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Tennessee defense teaching the offense to take a hit

It was supposed to be a "thud" practice, full speed in helmets, pads, and shorts but only up to the point of contact. Hit them, but don't take them to the ground.

Well, perhaps Ed Orgeron (who greets his players with a swim move instead of a hand shake, by the way) has been spiking the Gatorade with Red Bull again, because the defense simply couldn't help themselves:

"They really hustled but we shouldn't have been tackling," [Monte] Kiffin said. "You saw some people tackling. That wasn't fair to the offense." The veteran coordinator realized that his players were excited about the first day in limited pads but insisted that was no excuse for their overzealous behavior. "They were very anxious to put the shoulder pads on for the first time. They were very gung-ho," Kiffin said. "But we can't do that. We'll get somebody hurt doing that."

Lane Kiffin, Monte's son and Tennessee's head coach, gathered the defenders at one point to remind them that there was to be no tackling. The warning worked ... for a few minutes. Then the tackling resumed.

Freshman running back Bryce Brown got the brunt of it, taking a wicked hit from middle linebacker Herman Lathers first, which caused him to fumble, and suffering two more huge hits from Rico McCoy later. Yes, Brown fumbled twice. Yes, he went down hard. But according to Kiffin, they were the kind of hits that would cause some players to stay on the turf for awhile. Each time, however, Brown bounced back up and hustled back to the huddle, earning the respect of his teammates with each recovery.

Lane may have reminded the defense not to tackle, and Monte may be concerned that his guys are going to hurt someone, but Lane says that ultimately, it's a good thing:

So he needs that because he fumbled it today. If we practiced 80 percent, that would've been the opener (against Western Kentucky) right there, first time that he got hit.

Too true, that. I vaguely remember something from mid-season last year when the team implemented "thud" practices, which must have meant that they were practicing at some level even below that. I don't remember full speed tackling, though, and I wonder how many lessons that the offense could have learned in practice were instead learned in games in the red zone.

The obvious downside to this is risk of injury, so don't be surprised to see some of that. But some believe that the risk of injury is no greater at full speed than it is at something less than full speed. Whatever the case, it appears that we're about to find out.