Now in his first spring in Knoxville, Tennessee receivers coach Kevin Beard is not only familiarizing himself with the program, but the program is also getting to know him.

Taking over for Zach Azzanni, now receivers coach for the Chicago Bears, Beard has turned some heads on the practice field this spring. Most notably by wearing cleats and occasionally running routes along with the players, showing them how he wants specific drills run. It’s a unique tradition, but one Beard has been doing his entire coaching career following his playing career as a Miami Hurricane receiver from 1999-2003.

Following the team’s Thursday practice, Beard fielded questions from the media. Among the topics discussed was his use of the cleats in practice.

“I’m them, I’m just an older version of them,” Beard said. “Once you get on their level, and they see you are on their level, they can trust you. They lower their guard down and now that they trust you and let you in, now you bring them up to your level, and that’s how you reel them in.”

While Beard has been in the same shoes as the Tennessee receivers, his playing career included four trips to BCS (now called New Year’s Six) Bowl games. Beard had the unique experience of being on a team that played in each and every BCS Bowl game, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl. If getting to his level indicates that kind of success, the young receivers on Tennessee’s roster would be wise to listen to his advice.

Among those buying into the new receivers coach is junior Jauan Jennings. Beard noted just how far the rest of the team could go if it follows Jennings’ lead.

“He brings everyone along. Before I even had a chance to get on the field, watching him on film, I saw that he’s a championship football player,” Beard said. “Right now, he’s giving us everything he has. Ultimately, he’s going to take us to a championship caliber team.”

Provided, of course, that the rest of the team follows suit and buys into the level that Jennings has already done.

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