Five Things I Learned From Talking to Tennessee’s Players

John Kelly is confident entering the season

Close to 30 Tennessee football players were made available during Tennessee’s football media day on Sunday.

It was a chance to sit down for extended periods of time with almost every key contributor on the team, something that happens less than a handful of times each year.

Here are five things I learned after being able to talk to several of Tennessee’s football players as they get ready for the start of the 2017 season.

1. John Kelly still believes he’s the best running back in the SEC

After being reminded that Kelly went on record on The SEC Network during the offseason that he believes he’s the best running back in the SEC, Kelly replied, “You’re damn right. You’re right. Of course, I do.”

Kelly is confident in himself, and after his performance last season, he should be.

Kelly ran for 630 yards on 98 carries last season, an average of 6.4 yards per carry. The Vols will hope to see more production like that from their junior running back this season.

2. Jarrett Guarantano needs to soften some of his passes

Wide receiver Marquez Callaway said both Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano have a “rocket for an arm,” but Dormady knows how to put touch on the ball.

“Jarrett likes to break receivers hands coming across the middle for slants,” Callaway said.

I asked Callaway if he’s talked to Guarantano about adding a little touch to his passes.

“All of us have,” Callaway said. “Trust me, all of us – receivers, tight ends, everybody. But he knows and he’s been working on that.”

3. Dormady is really tired of hearing that he can’t run

Dormady rolled his eyes and probably should have when I asked him about people questioning his running ability.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words anymore,” Dormady said. “I think it’s just kind of a stigma around me. I feel like one of my strengths is definitely throwing the ball, always has been. … I think I can get the job done no matter what it is.”

4. Rashaan Gaulden is noticeably bigger this fall

Defensive back Rashaan Gaulden praised the work of new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson.

Gaulden explained the physical difference he sees in himself after working out in Gullickson’s program during the offseason.

“Last year I was probably 182 pounds during the season,” Gaulden said. “Right now I’m probably 195 pounds … definitely telling the difference.”

5. Jauan Jennings hears about his touchdowns against Florida and Georgia every day

Wide receiver Jennings became a very popular man in Knoxville last year when he beat Florida cornerback Teez Tabor for a long touchdown and then helped the Vols beat Georgia with a Hail Mary catch in Athens, Ga.

Those are two players that will always stand out in Tennessee football history.

“I’d say every day I see something pop up about (Teez) Tabor or the Hail Mary catch,” Jennings said.

And while Jennings is proud of the plays, he’s ready to move onto the 2017 season.

“I’m quickly off of it,” he said. “I’m too ready for this year. That’s too far away. We’ve got less than three weeks before we open up for 2017 so that play (against Florida) was great and it was fun, but it’s on to the next.”