KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football is halfway into the first of two summer blocks of training, and strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson says he’s “pleased but never satisfied.”
The Vols have two more weeks of 8 hours a week of supervised weight training, and then they’ll take off the first week of July before returning for three weeks leading into the fall drills.
“Everybody has done a solid job, and I like where we’re at,” said Gullickson, who was hired in January to oversee strength and conditioning for all 20 UT sports after spending the previous 17 years as the head strength coach for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
“I like where we’re at, but I’m more excited about where we’re going,” said Gullickson, who during the 8 weeks of winter workouts transformed the Tennessee players to the extent the team appeared visibly different in spring drills
“I’m still looking for some more vocal support from the upperclassmen, to make things more consistent.”
Gullickson said it would be too difficult to remember all the names when asked to identify all of the players who have done well, but he has been impressed with specific position groups.
“The D-Line has made a ton of gains,” Gullickson said. “You look at those guys and they are starting to come around and starting to pop, you can see some muscle growth, you can see a change in attitude and a positivity in what they are doing.”
Indeed, players like Darrell Taylor, Kahlil McKenzie, Jonathan Kongbo, Quay Picou and Kendal Vickers are hard to miss in the weight room.
Not coincidentally, Gullickson said he did notice they had stayed after to work out out on their own and “stay in the grind.”
Taylor and McKenzie are two of the sort of vocal leaders that Gullickson hopes more players will emulate.
Shy Tuttle, who suffered a knee injury against South Carolina last season, has been cleared to begin running this week and has carried high spirits throughout the offseason.
Junior college transfer Alexis Johnson, redshirted last season with a hip injury, has begun to trim some of the excess weight that led coaches to say he needed to get in football shape in the spring.
“The offensive line is coming along, too,” Gullickson said. “And the receivers are doing a great job. You can go down the list of wide receivers, and you’re saying, ‘great job, great job, great job.”
The defensive line, offensive line and receivers group are three of the positions led by new coaches, something former UT coach Phillip Fulmer said could provide a spark this offseason.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones recently said this has been the best three weeks of offseason training he’s witnessed as he enters his fifth year leading the program.