Transcript: Elarbee & Garner speak, Vols gaining confidence as 4th week of spring practice begins

Vols DL coach Rodney Garner / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The fourth week of Tennessee football spring practice is underway as confidence continues to grow on the lines of scrimmage in the squad’s ninth workout on Tuesday afternoon at Haslam Field.

Following practice, defensive line coach Rodney Garner and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee met with members of the media. Garner called Tuesday’s practice the best he has seen from his unit this spring.

“Actually today, I thought we took a step forward,” Garner said. “I look forward to going up there and watching the film and seeing if that’s true. I really thought today was probably the best practice we had all spring. If that’s the case, then we can come out here again on Thursday and be a little bit better and then again build on that and be better on Saturday. I definitely think we will be trending in the right direction.”

Elarbee’s offensive line is led by returning senior Cade Mays, who has illustrated throughout his career his versatility by playing multiple positions.

“He’s such a talented guy, and he has played so many different positions, and he knows how to use his body, how to move it,” Elarbee said. “Really at the end of the day, he’s probably going to slide in there where it makes us best.”

Tennessee will practice again Thursday before holding a closed scrimmage on Saturday.

The spring culminates with the Chevrolet Orange & White Game at 4 p.m. ET on April 24 in Neyland Stadium. Admission is free, and gates open at 2:30 p.m. Normal game day policies will be in effect, including the clear bag policy.

Offensive Line Coach Glen Elarbee

On how he would describe his unit …

“I’d say it’s an interesting combination that you’ve got. A lot of older guys that have played ball, and they’re really savvy. Cade Mays and Jerome Carvin, guys that kind of understand the game on a little bit different level and then a bunch of young guys that play really hard and give unbelievable effort and just have to learn the game. They just have to learn where to put their hands, how to step, what the defense is trying to do and when you see what’s going on, try to do that at tempo as well. It’s a good blend. It’s really right now just trying to get the older guys to help bring those younger guys along and all of us get to the point where we want to be at.”

On whether Cade Mays would be a better fit at guard or tackle this upcoming season …

“Really at the end of the day it’s a matter of where he fits best with all of the other guys. He’s such a talented guy, and he has played so many different positions, and he knows how to use his body, how to move it. Really at the end of the day, he’s probably going to slide in there where it makes us best. If that’s at tackle, awesome and we’ll roll on down the road. If it’s at guard, awesome and that’s where we’ll go. To his credit, he has had to do a bunch of different positions. He’s moved a lot and has just been for us, for the team, for doing whatever matters. I really appreciate that part of him. One, because I can move him and two, the way he has responded to it.”

On what he likes about Dayne Davis and K’Rojhn Calbert …

“Dayne (Davis), one, studies the game. I’m not sure there’s been a guy that’s been in extra, especially there in the beginning to try and learn the offense. A great example is he was talking different pass sets stuff and he was trying to play to some of his strengths and change the set. You respect a guy that understands where he’s good and what he has to do, and he plays with great effort and has a great attitude. He’s done a really great job at left tackle. Just as solid as can be. K’Rojhn Calbert one, has an unbelievable personality and is really an enjoyable guy to be around and has great talent. He can twitch and pop and do some things run game wise and do some things body position wise, pass set wise. I think we’ve tried to find the fine line with his knees, his motor every single play. I think that’s where we’ve got to get to with him. But the cool thing is, with both of them competing and both kind of rolling, taking reps. Let the best man win, but also let those guys kind of sharpen each other and push each other competition.

On where the offensive line is this spring, the key to making the offensive line work well with the offense …

“I think we’re in a good spot. The best tell of that would be when we get to scrimmage the second time. It’s always where you make the biggest jump because they get to see how we play with tempo, where they were slowing themselves down inadvertently. You don’t have to be in a panic, but everything is smooth and smooth is fast. Just knowing their awareness. I think that’s where we’ll probably make the biggest jump, and I can tell you if we’re on track or not at that point. If we don’t make the jump then we’ve got a ways to go. But we’ll see there.”

On being a successful offensive lineman in this offense …

“I think it starts mentally. Guys have to be able to process fast. It is a quick tempo offense or fast tempo, whatever you want to call it. The play is coming in, we are ID the front and the ball is snapped. If you can’t process, you’re going to struggle. I think in this league and the way we do run the ball, you’ve got to have wide hips and physicality. If you don’t like trying to knock somebody off the ball and don’t enjoy moving a man from point A to point B, all the clichés you can think of, and have the ability to run block, you’re not going to be very good at this offense either. You’ve got to be a tough guy. After that, I think it comes down to redirection. At some point, your guy slid in pass sets and in the run game you’re going to be in a man-block and have to change direction. For me, can you think, are you a tough dude who can move guys off the ball and can you redirect? If you can do those three things, you can start to build from there.”

