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Courtney hopes to extend

As boyhood college football fans, “Big Orange” stimulated different emotions for ex-Farragut High School football teammates Nick Guess and Geoff Courtney. But they remain teammates — now together on Rocky Top as non-scholarship Tennessee Volunteer freshmen special teams players — renewing a three-year stint as a long-snapper/holder combo for the Admirals.

As a Vol fan, “I've been coming to the games ... almost every home game my whole life,” said Guess, a long-snapper who graduated FHS last December to participate in spring practice. “I never thought I'd actually have a chance to play D-One college football.

“But here I am.”

Courtney, a freshman holder and 2006 FHS graduate, is battling for the No. 2 position behind returning holder Casey Woods, a senior.

“Actually, to be honest, I kinda liked Clemson when I went down there with my dad (FHS football head coach Eddie Courtney),” Courtney said. “I saw ’em play against Florida State. And just to see ’em run down the hill [pre-game “rubbing the rock” ritual] is pretty cool. I liked them in high school.”

As for playing major college football, “Growing up I really didn't imagine that it could be me, but in high school once I saw some of those other guys coming over here and getting a chance to play here, I said ‘that's something I could do,’” Courtney said in reference to former UT holders, and ex-Admirals, Benson Scott and Seth Reagan.

“I talked to Seth Reagan, I've seen him a couple of times this off-season. He was telling me what it was like to hold here in front of one hundred and seven thousand fans.”

It’s a common cliché in football: The only way a long-snapper or holder makes news is to make a mistake. “I just try to focus on the good things, I don't think about messing up too much,” Courtney said. “It is a lot of responsibility that fans don't all the time realize.

“Most of the time the blame goes to the kicker, but sometimes when they miss it's our fault or the snapper’s fault.”

As for nuts and bolts, “It's all about getting a rhythm with your snapper and your kicker, and know your kicker and know how he likes the ball to be placed when he's kicking it,” Courtney said. “It's pretty much about getting a relationship with those guys.”

Courtney, 18, said he's learning the different “relationships” with all Vol placekickers, including former Bearden Bulldog Britton Colquitt, still in the mix to for double duty as punter and placekicker.

“Some guys are quicker to the ball than other guys, so you know you kinda have to rush it — or slow it down,” Courtney said.

As opposed to holding in high school, “Here in college there's no margin for error,” Courtney said. “If you miss a spot by just a little bit it'll send a kick way off to the right or way off to the left or whatever. In high school you had a big platform to set it on.”

Guess, 18, a UT student less than three months after his standout play on both sides of the ball for FHS last fall, entered spring practice as No. 3 on the long snapper depth chart and is “definitely the rookie” of the top three.

“Coach [Phillip] Fulmer asked me to come up here early over the summer, so I just had to go to my guidance teacher so I could change my schedule,” Guess said, adding “it's possible” he could get the job this fall with no starter returning.

“It just depends on how much better I get,” he added. “I need to make my snaps faster and be able to step back and block, and get off my blocks and get downfield.”

Overall, “I need to get stronger to get out on the field,” Guess said, adding that during drills “I've had a lot of practice against guys of [Division 1] caliber.”

As for the entire UT experience, Guess said, “It's a little bit intimidating, but it's more exciting.”


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