KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT) -- Tennessee continues to grind away in the summer heat on Haslam Field, and first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri likes what he has seen so far as the Vols finish installing his new defensive schemes.
"Things are going good," Sunseri said. "We're developing a little bit of toughness about us, working on fundamentals and doing what we have to do. The most important thing is learning their assignments, learning what the techniques are and applying their techniques when they get out. We're getting good effort right now, we just have to get better."
Helping that process early in training camp is the team's ability to retain what it learned during a crash-course this spring.
"(There has been) a bunch of retention," Sunseri said. "I'm really happy about it because they are understanding the concepts and they are applying those concepts to the their techniques. They worked hard all summer and they are doing pretty darn good."
Although most eyes are on middle linebacker Herman Lathers to smooth the transition in defenses, Sunseri's scope stretches out a little wider when he looks for leadership on the field.
"We're not just expecting Herman Lathers to be a leader, we are expecting all of the seniors to be leaders," Sunseri said. "All of our guys on defense, (Brent) Brewer, Prentiss Waggner, it doesn't come down to one guy. They need to understand that they are all out there playing together as a unit, playing together as a team.
"There is one guy who is usually talking more than anybody and he is the quarterback of our defense. In one aspect you can say that (Herman) is the leader, but I am looking for 11 leaders going out there to get the football."
The Vols are still have plenty of work to do before their first true test in 23 days, but Sunseri is pleased with the progress they have made to this point.
"I'm happy with where we are at right now," Sunseri said. "Like anything else, these kids are coming out here every day and having pretty good practices. They are long practices, they are taxing on your body and if you can get through here and be efficient, we are going to have a good defense."
CHANEY MOLDING VOLS OFFENSE
In his fourth season with the Vols and third under head coach Derek Dooley, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is seeing a greater level of comfort with the players went it comes to the game plan as well as relationships, both on and off the field.
With so much change and transition over the last few years, it has been hard in many areas to build consistency within the program. That has taking a turn for the better heading into 2012 according to Chaney.
"I find the advancement of our offense is coming more from understanding one another's personalities," Chaney said. "I think we know these kids better, they know us, they know it isn't personal when we are getting (after them). When you are a young player and a new coach is yelling at you, you have to understand it isn't personal. I think our team and their maturity understands it is not that way, they are excepting coaching right now. If you do something more and more you get better at it. So we are more advanced that way. We understand the concepts a little better but I think we know each other a little better, which is what I like the best. It is easier to coach guys you know."
Along with the experience, the communication has grown and Chaney is pleased with the team's effort through six days of camp.
"I am comfortable where we are right now being in day six of training camp," Chaney said. "I think our kids are trying hard and their effort level has been good. We have been pressing just the physicality of our conference and trying to become a better physical football team. We seem to be going out every day and trying to hit. Today I wasn't super pleased about it but for the most part we are trying to hit people."
Chaney will have lots of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Both through the air and on the ground, Chaney will have many options and that excites him.
"I am real pleased with Justin [Hunter]," Chaney said. "He had a wonderful summer. I think his confidence is there on his leg. I have seen some catches that remind me of Justin, which are fun. He is not quite there yet he has to push through these last 20 practices before we get to that ball game and it think he will be ready to roll.
"Cordarrelle (Patterson) is coming in here; he is a big, athletic, fast kid. There has been nothing that he has done to disappoint or wow us. We are comfortable. We knew him pretty well. He is right about where we thought he would be. He is a big, fast kid that can make some plays."
The running game is an area that Chaney feels the Vols have made improvements.
"I think Rajion [Neal] is doing a great job preparing for practice," Chaney said. "He is coming out every day with a workman's like attitude and doing a good job, as is Devrin [Young], as is the whole group. Rajion is really raising his game and Devrin is making plays for us a lot. So those two are getting up there and doing some nice things. Marlin [Lane] is being a steady performer and doing a real nice job on some third-down stuff.
"I am pleased with where they are at. It will be fun to shape them as we get going. It is like a ball of clay. As we start maneuvering through, I am tickled with all those kids and I think they are going a great job."
Information provided by UT Sports Media Relations and UTSports.com.
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