The 2017 season hasn’t yet started, but Tennessee safety Todd Kelly Jr. already feels better as a player.
So what is it about him that’s different?
“The explosiveness,” Kelly told reporters this week.
Kelly, who will be a senior this fall, credits new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson for that improvement.
“Coach Rock has done a tremendous job of implementing power clean and squat, the Olympic lifts and transferring that over to the field is huge for me,” Kelly said.
Last season, in his first full season as a starter, Kelly led the team in tackles with 71 (49 solo), including two for a loss, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble and four passes defended.
Kelly also was a notable reserve during his first two seasons at Tennessee, in 2014 and 2015, when he had six combined interceptions.
But now, he seems to feel as good as ever.
“This year has been the most improved year in the time I’ve been here,” Kelly said. “In terms of how the weight room transitions to the football field.”
And Kelly already has seen Gullickson’s effect on his teammates, too.
“It’s only been four practices, but I’ve seen some people take some hits, and some people give some hits out, and people exploding out of breaks and block destruction,” he said.
Gullickson was hired by Tennessee in January. The Vols went without a strength and conditioning coach during the 2016 season after coach Butch Jones parted ways with Dave Lawson in April 2016.
Tennessee opens the season against Georgia Tech on Monday, Sept. 4 at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
(You can follow Kevin Connell on Twitter @_KevinConnell)
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