This should come as no huge surprise, but preparation matters. A pair of Tennessee football players attested to that on Tuesday after the Vols’ second practice of spring camp.
“I would say coming in from bowl practice, it definitely prepared me for this and showed me the speed of the game,” freshman defensive back Jordan Matthews said. “It showed me what to look for, what coverages are going to be expected from me.
“Bowl practice was a little slower than spring, but it still prepared me (for) that mentality. I need to be ready to get out there and play.”
Matthews wasn’t the only Tennessee player to enroll early and participate in bowl practice last month as the Vols were preparing for Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
“Yes sir,” freshman linebacker Arion Carter said when asked if practice was slowing down a bit, “especially me coming in in December. Being here and then being at the bowl site, just seeing the game come to me, letting the game come to me and it’s slowing down. It’s slowed down tremendously. Just getting better each week, each day, competing so far. It’s been good.”
While some incoming Vols were able to practice earlier than most, there were others who had even more preparation to tend to. Linebacker Jeremiah Telander knew he needed to gain weight quickly.
“When I first got here, I was 214 pounds and now I am 226,” the freshman said. “I made a lot of gains. I feel a lot stronger. I feel a lot faster, and we haven’t had a full-padded practice yet, but I feel faster on the field and I definitely, physically, have gotten stronger and faster.”
Telander said he was glued to Tennessee’s playbook leading up to his arrival on campus. He said he even utilized “flash” cards to help him memorize all that he needed to in order to be ready.
Tennessee made four freshmen available for interviews on Tuesday after barely allowing any underclassman to talk to the media for most of coach Josh Heupel’s two-year tenure. It’s safe to say that Heupel is feeling more comfortable and that the early returns are good on Matthews, Carter, Telander and defensive back John Slaughter.
“I understood the assignment when I first got here, even as a recruit,” Slaughter said. “Everything is going to be faster, bigger, stronger and more competitive in comparison to high school with smaller guys. But here, stars don’t matter, rankings don’t matter, everyone’s a dog here.”