Coach Lane Kiffin promised things would be done his way during Tennessee’s spring football practice.
According to the Tennessean, he's speeding up drills, tossing the quarterbacks’ green no-contact jerseys, instilling a sense of competition among players -- and they seem to be enjoying the new attitude.
“He’s won championships before," quarterback Jonathan Crompton said after a recent practice. "We’re trying to practice at a championship level because we know what we’re capable of doing. We’re trying to have fun doing it.”
Kiffin has challenged the veteran players to prove themselves during the spring practice period because when fall practice arrives, it will be the incoming freshman class’ time to shine.
Previous starting experience won’t count, either. Only All-American safety Eric Berry has been tagged as a starter for the 2009 season.
“When Coach Kiffin first came in he said, ‘Practice is going to be all about competitiveness,’ and that’s exactly what it’s about every day,” said C.J. Fleming, who is competing for playing time in the secondary.
Kiffin's coaching staff is keeping score during scrimmage-style drills at the end of every practice. The offense and defense can earn points based on their performances in the 11-on-11 drill.
During one recent practice, the 11-on-11 drill got so competitive that Kiffin had a hard time ending practice.
“I finally just stopped it, but it was great to see," Kiffin said. "They kept wanting to go and kept challenging each other.”
Players must jog from drill to drill during practice. Every conditioning drill must be performed at full-speed, and stretching is done to music to encourage extra energy.
“It takes more energy, so at first the guys were a little gassed,” linebacker Rico McCoy said. “Now it’s second nature. It’s part of our practicing. It’s how we’re expected to practice. It’s going to make us better.”