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Coaches, Players Meet With Media

March 8, 2013

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The Vols held a Pre-Spring Press Conference on Friday prior to Saturday's first practice. Check out the videos.

JUNIOR QUARTERBACK Justin Worley

(On fit with new system)
"As Ja'Wuan just said, it's going to be fast tempo. Coach Jones has been talking about "Fast and Furious," and he has incorporated that in everything we've done. Coach Lawson has as well. It's not going to be a 'sling it all over the place' type of offense. There is a lot of pressure on our run game as well. I ran the spread in high school, but this is a different type of spread."

(On experience)
"I don't know there is a leg up. Coach Jones has come in and said, 'There's no depth chart.' Nobody's job is safe right now. I wouldn't say there is a leg up (on the other quarterbacks), but definitely having a little bit of experience to help out. It helps with my confidence a little bit. In high school, we were four and five wide on just about every down. It was fast tempo, just like we're about to run, but we didn't have enough investment in our run game as we're about to have."

(On being picked for the press conference)
"I don't think there is a whole lot to read into it, but I'm a junior this coming year. That plays a big part of it. I've seen what it's like on the field before, and I know the ropes. I think that's about all you can take out of it."

(On spring goals)
"I just want to focus on what I can control and start getting into the system. Also, to start understanding what the coaches want from us and understanding his philosophy, because how he is going to call games is a huge thing."

(On team's hunger)
"The coaches definitely came in and set the tone for how they want things run and not being late for meetings. Definitely, the players have taken note of that, too, and you can see a different energy and attitude about us. You can tell there is some excitement in the air, and we're all ready to get started."

(On learning how to win)
"Last year, we didn't finish games well; certain things happened that we weren't expecting to happen. We all thought we had a great football team going into last year, Ja'Wuan and A.J. will tell you the same thing. It was attention to details and other little things that added up to losses last year."

(On quarterback competition)
"There was still a competition last year. Most people thought Tyler was the guy, but there was still a small competition. This year, it's a little more wide open. We're all just trying to go in and run the offense and get comfortable with the new coaches. We're all just ready for practice and excited to start."

(On running in place)
"We had a walk through today, and there were probably a few people running in place (not knowing where to go)."

(On last year's team)
"We are trying not to look back at last year. This is our team and just developing what we have here. Wish all the guys from last year the best, and they were great players how. But we're moving on now."

(On Coach Jones)
"He mostly talks about short-term goals and winning day-to-day. If you plow down and win a day one time, two times, it starts building and you start learning from that. Hopefully, it'll turn into winning games and keeping leads."

(On running ability)
"I don't think I'm a terrible runner, but I'm not going to tell you I'm a dual-threat guy either. I'm not a whole lot worried about that, but we'll see how things progress."

(On Devrin Young)
"He brings some speed to the wideout position. He is a small target, but he runs good routes. It works out to have him out there."

SENIOR OFFENSIVE TACKLE Ja'Wuan James

(On losing weight)
"Coach (Dave) Lawson has us in there working to drop some of the fat, and gain some muscle and gain strength. A lot of guys cooperated, and we lost a lot of pounds - 10, 12 or 16 pounds. In this fast pace offense we are trying to run as an offensive lineman, you have to be in shape and you need to be ready."

(On senior leadership)
"Coach Jones had definitely encouraged us to lead, and he was just letting us know that we are important. The seniors are important to get Tennessee back to where we are supposed to be. We just need to grab the young guys and pull them along. If we see something that's not right, we just have to take ownership of it."

(On Volympics)
"It helped a lot. It made it fun in a way, and as captains, he wants us to be leaders. You can't lead a whole team if you can't lead a group of 10 guys. I feel like he is doing a good job of getting us prepared, and some of the leaders on the team just need to step up."

(On new coaching staff)
"A lot of guys need to step up, and as Coach Jones has been saying, there is no depth chart. We are trying to find our playmakers. I think it's great because everybody can just start over. It's a clean slate, and some of the young guys who weren't able to do much last year, they get a chance show themselves in spring practice. I feel that all the competition will bring the best out of all of us."

(On team chemistry)
"I've definitely seen it because they've done a great job of it. As far as team meetings and talking to us, they see us around the clock and check us out in school. I feel that they're invested a lot to make it and make the chemistry happen, especially to bring the young guys along."

(On returning for his senior year)
"The first day he got here, he called me. He showed the he really wanted to bring Tennessee back. He really cared. He talked to all the guys who were thinking about leaving. I knew it was genuine, and I liked what he was talking about how he wanted to make a change. I knew I could help. I love it here, and I feel that I have a lot left to still accomplish. I came here with goals that are still on the table. I just felt like I needed to come back."

