The Vols put the pads on for the first time Sunday afternoon, which head coach Derek Dooley saw as a welcome challenge for his squad.
Because of the heat at Haslam Field and the additional weight being hauled around by each player, Dooley was quick to point out that the first day in pads is always one of the toughest, but it also allows him and his staff to stress the importance of being mentally prepared each and every day.
"The big thing I wanted to emphasize to them was that no matter hard you train, how good you are or how experienced you are, what makes this sport special is that you are going to get knocked on your tail," Dooley said. "You are going to have times when you are struggling, it's hard, you didn't have a good period, didn't have a good day, whatever it is.
"All those people who worry about what happened yesterday, never get anything accomplished today," he continued, "It's a great exercise to teach your brain how to focus on what's next. That is what training camp is about and today's practice was a great example of that."
It was the offense that rose to the challenge during Sunday's hard-hitting practice.
"The offense really came out with something to prove running the ball today and did a good job," Dooley said. "They came out with a little edge to them. They came out with a mentality that looked like a bunch of guys who have been kicked around the last seven months and wanted to do something about it. The other side came out like it was practice."
Dooley singled out the running backs for their improvement and effort on Sunday.
"They ran the ball really well," Dooley said. "They hit the holes and when they got into the secondary they didn't stop. They had a little something to keep moving. Jay [Graham] has done a good job of trying to coach that."
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