Vols OC Alex Golesh Digging Offensive Depth
(utsports.com) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With nine days until the highly anticipated 2022 season kicks off, Tennessee football hit Haslam Field Tuesday morning to continue its preparations for the season opener. Three weeks into preseason practice, UT’s fast-paced, high octane offense is beginning to shape up.
After a record-setting offensive campaign last fall, the Vols are putting the pieces together to replicate that success in year two under head coach Josh Heupel. Second-year offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Alex Golesh met with members of the media Tuesday inside the Neyland Thompson Sports Complex and primarily discussed his personnel at several key positions for the Big Orange this fall.
Speaking on his tight ends, Golesh has been impressed with the steps that returning starters Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren have taken this offseason and gave nods to Miles Campbell, Charlie Browder and Hunter Salmon as players that he expects to contribute early in the season.
“From a tight end perspective, I feel really good with Princeton (Fant), I feel really good with Jacob (Warren),” Golesh said. “Feel awesome with those two guys. I feel like they’ve both taken really big steps. I feel like we’re as healthy and as multiple with both of those guys as we’ve ever been in this scheme.
“That next spot going in, we’ve challenged Miles (Campbell) in a lot of ways, and in a lot of ways he’s grown up. In a lot of ways, he’s still got a really long way to go. We’ve challenged Charlie Browder. He has gotten better every single day … I do think between Charlie and Miles, we’ll have a three and a four, with Hunter Salmon in there helping in some ways. Do we have five ready to play in the SEC? Probably not right now. I’m hoping by the time we get to Florida, we do.”
Golesh expects to play seven or eight different wide receivers during the course of a game to help keep that position group fresh. As gameday approaches, he has seen the returning veterans—namely Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt—set an example to the new receivers on how to practice with purpose and meet the standards laid out by the coaching staff.
“We feel like we’re deeper with how many (receivers) can play, and at the same time the young guys are seeing the old guys,” Golesh said. “Squirrel (White), Bru (McCoy), Kaleb Webb, they’re looking at Cedric (Tillman) and Jalin (Hyatt) now.
“There’s guys that they can look at and say, ‘That’s how you do it? Awesome. I’m going to try to replicate it and obviously get better.’ So, drastically (different). It’s easier in year two. The expectations are also higher and the standards are also higher, so our job as coaches, hold them to that standard and then if they don’t achieve that standard, put their feet to the fire.”
At running back, an underlying goal is to preserve the health of the room over the course of the season. Sophomore running back Jaylen Wright was ‘full-go’ during Tuesday’s practice, while freshmen Dylan Sampson and Justin Williams-Thomas continued to impress as their debuts are rapidly approaching.
“Jaylen Wright just went through practice with us,” Golesh said. “He looks like he’s got fresh legs, fresher than almost everybody else. He’s been so eager to go. We’ve been really, really smart with him, knowing the beating that a back in this conference is going to take, but he was full-go today. Looked good, like a cool energy about him. He doesn’t like sitting out, so he’s ready to go.
“Dylan (Sampson), man, like a unique clone of Jabari (Small) in terms of being able to get the ball out in space, really, really good hands, elite vision for a young guy. Like, different than what I thought off of high school film. I liked the high school film – you just didn’t know he was going to have vision like he has. He’s a natural running back. He’s not big, but he’s as fast as any back in this league is going to be, so our job with him is going to be to get him in space and let him go hit home runs at whatever point that allows us to happen.
“Justin (Williams-Thomas), different back. Justin has had to evolve and grow into that role. He’s bigger. He has learned how to play more physical. He’s still learning how to play like a true big back, and his growth has been a little bit slower than Dylan, but he’s shown monumental growth as well.”