On what he’s seen from younger guys in Cooper MaysJavontez Spraggins and early enrollee William Parker …

“Cooper (Mays) has made a big-time leap. I think one in his footwork and base. You go back and look at the first couple of practices just where he was in the run game to where he is now. He enjoys it every single day. The guy has juice. He has energy. I think he is trying to fix and be a better player every day. His technique, body position, hands. Whatever it is you ask, he tries to go work on it and get it fixed. (JavontezSpraggins has an unreal motor. The guy plays a thousand miles an hour. He doesn’t necessarily have to slow down, but learn how to play that fast with technique, with first step, second step, hands. Understand where I’m trying to put the defender and keep my leverage. He is going to be a great player and really all of those guys. You look where they were day one to right now, they’ve just leaps and bounds and you’ve got to keep going that way. (William Parker) hasn’t made as big of a jump. It’s hard when you first come in, but what an unbelievable kid and a great human being. He plays freaky fast, like freaky fast. He is just raw to the game. He just has to learn what to do, how to do it. But the fact that he plays so fast when the ball is snapped, he’ll be just fine.”

Defensive Line Coach Rodney Garner

On the defensive line as a whole …

“They are a group that is eager. Obviously, they are taking coaching, and I think the guys are buying into it. It is a little bit different, especially schematically. Last year they were more near step. This year we are more attack and react. The guys are really buying into it and taking the coaching, trying to understand what we want, trying to play vertical and trying to play two yards on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Actually today, I thought we took a step forward. I look forward to going up there and watching the film and seeing if that’s true. I really thought today was probably the best practice we had all spring. If that’s the case, then we can come out here again on Thursday and be a little bit better and then again build on that and be better on Saturday, I definitely think we will be trending in the right direction.”

On the standouts …

“(Bryon Young) has definitely continued to improve and get better. He takes coaching. He works on the little things that we point out in the film sessions. Right now, he is a guy that is trending upwards. There are several guys that are working, and they are pointing in the right direction. We just got to collectively get better so we can achieve goals and dreams that we have set for ourselves.”

On going up against this offense …

“Obviously, it is going to pay dividends, teaching those guys how to stay poised, how to play with confidence with how they get their feet and eyes set, and they have to be able to execute and communicate. This is definitely going to help us going forward because in this league there are several teams that are doing pace in the hurry up, no huddle. It is definitely going to get us acclimated for the fall.”

On teaching the defensive line …

“I don’t know that I would say it’s about bad habits. Schematically, they were different than what we are. We are just trying to teach them the fundamentals and the technique that is required for them to play in our scheme and getting them to understand how everything fits and how it all ties together. Getting those guys to play with relentless effort, with physicality and understanding the accountability of making sure that they are in their gaps and they win their gaps.”

On recruiting Tennessee …

“Tennessee is a great product. It has always been a great product. It will always continue to be a great product. We just have to continue to get out here, and we have to roll our sleeves up and we have to work. I think Coach Heupel has a great staff that has a lot of chemistry. Everybody is working hard to recruit at a championship level to get UT back to elite status. That’s the goal. We are not going to lose sight of that goal, and we are going to work. I do feel that with determination, being diligent and staying on task, I think we will be successful. This is such a great program with a great history and great tradition. It has just hit a little rough spot. There are some pieces here. We have to find some elite pieces to put with it to help us get back to the level that we want to play at.”

On the leadership on the defensive line …

“We have some guys that are trying and buying in. Matthew Butler wants to be a leader. He is a coach pleaser, and he tries to do things the right way. I definitely think he’s a guy. (Ja’Quain) Blakely is another guy that is an older guy that wants to go out and change the narrative of what his career has been like here. He holds on to every word that we say and tries to do it right. Both of those kids, as far as being older, I think they have set the tone there. A young guy would probably be (Bryon Young). You just see him hang on to every single thing that you say. He takes it from the film room to the field and tries to correct it. They’re all working hard, and it’s a process. I told them, they have to embrace the process, not just tolerate the drills. Go out there and try to get better. Try to become a master of their craft. That’s the challenge. Every day we hit that field, let’s try to be a little bit better.”

-UT Athletics

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