Though it's doubtful to be unveiled in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, Tennessee installed the "G-Gun" offensive package during the early portion of Thursday's practice.
Both Gerald Jones and, to a lesser extent Lucas Taylor took snaps during the installation process for the innovative set that features a wide receiver or skill position player lining up at quarterback. Starting signal-caller Jonathan Crompton even split out wide at one point.
"I tell you what, I'm excited that we're actually keeping it from last year," said Jones, who flourished in that set against LSU in the SEC Championship. "I didn't think coach (Dave) Clawson would come in here and keep it, he's so straight to business; but then again, he'll give you opportunities. It worked last year, and he's willing to give me another try. I'm really excited to see what it's going to do this year and how big it's going to be a part of this offense."
First-year wide receivers coach Latrell Scott, who has been impressive with both his development of wideouts and recruiting prowess, knows the package will be a staple in the Vols' offense.
"It's just kind of an introduction to it," Scott said of Thursday's work in the set. "It will be in the game plan. We don't know how much will be in the game plan, but it will be part of it. It's just another way to get the ball in those guys' (playmakers') hands."
Jones knows the Vols must be innovative with the formation's deployment to keep opposing defenses from overloading to thwart the offense.
"We've got to keep opponents honest. We don't want every time we line up at quarterback they're blitzing the whole team," Jones said. "So, we're going to try to pass the ball out of that thing and see how me and Lucas hold up.
"I can throw it a little bit. I've just got to warm it (throwing arm) up. It's been put in the refrigerator since high school, and I've got to put it back in the oven, warm that thing up."
Though the appeal processes continues at a torturous snail's pace, Brandon Warren showcased some added versatility with work in Thursday's practice at fullback.
"It's something I haven't really done in the past, but I'm willing to take on a challenge," said Warren, the sophomore tight end whose appeal process with the SEC remained in limbo for yet another day. "They're trying to put me in some positions where I guess we can find some little mismatches. Coming out of the backfield is something that I would like to do."
Warren's goals are simply to get on the field and help the Vols in any way he can.
"I don't care, just wherever. I want to be on the field, and if I need to line up in the backfield, so be it. I'm just here to play," Warren said. "I'm just trying to get open and catch the ball, wherever it might be. Outside, backfield, attached, whatever."
And while practice typically isn't a treasured chore for many players, Warren's hiatus from the game he loves has him relishing his on-the-field work.
"When I get on the field, the only thing I'm focused on is football," said Warren, who credited Johnny Long & Co. for being physically ready to absorb the pains of practice. "I don't really care too much about anything else, and when I'm out here, my mind's free."
With nearly a week of practice behind them, Tennessee's deep and talented wide receivers are taking the challenge of competing for their roles in the offense onto the field.
"I think they're working their butts off," Scott said. "We've got a very, very competitive situation, but the guys have done a great job of being competitive but also taking care of each other. So, I think we're really continuing to stay together as a group through the competition, which is a very good sign."
Scott credits the group's early progress to their work in voluntary offseason conditioning and drills.
"They did a great job because they worked their tails off this summer," Scott said of the receivers' retention of the offense. "They spent a lot of time with the quarterbacks this summer, and their production in Scrimmage 1 of the summer was light years ahead of their production from where it was in spring Scrimmage 1, so we're definitely happy about that."
PUSH 'EM BACK
As noted earlier, Warren imposes self-discipline with 10 push-ups for the (rare) dropped pass. Now, Warren says, his peers at the tight end position are adopting the same approach.
"We, as a unit, are going to start doing that as tight ends," Warren said. "Drop a ball, we've got 10 push-ups."
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