Tennessee's defensive backs did such a great job of holding in the early stages of Tuesday's first preseason practice that the receivers and tight ends really struggled to get off the line of scrimmage and into their routes. Finally, after being chastised by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and receivers coach Frank Wilson, the receivers and tight ends began getting more physical with the DBs ... and getting open as a result.
Clearly, fighting through press coverage is a major emphasis for the Vols' pass-catching corps this year.
"No doubt," junior receiver Gerald Jones said. "I thought we did a really good job in the spring being aggressive with the DBs but we've still got a lot of work to do. DBs are going to come out and play us to the best of their ability, and so are we. We're going to push them to the limit."
Given how pitiful Tennessee's passing attack was last fall, it's a safe bet opposing defenses will play loads of press coverage this season, daring the Vols to beat them deep. That means UT receivers will be bumped, jostled and held by opposing defensive backs on a regular basis.
"They're going to hold; that's the name of the game," Jones said. "We've got to do what we're taught to do ... that is slap their hands down and keep running. Once we get those fundamentals - especially the young guys - we'll be all right."
Frank Wilson, first-year coach of UT's receivers, admits that the Vols need a lot of work on beating press coverage.
"We don't have the biggest receiving corps," he said. "When people come up to press us and try to play physical, we as a staff have to equip them with an arsenal so they can get away from it. Their hands are vital to that. You can get off press by your hands, by your feet or both. That's something we try to teach these guys."
Freshman wideouts Nu'Keese Richardson, Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers need extra work in fighting through press coverage, since they rarely saw any of it at the high school level.
"When the young guys step up to this level it's the first time they've been challenged with it," Wilson noted. "Usually at the high school level they're facing soft coverage. We need for them to make that adjustment and they're doing a good job of it."