(On deciding whether to declare for the draft)
"I never really thought about it until people started saying it to me. I was just trying to focus on the season and focus on playing, and then, people started talking about it. I'm happy I stayed and that I'm here now. I really appreciate the new staff and what they're trying to do."

(On the offensive line)
"We definitely want to show the team and the new coaching staff that we're the leaders of the team. We've been trying to show everybody at practice and working out, just trying to lead everybody."

(On team toughness)
"We can always get stronger, and we can always get faster. When it comes to losing weight and stuff like that, I think we've transformed a lot and lost a lot of fat. I know with A.J. and the defense, they work out every day and they set the tempo."

(On confidence)
"The biggest thing is confidence. Back as a freshman, I was just trying to make every play. Now, it's time to be dominant and take over the line of scrimmage. I believe we can be the best tackles and the best offensive line in the country. It's good to know you have depth and experience. I feel like this spring will show a lot."

JUNIOR LINEBACKER A.J. Johnson

(On new scheme)
"We're all excited about it, going from the 3-4 to the 4-3, but I think we are all ready. Coach Jones has done a good job teaching us the details of the defense. I wouldn't say, 'personnel suited,' but I think it's less complicated than the 3-4. This year, we've communicated real well starting off. We're all on the same page, and we're all learning it at the same time."

(On playing inside linebacker)
"Linebacker is linebacker, and I feel like I can play anywhere. Playing on the inside, I'll be controlling the defense, the quarterback of the defense."

(On last year's defense)
"I know we were ready for last year, but now, it's getting ready for this year. We lost some, but you learn from it. Now, it's just going out every day trying to win each day and win each practice. We just need to keep working on it and finish the drills."

(On not practicing with Curt Maggitt)
"I don't think it will be that different. He will still be out there, on the sideline leading. We have a lot of guys. We have Dontavis Sapp, Raiques Crump and Channing Fugate. We have a lot of guys who have played on special teams, so we will have to see who fights and wants it more."

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Mike Bajakian

(On getting on the field)
"I don't think I can verbalize that. It's funny, we've been doing skill development for months now and for a running back there's a skillset that they can work on, for a receiver they can run routes and the offensive line can do their pass sets. With quarterbacks, if you don't have a football in your hand, you're spending a lot of time doing drop technique and mental drills. Just to have a football in your hand and to see these guys throw for really the first time, I can't tell you how excited I am to see what we have to work with."

(On what he's seen from the quarterbacks)
"They've done a great job. In the meeting rooms, they're very intelligent and very hard working. They've attacked what we've been able to do together. Whether it's our skill-development sessions on the field, in the meeting room, in the weight room I've seen their bodies changing. They have the mentality that we're looking for."

(On if Justin Worley's on-field experience is evident and an advantage)
"I think that's something that shows up in the heat of battle. Nathan (Peterman) is a very smart guy and has done a great job of grasping the offense and so has Justin. It will be interesting to see this spring."

(On his involvement in the recruitment of Nathan Peterman)
"Very much so. For us, it starts with character. In the recruiting process of any player whether it's offense or defense it starts with character. Nathan demonstrated a very strong character; he's a man of faith and did well academically. All those things that go into evaluating a player were evident in Nathan. Then you watch his performance on the field and you're able to see a guy that processes information, gets the different reads in his progressions and can make all the plays on the field. Based on high school video, I'm pretty familiar with Nathan's abilities."

(On the team's eagerness to start practice)
"It's evident that they want to win. We talk about developing a standard of excellence and they've embraced that standard. The next step is what they do on the field. But in terms of establishing an identity and doing what we ask of them, we told them when we first came here that they would be doing things differently. They haven't questioned anything, ever. That gates me excited. I get pumped to be around it and it's an infectious attitude."

(On transitioning personally)
"I just moved into a house yesterday and woke up this morning and remembered this press conference. Well, I had to find a coat and tie amidst all these boxes. I'm pulling paper and all this stuff out of boxes. In this profession, I don't know if you ever feel settled. You could work 24 hours and still feel behind, but the attitude of the players has been great and that helps in the transition. The fan base has been phenomenal and that helps in the transition. The chemistry of the coaching staff helps in the transition. All those things have made this transition a lot easier than some other situations, such as being the new guy. But listening to Coach Jones talk about what we looked for in Robert (Gillespie) and the things we look for in a player are the same things we look for in a coach. A guy that's of strong character, going to bring something to the meeting room from a personal standpoint, a guy we want to be around. It didn't take me long to see that Coach Gillespie was a guy we want to be around."

