2019 Orange and White Game

#64 Wanya Morris defends against #13 Deandre Johnson during the Orange and White game on Saturday April 13, 2019 at Neyland Stadium.

One of the greatest teachers in life is experience and Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is a firm believer in that. Heading into his second season as the. Vol’s leading man, that mindset has spread contagiously. 

Tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer is an example of that reality. 

Following a season in which Tennessee struggled to move the ball consistently or protect its quarterback, it’s not just the offensive line that’s been going to work. Blocking technique and physicality have been the focus of individual drills for Niedermeyer’s group as well.

“It’s been an emphasis since the first day we got here. There is lots of youth in that room,” Pruitt said. “You look at our whole football team, with the exception of the wide receiver room, quarterback and maybe a few positions on defense, but if you look at the depth at each position, we have lots of inexperience.”

As they continue to push towards the Vols’ season-opener against Georgia State on Aug. 31, the tight ends haven’t been up to what many would expect.

Instead of running routes or working on catching passes, they’re down in 3-point stances working on their blocking techniques. Niedermeyer, who spent years at Georgia and Alabama as a graduate assistant, was at the forefront of those presentations.

Why are UT’s tight ends worried about blocking? In the words of Pruitt, consistency.

“They’re learning, they are learning the basic fundamentals of how we want them to do something,” Pruitt said. “This is perfect for us that we’ve got fall camp right now because we don’t really need to sleep.”

While the Vols won’t be experiencing many sleepless nights in the near future, the task of getting better each day prior to the start of the season also grants them with an opportunity to mesh as a unit. 

Whether that means going out for a pass or working on blocking techniques with the tight ends coach, Tennessee has certainly picked up the steam despite only being in pads for less than a week. 

“We need to meet or practice or do something every day even though that’s against the rules,” Pruitt said. “There aren’t enough hours in the day right now and our kids are looking at it like that right now.”

UT’s tight ends combined for just 225 total yards of receiving a year ago and produced just three touchdowns in 12 games. For an offense that’s looking to take the next step in Jarrett Guarantano’s senior season,  that simply won’t get the job done.

As fall camp trudges on and more dominoes fall into place, whether those be good or bad, Tennessee is working to address its fatal flaw from a season ago and the work ethic instilled in the offensive line has become contagious.

With Dominick Wood-Anderson leading the way, the Vols’ tight ends are primed for their biggest season in years - a reality that Pruitt and the coaching staff are working to ensure.

It all begins with Niedermeyer and trickles down to Wood-Anderson, who’s leadership heading into his final collegiate season has garnered praise from coaches. 

“We ask them to do a lot of different things. He’s done a really nice job, he’s been a good leader with that group,” Pruitt said. “We’ve got competition there and we’ve got to find some guys behind him.”

As far as where they stand now, Pruitt is confident that nobody has seen the best of his tight ends yet - a reality that could prove beneficial when conference play rolls around. 

“We’ll see lots of improvement from these guys as we continue to go.”

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