Good Morning, My Friends,
Surprise, an early follow up on the Vol’s Fall Camp. In the past two days I watched not only Jeremy’s Pre-Camp Press Conference; but also, I watched the Press Conferences of the Assistant Coaches and Coordinators. Then after watching the video of the players at the first practice, my philosophical mind was turned on about the question, “Where are the Vols today versus last year?”.
There were several things that the coaches mentioned that were strong messages to me. The first was about the player’s physical changes. I coached and trained kids at the college level in track and in military units. You get a kid with talent and early on two things are missing experience the physical conditioning to use their talent at the peak levels. They must learn what to do to be successful in their positions and then they must develop the physical skills needed to execute those duties. We should note that many GREAT COACHES in all sports were not great players. However, they are GREAT TEACHERS of the game because they know what to do and as players just did not have the skills/physical talent to play at the highest level. Relative to this, keeping the S&C Staff in place was critical to these guys stepping up their physical skills. This is evident in the weight and strength gains of the returning players. It should also be noted that position coaches remarked about the improved speed of several players. In the “Good Ole Days” …50 – 60 years ago non-track coaches did not like weights nor “S&C” programs. As more and more of them got master’s and were exposed to the gains in flexibility, endurance, strength, explosive speed, and running speed that good S&C Programs gave not only runners but also the jumpers and weight event athletes. The best college programs lead the way to adding and stepping up training support in that area. As the players in those programs became high school coaches the best high school programs also followed that path. It does not surprise me when some kids from the “Storied” high school programs are bigger, faster, and stronger than some current college players. A side note on that, some of those kids have hit their physical maturity level sooner than others and may not get much stronger or faster. Some kids may not hit that level until their Junior or Senior year as “Late Bloomers”.
Jeremy and his staff really stepped up the level of physical development in this year’s incoming Freshmen class. They are bigger/stronger/faster than last year’s class, and when you see the number that were enrolled early and started with the S&C Program in January. I expect them to have an impact in the coming year. They can impact the depth chart.
Now let’s look at experience, “Old Soldiers” are dangerous and that is in part because they know what not to do. In the pro game the Rookies are shocked each year find out what it is like to play those “Old Men”, the veterans on their teams. Very few NFL players make the Pro Bowl as rookies…. they make it as 3rd, 4th, 5th year players as veterans. Experience counts when talent and skill balance out.
Last year the Vols entered the Fall with 6 months of work with a new staff, and the Vols had no real veterans on a team with only 12 Seniors. Last year in the Fall, the returning players had literally played under three staffs due to the turnover of Butch’s staff. Not a lot to build on there to build experience.
In this year’s media meetings, the coaches remarked repeatedly about returning players being better prepared for Fall Camp and their helping the newcomers because they knew what to do and how to do it. Practices and drills and meetings were more productive because of returning experienced players. One other thing the coaches remarked about was the player’s participation in the Summer training session and their individual work to improve. Does this remind you of Peyton? It did remind me of that team.
Here is a wrap-up note about returning players. Most, well at least many “Fans” write off every kid that does not start as a true Freshman in every sport. Some even write off the kids that start but do not “Star” as a Freshman. I do not. When you look at the “Power Teams” in the title hunt, their starting line-ups are dominated by 4th and 5th year players on both lines and on the defense. Good players learn and grow every year into better players. One thing Jeremy did last year was save several of talented players with red shirts. If those kids have put in the S&C and study that was expected of them in the past 18 months, then I expect those kids to contribute this year on both sides of the ball. Some will surprise us.
A point Jeremy repeatedly makes about his coaches is that he wants and expects them to be “teachers of the game.”
Time to go. Go Vols!