(On replacing last season's offensive production)
"It's hard to evaluate based on the situations we've been in this winter. Not being able to use a football, it's hard to see who can make a guy miss, who can break tackles and who can catch. And when I look back on video, it's not like a lot of guys who will be in the field - in particular on the perimeter - are getting a lot of snaps. I can't give you a strong sense of play-making ability. We have a pretty good sense of their athletic ability from our winter conditioning and our strength sessions, as we get into playing football and into training camp we'll have a much better sense of their play-making ability."

(On concerns with play-making ability)
"I'm not. We have play makers. We just need to identify them and figure out what they do well. Once we do that, then we need to put them in a position to make plays. It's not magical schemes. Earlier Coach Jones was talking about a standard of excellence, establishing an identity and toughness was the word he used. We're going to hang our hats on being a tough offense. That's going to be our identity. We're going to be physical and tough and we're going to play fast. When you talk about establishing a standard of excellence, we're going to play with great effort and great tempo. As it relates to practice and install, we're not going to throw a ton of stuff at them because we want to establish that standard of excellence of what we want at practice. We want to play with an effort level that they're not used to. We want to play with a temp that they're not used to. When we master those two things, now we'll start to add volume, we'll figure out who the playmakers are and who can make plays in controlled, chaotic situations and under stressful situations."

(On dealing with losing talent previously in his career)
"Last season at the University of Cincinnati we three offensive lineman, we graduated a quarterback who was extremely productive, two senior wide receivers, a senior tight end and a tailback who was the conference's offensive player of the year. We went into spring ball and I'm constantly asking the staff, `Who are the top three or four playmakers in our offense.' Then we'll try to figure out - and it's constantly changing based on their performance on the field - how the offense will take shape. I'll give you an example... Travis Kelce at the University of Cincinnati last year was a guy who hadn't shown that he could be productive. We had an inkling that he had the ability to do that and his production continued to become more prevalent as the season went on because it was evident that he was a guy we needed to get the ball to. We're familiar with the task at hand and I'm not anticipating any problems in identifying those guys."

(On if past players' success helps the mindset of current perimeter players)
"As much as it's the guys from last year, it's the tradition of the position and of the program. We are constantly educating our guys the fact that this is Wide Receiver U. Every time you step out on that field in practice and in a game for this offense, you're representing not just the name on your jersey and the University of Tennessee, but you're representing the long line of receivers of great receivers that have played before here. We'll have a lot former Vols back for practice and I think it's exciting for our players to see those guys coming back to understand the tradition that's part of that tradition."

(On managing quarterbacks with different styles)
"The reality of the position is first and foremost they need to be able to throw the football. What we put on their plate in the pass game is the most important thing. More than anything they need to manage the offense like Coach Jones talked about, put the ball in the hands of the playmakers that we've identified and complete the football. That's the bottom line. Their ability with the ball in their hands is secondary. We've been able to be success with diff quarterbacks with different ability, but the reality is they've got to be able to throw the football around."

(On having a starter established in order to pregame for the season opener)
"It won't be that important. Let's say one is great at the short immediate game and one has a very strong set in the vertical game, then it would become an issue. I'd rather have quarterbacks with the ability to make all the throws on the field than what it related to with their running ability. Even when we've had dynamic runners in this offense, I still want to make sure that we are managing that part of the game. We don't want to necessarily put them in adverse situations. Even if we have the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the world, if he's carrying the ball 25 times a games then how many is he going to make it through. It's not a big concern."

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR John Jancek

(On last year's defense):
"You know, whenever you have a breakdown like that, there's a lot of factors that go into it. The kids have been extremely, extremely positive with the things that we're doing and I want to build on that. We're a work in progress right now. We're going back and transitioning back to the 4-3, moving some guys around, we're trying to get more speed on the field; we know that's a factor. We are what we are right now and we just have to continue to win each and every day and get better from day one to day two and so on and so forth. We know we have a lot of work to do but we're excited about it. We have a great group. They're very positive. They have great attitudes. We're starting to get some good leadership. We're starting to see some things come around so it's exciting.

(On defensive speed):
"I don't know if you ever feel like you have enough speed. That's just part of being a coach. It's your job to critique and coach and I don't know if you'll ever feel like you'll have enough speed."

(On eagerness of players):
"I think eager is a great word. I think they just want to win. They're like, `coach, tell us what we need to do.' They're very coachable. They have a good attitude and they're putting forth a great effort in everything they do. You can see that when it's the strength and conditioning coach or a position coach or a coordinator or Coach Jones. They're going to try and do it how we're asking them to do it. That's exciting for us. We, as coaches feed off that as well."

(On transitioning to Knoxville):
"No, I'm not settled in yet. I know Mike is. His family is here and that's exciting."

