Vols' Sophomore TE Eli Wolf Surprised With Scholarship

Kelly Lauded For Mentoring Young Running Backs

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - by special to The Chattanoogan.com
Tennessee sophomore Eli Wolf, center, is congratulated early in Tuesday's practice as Haslam Field with a scholarship. Vols coach Butch Jones made the announcement.
Tennessee sophomore Eli Wolf, center, is congratulated early in Tuesday's practice as Haslam Field with a scholarship. Vols coach Butch Jones made the announcement.
- photo by UT Athletics

Tennessee football Butch Jones surprised sophomore tight end Eli Wolf with a scholarship during at the start of Tuesday’s fall camp practice at Haslam Field. Wolf, a 6-foot-4, 224-pounder from Minister, Ohio, came to Tennessee as a walkon.

"He's earned that playing for us and I can't say enough about him and what he's meant to our program,” Jones said of Wolf, whose brother Ethan is a senior tight end.

“He's very deserving."

Obviously, Eli Wolf was elated with the scholarship.

“It was a shock,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming at all, but it’s not going to change the player I am. I will still be competitive as ever. Every walk-on’s dream is to eventually mean enough  to the team to the point where they put you on scholarship.

“I thought it was just another day. They threw me in the “circle of life” with my brother and I was thinking about putting him on his butt. The last thing I was thinking about was being put on scholarship. For the first five periods of practice I was wandering around up in the stars. It was a surreal moment.”

Senior defensive lineman Kendal Vickers was not surprised Wolf was given a scholarship.

“I don’t think any of the guys were surprised,” Vickers said. “Eli worked his butt off and he’s actually going to help us this year. Yeah, it’s awesome. I know a bunch of players in the locker room, we were like, ‘Man, Eli is going to get a scholarship sooner or later.’ It was just a matter of time.”

Young Running Backs Impressive

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who serves as Tennessee's assistant head coach, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, said that the trio of Ty Chanlder, Trey Coleman and Tim Jordan was the smartest group of freshmen running backs he has ever seen. The veteran coach has enjoyed working with young newcomers who were eager to get ahead of the curve.

"The pressure was kind of put on me to make sure I had things lined up for them," Gillespie said. "Even when we were going through the spring, they were calling after practice every day. They wanted to know what we did and how it worked. I wanted them to enjoy their senior year, but they still wanted to learn the offense and know what was going on. They did a good job of watching film from afar. They would call and want to Skype. When they came here, I was surprised and pleased by the baseline of knowledge they already had before getting on campus."

Gillespie praised junior John Kelly for mentoring the young running backs this summer. Kelly echoed Gillespie's description of the freshmen's football smarts.

"As far as the knowledge standpoint, they've got a lot more to learn but they're just like sponges, all of them," Kelly said. "They're just taking on as much knowledge as they possibly can. Everything that Coach G and I tell them, they're just doing a good job of attaining the knowledge that we give them."

Defense Continues To Improve

Tennessee's defense, which lost playmakers such as first-round pick Derek Barnett and team captains Cameron Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin to the NFL Draft, has found several new voices of leadership and it has seen veterans ready to step into a larger role. Senior defensive tackle Kendal Vickers started every game in 2016 and has been one of the most respected returning players from the spring through fall camp.

"I think we've progressed a lot," Vickers said. "I know this group is a lot closer than we were say in the beginning of camp. We've been getting to know each other off the field and that's actually been helping us on the field as well because we know where each guy is going to be at on the field and it helps the whole chemistry of everything."

Additional Quotes

Coach Butch Jones

(On the team's progression heading into Practice No. 14)   
"We need to establish who our playmakers are going to be on both sides of the ball. I have a better gauge on defense right now than I do offense. It's a lot of these younger players understanding that we're getting close now. Game time is getting closer and you have to come out and continue to put your identity on video. For some individuals, the margin of error is getting smaller and smaller and others are taking advantage of those opportunities. By
tomorrow night, we should have a pretty good gauge of where we're at as a football team and what we need to concentrate on in the next week and a half. We should also have an idea of who is going to play this year. These young players have to understand that every rep counts whether it's an individual rep or a team rep."

(On Larry Scott as offensive coordinator)
"I knew he was the right choice. I've been with him for a year. I've seen how he interacts in a staff meeting and I've seen how he interacts with our players. I've been able to gauge his expertise and his ability to relate from a fundamental standpoint and he also understands the standards and expectations in our football program. He understands our players."

(On the competition at corner)
"A freshman that is really starting to step up is Shawn Shamburger. He's gaining valuable repetitions and he's getting better and better. Obviously, Justin Martin has also had a very good preseason camp. Having Emmanuel Moseley back has really helped us back there as well. We need to find our third corner right now and Shawn is one of those individuals who has taken advantage of the repetitions that he's getting right now, not just on defense but on special teams as well."

Running Backs Coach Robert Gillespie             

(On the freshmen running backs adjusting to the collegiate level)
"They are probably the smartest group of freshmen that I have ever been around. A lot of that is with them coming from really good programs. The biggest thing that has helped them has been John Kelly. He took them under his wing this summer when we couldn't meet with them as coaches. It surprised me when I came back from vacation just how smart those guys were. They do a good job of coming in and watching film. I think they understand the pressure they are under to come in and play immediately. All three of those guys have really surprised me by how much I can put on their plate. They are very smart kids."

(On the benefits of the freshmen watching film during the spring)
"It helped, especially with me bringing in three true freshmen at the same time and having to get them ready to play. The pressure was kind of put on me to make sure I had things lined up for them. Even when we were going through the spring, they were calling after practice every day. They wanted to know what we did and how it worked. I wanted them to enjoy their senior year, but they still wanted to learn the offense and know what was going on. They did a good job of watching film from afar. They would call and want to Skype. When they came here, I was surprised and pleased by the baseline of knowledge they already had before getting on campus. They have just ran with it so far."

Junior Running Back John Kelly

(On what he likes about where the young running backs are at)
“I’m pretty pumped with them right now as far as being able to get in the game. Just being comfortable with them and knowing that they’ll be able to manage the ball well. That’s really what we’ve been focusing on a lot, was just being able to manage the ball and ball security and stuff like that. As far as the knowledge standpoint, they’ve got a lot more to learn but they’re just like sponges, all of them, so they’re just taking on as much knowledge as they possibly can. Everything that Coach G and I tell them, they’re just doing a good job of attaining the knowledge that we give them.”

(On how the running backs are doing in the pass game)
“I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job. Coach Gillespie has been helping us a lot along with some of the receiver coaches as far as like working some slot work and just working on the jug machine too. We’re always doing that in between periods just to make sure our hands are right and ready.”

(On having Larry Scott as the offensive coordinator this year)
“One thing about coach Scott is we’re definitely a more versatile offense now, I would say. And we’re playing a lot faster. Coach Scott has definitely helped us with our game speed with just like some one-word things that we can do and it’s really helping us play a lot faster, which is one thing that we definitely love to do on offense.

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

 


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