which it’s always good to have former greats come back,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “He had a good message to the team about finishing every play in practice and working hard. It was a message we need because we’re not there yet. We were a little sluggish today.”


While Little was earning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and leading the 1997 Vols to the SEC Championship, most of the current UT members were playing Playstation for the first time. His message, however, still resonated.


“Leonard has his picture on the wall,” Dooley said. “He’s an All-American. He was a part one of those banners in there and that’s what we’re playing for. He’s a guy who lived it and breathed it. I think he lost about four games in his career and then went on to be a great NFL player. He represents everything to me Tennessee is all about. The more guys that come back, I love it when they get in front of the team.”



One of the Vols biggest problems defensively during Saturday’s scrimmage was their inability to get off the field, allowing drives of 10 and 16 plays.


“The biggest thing that we saw out of the scrimmage was our ability to sustain mentally,” Dooley said. “What happens is you’re playing good and you’re making the right checks. You’re adjusting to the formations and then about the sixth or seventh play of the drive, fatigue sets in. Now all of a sudden, you’re not thinking clearly. You can’t think when you get tired unless you condition yourself to think when you get tired. We’re trying to work on our mental stamina. When we get tired, being in the right spot and making the right formation call.


This gave the profound Dooley a research proposal.


“I always like to equate it. We talk about how smart people are. Go over there and run him. Run about 10 4-40s and then go do the math test. Do five problems, run some more and then do it. It’s a little different. Anybody can sit there and think. There’s a lot of thinking that goes on in football. But what compounds the problem is you’re physically getting tired and you’re breathing. Your mind starts thinking about that and not what you need to focus on. I think that would be our university to do. You have a big English test or physics test, run wind sprints, do two problems and then run more wind sprints and do two problems. See how they do. It wouldn’t be easy.”



Junior linebacker Greg King, who missed Saturday’s scrimmage with an injury, was back at practice on Monday. He said it was frustrating to miss the scrimmage, but was back at Haslam Field, just days later. King missed the final nine games of last season after undergoing knee surgery, but said he doesn’t let a past of injuries discourage him.


“I just go all out,” said King, who has played in 13 of 26 possible games over the last two seasons. “When I feel healthy, I just go. I don’t try to resist (going all out) because that’s looking for an injury. I just try to go as hard as possible.”


He is moving forward with his effort to earn more playing time.

“I have been working at the WILL in the base (defense) and a little bit at MIKE in the nickel,” said King. “I’m just getting my rotations wherever I can and trying to help the team.”



With a talented secondary, senior Art Evans is a player that is not getting a lot of attention heading into his final season with the Vols. But the Lakeland, Fla., native continues to work hard every day knowing he can make an impact. That effort hasn’t gone unnoticed.


“I’ve been pleased with Art. He’s had a great attitude. He’s worked hard,” Dooley said. “We put him on the shelf and he jumped back off of it. That’s a tribute to him. We’re going to need him this year. We’re going to need him on special teams. We’re going to need him as a backup. He’s going to have to get in there and cover some good receivers so I’m glad he’s responded.”


Evans played in the first seven games last season before being suspended for a violation of team rules. But he has returned and is helping the secondary to be what some considered the top unit on the team.


“I’m trying to start myself,” said Evans, who has 60 career tackles, all over the last two season. “Mainly, I want to lead by example, do whatever the coaches have asked, make plays and be productive.”


Being back on the field is something that is not lost on Evans.


“I’m blessed and I’m thankful,” Evans said. “I’m at peace with everything and glad to be back with my brothers. Once you put on this orange, you are a Vol For Life and we know the responsibilities that come with it.”



After spending a season learning from former Vol tight end Luke Stocker, junior Mychal Rivera enters the 2011 campaign on top of the Tennessee depth chart. As much as he has worked on the physical aspect of the position, Rivera has quickly learned that his success will be determined as much by his work off the field studying his playbook.


“The tight end position is pretty hard,” Rivera said. “You have to kind of learn two different positions. You have to learn the O-line and all the blocking schemes and then you have to learn all the receiver route concepts and all the coverages. It’s a pretty hard position, but if you study your (playbook) and dedicate yourself you can get into it.


