Cody Pope, a 6-6 288-pound sophomore from Julian Calif., has bounced from offensive guard to tight end to defensive line to offensive tackle during his first two years on campus. Aaron Douglas, a 6-6 282-pound redshirt freshman from Maryville, missed last fall due to shoulder surgery, then was shifted from tight end to tackle days before spring practice began.
Both players were singled out by head coach Lane Kiffin following a spirited three-hour practice Thursday at Haslam Field.
“Cody has been a real surprise to us, as far as coming in and picking things up,” Kiffin said. “The system has really helped. It's not a system that relies on really big linemen. You don't have to be big to play in this system; you have to be quick and be athletic.”
That probably explains why Aaron Douglas is playing tackle these days, as well. He was a heralded tight end when he signed with the Vols in February of 2008. Now he's displaying his athleticism at offensive tackle, the same position his father (David) played for Tennessee in the mid-1980s.
“It's an extremely hard transition to go to tackle like he did, but we think he has a great future there,” Kiffin said of Aaron Douglas. “He's very aggressive and a player who really likes to get after it. That's the type of personality we like.”
Nearly all of the Vols were inclined to “get after it” Thursday afternoon, despite intermittent showers. The offense bounced back in a big way after getting whipped by the defense on Tuesday.
“I thought the intensity level through the whole day, from beginning to end, was probably our best practice,” Kiffin said. “I thought guys really responded. The offense definitely responded to what happened Tuesday and really performed well. They ran the ball extremely well and the line played much better.
“We're getting better assignment-wise and all around I'm really pleased, especially with the way we ran the ball today.”
A few of the scrimmage highlights included:
Sophomore linebacker Daryl Vereen made an exceptional play in pass coverage, blanketing 6-6 240-pound tight end Luke Stocker and batting the ball down just as it arrived.
Sophomore fullback Austin Johnson showed nice acceleration in turning a flare pass into a 15-yard gain. He appears a step quicker than last fall.
Sophomore quarterback B. J. Coleman lofted a perfectly thrown fade route to fellow sophomore Todd Campbell for a 10-yard touchdown in the back/right corner of the end zone.
Rolling to his left, Coleman zipped a 20-yard strike to Ahmad Paige.
After buying time with his feet, Coleman found fullback Kevin Cooper wide open downfield for a 25-yard gain.
Converted tight end Brandon Warren, now playing wide receiver, turned a quick screen into a 20-yard gain, thanks to a nice block from fellow wideout Austin Rogers.