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New Tennessee WR coach Kevin Beard oversees relatively inexperienced group

kevin beard
CRAIG BISACRE/TENNESSEE ATHLETICS

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he wants his players to feel comfortable when they get out of their comfort zone. Jones might have been practicing what he preaches when he hired receivers coach Kevin Beard.

Examine Jones’ new hires and you’ll find Brady Hoke, Mike Canales and Walt Wells, guys who have been around the college game for more than 20 years. But Beard has been a full-time college assistant for just one season, at Miami (his alma mater) in 2015. The man Beard replaced, Zach Azzanni, had been a college assistant for 16 years, seven with Jones.

Beard’s connection to Tennessee is Larry Scott, recently promoted to UT’s offensive coordinator after spending last season as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Scott was interim coach at Miami for six games in 2015 after Al Golden was fired. Scott and Beard worked together for two years at Miami; Beard was in football operations in 2014 before being promoted to receivers coach. Asked what reuniting with Scott was like, Beard said, “Awesome.”

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Beard said he will be demanding of the receivers, just like his position coach at Miami, Curtis Johnson.

“He was the same guy every day, and he was going to be hard on you,” said Beard, who played at Miami from 2000-03. “At the same time, you didn’t know why (he was hard on you). After you left, you had a chance to reflect and say, ‘Wow, that’s why.’

“I think the difference between him and me is instead of waiting on them (receivers) to leave to figure it out, I’m going to explain it in the moment so they can understand. I’m not yelling at you because I’m mad at you. I’m yelling at you because I want you to get better. And adversity creates a way to get better. Once they understand that and buy into it, they will say, ‘I need coach to yell at me because I want to get better.’ “

Beard is excited about coaching Jauan Jennings, the Vols’ leading returning receiver. He had 40 receptions last season, including the game-winning “Hail Mary” against Georgia.

“I think he is going to get stronger, and I think after playing a full year, he has gotten smarter as far as playing and being on the field,” Beard said.

Asked if he likes Jennings’ skill set or his competitive nature more, Beard didn’t hesitate.

“I love his competitive nature,” Beard said. “Because at the end of the day, you can have a skill set, but if my will to win and dominate you is stronger than yours, I’m going to win. You can have all the technique; just throw it up and I’ll go get it and that’s how it’s going to be.”

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Jennings is the only proven, healthy receiver Beard has this spring. Senior Josh Smith had offseason surgery to repair groin pulls and a wrist injury. He caught only 13 passes last season after being moved into the slot. He has 58 career catches.

“From what I have seen,” Beard said of Smith, “he is smooth, he is explosive, he is a playmaker. He catches everything that comes his way, and I am really excited about him. He even has a great deal of knowledge of the game.”

Beard said he wants his receivers to learn multiple positions.

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