This work week has been filled with stories from Volquest, GoVolsXtra, etc. It's the first week this offseason where I finally "feel it." Maybe it's because I'm taking a more analytical approach to the stories I read, but it seems like our Vols are in the right mindset to win the division.
Chris Low at Volquest talked with Steve Caldwell, who in turn, talked about his defensive ends. I can't find the link from spring, but I remember Fulmer and Co. talking about how Xavier Mitchell had the best spring from a DE ever. Now, this, about Antonio Reynolds: "'When he came back from spring break, he was a different player,' Caldwell said. 'I don't know what it was. Not that I coached him any different or did anything different, but when he came back after spring break, he looked the best he's looked since he's been here.'" Caldwell said similar things about Robert Ayers, and said Wes Brown played well in the spring.
Our defense produced only 17 sacks last season, the lowest of the Fulmer era. Demonte Bolden and J.T. Mapu will not only need to play strong as run-stopping studs in the middle, but they need to have the one-gap skills to open up the outside for our ends. All of this, in turn, will make it easier on a secondary that will most likely see meaningful snaps from 3 newcomers.
Speaking of Mapu, Dave Hooker over at GoVolsXtra has a nice piece on the Samoan. Mapu said about himself this spring and summer: "Got a little lighter and a whole lot stronger. Got a little quickness back." We all remember that Mapu started 12 games in 2003 before he left Knoxville on his mission trip. He arrived last season over 300 pounds and out of shape. Now, he's stronger, faster, and a senior.
In the same article from Hooker, Jon Hefney had some things to say about two newcomers - Eric Berry and C.J. Fleming. Hefney about Berry: "I think he’s going to be good but we’ve got to put on the pads. He told me he was a safety. Well, we know he can hit then." Hefney about Fleming: "I think he’ll be the sleeper. I think he’ll be like Inky." Coming from a senior, I like what I hear. Hooker also has an article about Jarod Parrish, who has apparently taken the apple of Phil's eye. Hooker is a machine, as he also covers Brad Cottam and expectations from Cutcliffe and Matt Luke.
Drew Edwards has a good article about the 3 running backs over at GVX, again.He also penned an article on Erik Ainge and his increased strength. "He’s at 225 pounds now, and UT strength coach Johnny Long raved about his work ethic this summer."
Finally, Austin Price at Volquest has an excellent read on Johnny Long, UT's strength and conditioning coach. This article, plus a lot of other reports around the pay sites, continue to talk about the incredible work ethic throughout the program this summer. We haven't heard this kind of stuff in a long time. Maybe I'm naive, but it makes me have even higher hopes for 2007.
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