When Tennessee takes Haslam Field tonight, it'll be in full pads. It's one of the major landmarks in fall camp. It's a sign that football is really back.
"Putting full pads on doesn't mean you just throw your body around," said senior cornerback Todd Kelly Jr. "Just for the young guys, you still need to be smart and take care of your teammates."
Kelly, tight end Jakob Johnson and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo all spoke with the media prior to tonight's practice.
Even with what new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren has described as an "open competition" in the secondary, Kelly emphasized that he's trying to lead the team, teaching the younger players in the process.
"I tell them first, to make sure they're prepared," lectured Kelly. "You can't go out and play your best football if you're not prepared. You don't know the calls, you don't know the formations."
From the defensive backfield to the defensive line, Jonathan Kongbo and the rest of the position group have big shoes to fill after the departure of Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and LaTroy Lewis.
"There's always a high expectation here in this program, so that was always a thought of mine during the offseason. Me, Darrell Taylor, Kyle Phillips, we know the burden, what's gonna be asked of us, but we've worked hard to try and meet that."
Kongbo said he's added 20 pounds in the weight room this offseason. That should go a long way in helping to meet expectations.
Without a doubt, one of the most interesting players on the entire roster is the German-born, bicycle riding, linebacker turned tight end, Jakob Johnson. The senior has loved the role new offensive coordinator and tight end coach Larry Scott has played in his transition.
Camp Day 2— Jakob Johnson #44 (@JohnsonJakob) July 30, 2017
"When Coach Scott came in, it really rejuvenated everybody. Everybody has a new focus and a new commitment to getting better."
Johnson said Coach Scott looks for physicality from his tight ends, with an ability to make a play on the ball.
So should we be expecting to see more from Johnson in the offense this season?
"I mean, I haven't dropped the ball since spring!"