June 1, 2009
Talent shines across field at Vols' camp
Tennessee had the kind of turnout today for its one-day lineman camp that would be the envy of college coaches anywhere. The Vols hosted some of the biggest names in the South today, especially on the defensive side of the line.
In many ways, it was a talent display better suited for a program coming off a winning season, if not a BCS appearance. Yet it was simply futher evidence to this staff's relentless, no-stone-unturned work ethic on the recruiting trail.
Among those in attendance were Tennessee commitments Jacques Smith and J.C. Copeland, the infamous Byrnes, S.C., duo of Corey Miller and Brandon Willis along with Atlanta defensive end T.J. Stripling.
All were impressive in different ways, and all will be featured in upcoming VolQuest.com stories from today's camp.
Stripling, not surprisingly to anyone who has seen his film, ran away with the fastest lineman award on the day. He put down a couple of blistering sprints to close the camp inside Neyland Stadium during the afternoon. Stripling very obviously needs to add some weight to a frame that would look at home on the basketball court, but he is a pure speed guy who could be a load coming off the edge if he continues to develop.
During the one-on-one drills there were some noteworthy battles.
Smith -- who indicated the camp clearly illustrated he made the right decision with reaffirming his commitment to Monte Kiffin, Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron & co. -- showed himself to be an advanced technician with his ability to use his hands and create space between himself and opposing linemen.
Miller was startlingly impressive in the morning session, simply overpowering virtually everyone he faced with his burst and ability to keep tackles from getting into his body. There were times he simply looked untouchable -- forget about blockable. Further, Miller -- who said Tennessee is in his top three in a grouping that right now really only has four schools in legitimate contention for his prodigious services -- has lost down to 229 pounds but is working toward a goal of 245 by his senior season.
Copeland, a high school defensive end, looks like he's headed one spot closer to the middle of the line at the next level. He showed impressive burst off the ball when working at tackle all day long. In addition to getting upfield quickly, Copeland also seems to naturally play low to the ground with a solid base. If he can ad another 25-30 pounds -- which shouldn't be much of a challenge -- he'll be a legitimate SEC tackle within a couple of years.
Overall, head coach Lane Kiffin was pleased with a lot of things about his first ever football camp at Tennessee. The first was simply the turn out of prospects some 175 or so.
"I think it tells you a lot about what is going on right now and that is that Tennessee is a great place to play football," Kiffin offered. "It's a great staff to come and get coached by. To see guys to come that far for a one day camp it was great to see and I think it speaks volumes to the assistant coaches efforts."
The approach to camp was similar to what Tennessee tries to do every day on the practice field.
"Our mindset and approach to camp is the same as it is in anything we do. We try to be the best and do it better than it's ever been done before," Kiffin said. "I really thought our coaches did a great job today. We wanted to make it feel like for the players what it was like to play at Tennessee. We didn't treat it as a high school camp. We treated them like they were our own players. We were very demanding. I know the kids got better today -- which is the goal."
For the coaches it's obviously a chance to see not only how good a prospect is physically, but also it gives the staff a chance to see what a kid is all about.
"You get to know who a kid is," Kiffin offered. "It's very valuable to learn their football personalities. We had so many one on one battles out there today that you get to see what guys are really about."
One of those who won MVP honors offensively on Monday was Nashville's James Stone. Stone who is coveted by most everyone in the SEC was impressed with the Vols after getting to spend the day with the staff.
"They stand very well with me," Stone said. "Getting to experience the coaches and find out what they are like. I responded well to the way they teach. Its the way they show it and I like how they show it against other schools."
Who is this Jordan Black?
In the morning session, Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Black held his own as a defensive tackle. In the afternoon session, Black, who also plays tight end, found himself on the offensive side of the ball but not at the position he expected.
"I thought they might work me at tackle, but I will play center too," Black offered.
Black got plenty of attention from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Defensive line MVPS
Ed Orgeron Best 9th-grader Award
Fastest man: Stripling
Offensive line MVPs
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