Football! Spring practice starts tomorrow, and Monte Kiffin's expecting the players to practice hard and to learn the system quickly despite all of those nasty NCAA rules against working hard. Eric Berry, son, now there's a guy who's awesome. Awesome, I tell ya! "He's an awesome player, but he's also awesome just in workouts. He's here every day. He doesn't miss. He loves football. He gets real fired up." I don't know who transcribed that quote, but I'm quite certain that it was spoken with more exclamation points than that.
Discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline!!! That's four disciplines, which is one better than the normal three, and it's what new Tennessee strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith is all about, mister. Beginning in January, all players had to run 18 consecutive 100-yard sprints under target times (19 seconds for linemen, 18 for fullbacks and tight ends, and 16 for everyone else) with only 45 seconds worth of recovery between them. That 18 will increase to 26 and then to 28 eventually. And no being tired! NO BENDING OVER! (I am bending over and wheezing just typing that, but coach Smith doesn't know where I live.) Mondays and Fridays feature team runs at 6:00 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for agility and quickness drills at either 5:30 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. Lifting weights happens on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and players have a coach looking over their shoulders and counting their reps and sets every step of the way every second of the day. Wednesdays, then, I'm guessing, are for the psych consults. You gotta love the attention to detail here. When the strength and conditioning coach is coaching everything right down to body language, well, that's good, right?
- Basketball! Sigh. Three steps forward and slip on the banana peel of prosperity. The Vols returned home Sunday from a difficult but successful road trip only to throw up another clunker. It was an early game, and according to Bruce Pearl, the team just never got out of bed. Of course, neither did Alabama's Anthony Brock, who hit a long contested, leaning game-winner at the buzzer, but that's only because he never got into bed. After attending a funeral in Little Rock, missing the flight to Knoxville, and having a cousin drive him length-wise through Tennessee and Daylight Savings Time, he got to K-Town three and a half hours before tip off. Game ball to the cuz, cuz I've made that drive several times on the way back and forth to see my parents, and except for the stop at Chinatown in Nashville, it ain't no fun. Surprises aren't any fun, either, when they come at the very end of a season, long after we should have figured out what this team is all about. The loss to Alabama means that the Vols are merely co-SEC East Champs with South Carolina, that instead of finishing with the second-best record in the league, they're tied with South Carolina and Auburn, and that they damaged their NCAA seeding and ability to advance through the Tournament. Tennessee still gets a bye for the first day of the SEC Tournament and will play on Friday at 7:45 against the winner of the Alabama/Vanderbilt game. I suggest that each player starts driving himself to Tampa on Friday morning.