Larry Scott has proven himself as a recruiter. Now, it’s time to prove himself as a coach.
The Tennessee tight ends coach helped the Vols land four-star cornerback Tyler Byrd from Naples (Fla.) High School and receiver Latrell Williams from Columbia High School (Lake City, Fla.). That was impressive considering Scott was just hired in January. Now, with spring practice on the docket, it’s time to coach football.
“I really enjoy him in the program,” junior tight end Jason Croom said of Scott. “He brings a lot of excitement into the program. He’s always up-tempo. He’s always encouraging. I’m real hard on myself, but he’s like ‘You’re good. Next time don’t make that same mistake.’ He said just study it and improve on it.”
Croom is Scott’s greatest challenge. A former receiver, Croom is 6-foot-5 and around 250 pounds. He’s potentially an incredibly athletic pass-catcher who would be a tough matchup for almost any linebacker and many safeties.
“He’s adjusted really well,” Scott said. “Jason right now is a sponge. He’s into it. He wants to learn ball. He wants to get better everyday. He’s following right along the lines of what our focus is the spring, which is individual improvement, overall unit improvement and team improvement. He’s really raring to go and excited to be back out there on the field. He’s running well and moving around at 250-plus pounds now. He’s excited and doing really well.”
Croom has suffered some significant injuries while at Tennessee. Knee and shoulder issues have both kept him off the field, and moving to tight end means more contact. Scott said returning to the field is all about Croom’s mindset.
“When you come off of an injury like that, 90 percent of it’s psychological, making sure you have your confidence level back where it needs to be,” Scott said. “He’s doing a really good job. He trusts the people that are here and around him that we’ll take good care of him and make sure he’s ready to go when he’s needed.”
Scott said he’s coached converted receivers before. Much of the transition is about how a team utilizes a more athletic tight end and the player’s willingness to accept blocking in the tackle box.
“If you add that piece to it, it’s just tying in the fundamentals, how to step, how to put your body in position and make those blocks,” Scott said. “But the biggest thing is just being willing and he has that.”
Croom isn’t Scott’s only option at tight end. Ethan Wolf has started 23 of his 25 games at Tennessee, and Scott likes plenty about the budding star.
“Everything about him,” Scott said. “He is a student of the game. He works hard. He wants to be really good. He listens and tries to take every piece of coaching that you can offer to him. He is a communicator. You need that thirst for knowledge, and he has some of those intangible things that takes good players and makes them great players.”
Scott could complain about his lack of depth at tight end. Outside of Wolf and Croom, he doesn’t have a player who has logged significant playing time in a college game.
“If you keep your mindset on improving the entire room, hopefully you overcome some of that and build the players that you have…It’s about development,” Scott said. “If you have concerns about the depth that you have, develop the kids you have.”
Croom tops that list.