“I go through a routine every day. I go through my playbook before practice. I go through my playbook after practice. I’m always in my playbook, always discussing my routes and what we did wrong in our meetings and just communicating constantly with Coach Russell and all the coaches.


Although he managed to catch 11 passes for 112 yards in 13 games last season, Rivera feels much more prepared for the upcoming campaign with a year in the UT system under his belt.


“I feel like I’ve come real far. Coach Russell and I were actually looking at some film a couple of days ago of me last year and it’s like night and day with my fundamentals and things that I have learned over the past year.”



Head coach Derek Dooley

(On Malik Jackson)

“He’s back. He was 100 percent ripping and roaring today It was good to see him in the backfield.”


(On his thoughts after reviewing the film from Saturday’s scrimmage)

“It was about what I thought on both sides of the ball. We did better at some things but we still have a long way to go. I keep saying we’re improving and we’re getting better. I feel good about that and that’s all I can ask them to do. But we’re not a good team. I don’t know where we are as a team. You can’t ask them to be a great team today. You ask them to be better today than they were yesterday and so far our team is doing that. It doesn’t mean we’re any good.”


(On the junior defensive back Janzen Jackson’s preseason)

“He’s had a very good camp. He hasn’t really had a bad day. Our real number one focus was making him a better tackler. We’ve seen it in scrimmages. He’s tackling better. It doesn’t mean he’s a great tackler but he’s doing a lot better than he did last year. He still has the range in the backend to help us. We’re experimenting with him at nickel some. That’s kind of new to him. He’s made some progress, but what he does every day is brings great effort and energy. He has playmaking ability.”


(On position battles)

“I think we’re close, but I think some of these things are going to continue on into the season. At most positions now it’s going to be let’s see how they play. I’d say we’re settled but it doesn’t mean we say we know they can do it because so many of them haven’t done it in a game. Those first couple of games, we’re going to have to see who responds on game day. Some guys elevate their game a little bit, some guys look the same and some guys play worse. That’s what you have to be always be conscious of.”



(On Anthony Anderson’s progress at wide receiver so far)

“Anthony, I think he might help us. Of course, he’s played so he has that edge over Naz (Oliver). Being out there doesn’t faze him. He’s a good athlete. He can run fast. He can catch. We need the bodies. Our challenge now is getting him up to speed to know how to lineup and what to run. I think he’s going to help us. I’m glad we made that move.”


Junior tight end Mychal Rivera

(On the freshmen tight ends)

“They are coming along great. Cam (Clear) and Brendan (Downs) were a little raw coming out of high school, but they are just learning every day and getting better.”


(On the grind of fall camp)

“Every day is a new day. No matter what happened yesterday, you have to step forward and try to be your best today.”


Junior offensive lineman Dallas Thomas

(On Alex Bullard grabbing hold of the LG position)

“It helps a lot, because know we can start working together on twists and gains and whatever else the defense might do to us. We can work on that more know.”


(On being a mentor for the younger offensive linemen)

“Just being an old guy, they just all come to me. If they have a question, I’m always there to help them and I don’t have a problem doing that. They just look to me for leadership and to help them out when something isn’t going right.”


(On freshman DL Jordan Williams)

“Jordan is really explosive and comes off the ball really good. I love the kid to death. He has some good hand moves and is very quick off the ball. If you don’t get your hands on him quick enough, you might miss the block.”


Sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Hood

(On the schedule)

“This (camp) will train us for when we have a huge stretch with Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU all in a row, that four weeks will be just as tough as this camp, so this camp is training us for that.”


(On mental stamina)

“The human body’s natural way is one that quits and to do things the easy way. Its tough to get it to say, ‘I’m going to do it the right way and the hard way.’ That’s why we do training camp and that’s why it’s great to have training camp. You get the two-a-days where if you don’t have that mindset, it’s going to be a tough to do it. It’s something we have developed and we have come a long way, but we have a long ways to go as well.”


Sophomore defensive back Byron Moore

(On the performance of the defense)

“It’s definitely always good knowing that we’re (the secondary) not making a lot of tackles. That means they’re not making it past our front seven. Any time we have to make a lot of tackles, something probably isn’t going right up front. That just means our front seven is doing a heck of a job stopping the run. We just have to get back there in the back four and try to get more hands on the ball and get off the field on third down. That’s our main concern right now.”




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