Kiffin not worried about injuries at WR

Updated: July 21, 2009, 7:08 PM ET
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's Lane Kiffin was satisfied after a meeting with his latest strength and conditioning coach that the rash of players injured during voluntary summer workouts was not from overtraining.

The first-year Volunteers coach met with Aaron Ausmus after four offensive players suffered injuries that will cause them to miss part or all of season -- or at least part of fall camp.

"It's not from overtraining. It's not from doing too much, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't that. It's just some unfortunate luck," Kiffin said Tuesday at a media breakfast.

Ausmus is Kiffin's second strength and conditioning coach at Tennessee. Mark Smith was fired after only five months in the position after he clashed with Volunteers staff.

But while the Vols may not be working too hard, the injuries are another blow to an offense which last season finished 115th out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense. The receiving corps was hit especially hard.

Senior wide receiver Austin Rogers and freshman running back Toney Williams will miss the entire 2009 season after tearing knee ligaments during workouts this summer

Junior wide receiver Denarius Moore likely will miss all of fall practice and a few early games to recover from foot surgery. Moore earlier this month reaggravated an injury he suffered during spring practice, Kiffin said.

Gerald Jones, another junior receiver, will be limited at best during fall practice as he continues to recover from a June surgery on his left wrist.

Still, Kiffin isn't bothered too much by the effect the injuries will have on the offense thanks to his incoming freshman class.

"I look at it in the positive. It gives our other guys opportunities to step up, especially our young guys," he said.

Kiffin said the best-case scenario would be having both Jones and Moore back in time to start the season while allowing younger players like freshmen receivers Nu'Keese Richardson, James Green and Zach Rogers to take more reps during fall camp, which starts Aug. 4.

"If we could get both of them back and healthy by the opener it actually would work better because all those reps that they would have gotten go to some younger guys so when they have to step up and play they become better," he said.

Kiffin said he's impressed by top recruit Bryce Brown's confidence and dedication to both summer workouts and academics. Brown is expected to compete with senior Montario Hardesty and sophomore Tauren Poole at tailback.

Kiffin also hopes consistency at quarterback will make the offense stronger as the Vols enter preseason practice.

Though he hasn't named a starting quarterback for the fall, Kiffin said he will not use a dual-quarterback offense as Tennessee used last year under former coach Phillip Fulmer.

Jonathan Crompton, now a senior, and Nick Stephens, a junior, split time at quarterback with B.J. Coleman, who left the program after spring practice. The coach said despite not talking with Crompton and Stephens about their experiences behind center last year, he can sense the toll it took on them.

"Quarterbacks don't operate well under pressure, feeling that they're going to get pulled all the time," Kiffin said. "If you switch quarterbacks, the cadence is different. The huddle is different. You never create a real rhythm, and you don't get to feel that quarterback."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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