KNOXVILLE — The early impressions of the impact Tee Martin is having as a Tennessee assistant coach would be music to the ears of Vols’ fans who remember him as a player.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt lured Martin to Knoxville following Martin’s seven-year stint at Southern California. The quarterback of Tennessee’s 1998 national title team is coaching wide receivers and is the passing game coordinator for the Vols.
Pruitt also gave Martin the title of assistant head coach.
Senior wide receivers Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings both smiled wide when asked recently about Martin. Jennings said Martin has not shown the players his championship ring and added that he hopes Martin brings it with him one day soon.
“It’s everything you would expect having a former Vol come back and coach us especially on the 1998 championship team,” Callaway said Wednesday. “It’s exciting to have him back — his atmosphere, his name, his title. Everybody is happy around him.”
From all accounts, Martin’s presence has been much more than a reunion. Callaway said the wide receivers have enjoyed learning from Martin’s perspective as a former quarterback.
One example that stood out to Callaway is how Martin reacted to receivers running routes as he went through his progression.
If the receiver is supposed to break one way but breaks the other then Martin would snap away because he knew that receiver was not going to get the ball.
That the process happened so quickly for Martin caught Callaway by surprise.
“(His coaching personality) is like a quarterback,” Callaway said. “He tells us what he is looking for in a receiver. It helps us out a lot when we work with the quarterbacks.”
Healthy Kennedy taking it slow
Brandon Kennedy’s first season at Tennessee was just beginning when it was taken away from him. Seven months later he’s ready to play again, but yet again he has to wait.
The Vols are limiting Kennedy’s participation in spring practice to be cautious as he works his way back from the ACL tear he suffered during practice three days after the Vols opened the 2018 season against West Virginia.
Coach Jeremy Pruitt said last week, and Kennedy confirmed on Wednesday that he could play if the Vols had a game coming up.
“I feel pretty good,” the senior center said. “I’ve just been working hard and trusting this staff to get me back to where I want to be.”
Last year’s injury was especially cruel for Kennedy because he had missed most of the the 2017 season with Alabama due to a broken leg.
He said rehabilitating one serious injury helped him get through last season. The most difficult part last year, he said, was not being able to walk normally following the surgery.
Kennedy spent most of his time in the training room and eventually attended practice to watch and learn. He said his fellow offensive linemen often spent time with him off the field and that his mother came to Knoxville to help him early during rehab.
All of that is behind him, and now he is looking forward for another opportunity to play even though that is still more than five months away.
“I feel like I’m right where I need to be,” Kennedy said. “I took this opportunity to get my upper body really strong. My lower body is coming along as well.”