(On starting from the bottom):
"The thing that we have to understand is we have to teach these guys how to play football. It's creating the expectations, holding them accountable to those standards and really just teaching them how to play football. The scheme will come. If we put in a pressure and we don't put one in for three other practices, the rule base should be the same. It shouldn't be something completely different. You should be able to install and have a rule set that you're going to follow for the future. That's really what we're doing. We're not worried about putting a lot of things in. We're worried about coaching fundamentals. We want to coach effort. We want to coach the details of each and every position and obviously just get these guys understanding what it takes to win. That's what we're really going to focus on.

(On approaching the spring):
"You always have to consider the players and their perspective. It's going to be their package. They have to execute it. They have to own it and that's what we're working on. To have a system of defense that is easy to understand and has rules so that when things come up that aren't expected, offense maybe does something different, they can follow and play by rule and have easy adjustments. You have to let them play. That's what I think their experience last year, you know, you see some guys running on late, not getting lined up, things like that. We have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas and it's just really exciting because the players are just eager and they want to do what it takes."

(On junior college players):
"Yes I do. Riyahd has done a really good job. He's been very consistent. He's eager to learn like a lot of the guys. He's fit in. We're excited about those guys. The thing that I keep talking to the defense about, there's a lot of questions about install and how fast are we going to progress and all those things. The thing that I keep talking to them about is we're trying to develop our habits and making sure that our habits are aligned, because at the end of the day, at the moment of truth, our habits will eventually define us. We have to make sure we're doing things right and take our time with the defense and the things that we're putting in and just like I said, teaching football, teach them how to play and work on those habits every day."

RUNNING BACKS COACH ROBERT GILLESPIE

(On how his first week has gone)
"Coming to Tennessee I knew this place had a lot of tradition, one of the most storied programs in the SEC. I knew all of the guys on the coaching staff, obviously you want to associate yourself with guys who are sharp, guys who know how to win and are respected in their profession, a head coach like coach Jones who brings a lot of enthusiasm and passion. There are a lot of things that factored into it that made me and my family want to come join this program. It has been great from the moment I have been here. It has been a lot of fun working with these guys and I look forward to working with the kids tomorrow."

(On playing at Florida, and now coaching at Tennessee)
"It is definitely exciting. Obviously you never know where life is going to take you. I have always respected Tennessee. I played in some of my most competitive games against this university, so to get the opportunity to come here and coach and be apart of it is definitely amazing. Like I said, I cannot wait to get out there and coach these kids in (Neyland) Stadium."

(On when will be his first time in the checkerboard end zone)
"I guess the first time will be as a coach. As a player, it was tough to get in there. I played against some really good defenses and I know coach is going to get these guys just as fired up and get them back to where they should be. It is defenitly one of those things as an opponent where you want to get into that end zone and that is something you will never forget. I am excited about motivating guys to get in there and being a part of our guys who are just as motivate to keep our offense dialed up."

(On his freshman year at Florida, playing UT here in Neyland in 1998)
"That is funny you say that. Coach Jones was in my office the other day and I told him that story. That stays with me. That is something that you never forget. Those moments; I am a true freshman, playing Al Wilson and those guys, and (Tennessee) goes on to win the National Championship. I'm a freshmen and I get thrown into the game and I had a chance to make a play and on the next play I cam out, the staff put in a senior and he fumbles on the next play. I'll never forget it. When I had a chance to make a play and score, I did not. Those are just things you never forget. Hopefully that is the last time we will talk about it."

(On the most important traits he looks for in a RB)
"You want a variety of different things. You want different kinds of backs who can do different things. Especially in an offense like this where there is multiple skill sets. Based on fundamentals you want guys who are great protectors. Guys that can protect the two most important things on the field. You want to be able to protect the quarterback first and foremost and also protect the football. You have to take great pride in being a ball carrier and protecting the quarterback. The next thing you want is guys that are tough. Guys have to be tough football players. We are going to ask them to do things that are tough. You have to block guys who are getting to you, protect the football when everybody on the defense wants the ball from you and still have a passion for playing football. Those are all things you find out about a kid from the recruiting process and even know with the players that are here. These guys have done a great job coming by, spending time with me, getting to know me, they have been very receptive in meeting rooms. Once we get out there on the field I'll learn some things about them. I will not truly learn everything there is to know about these guys until we put the pads on. I think with different positions you can learn different skill sets, receivers, quarterbacks, but you learn about who your running back is when he puts his pads on. Is he trying to get the tough yards, is he protecting the football in traffic, I am excited to practice tomorrow, but I am really excited for days three, four, and five when the pads come on."

(On what makes him a strong recruiter)
"Winning. Obviously I have been able to associate myself with some really good programs and some really good coaches. That is one of the things, obviously with being at a place like Tennessee the place sells itself. The history, the traditions, and also being able to come work for a head coach like coach Jones. It is going to allow me to go into homes and sell parents and sell kids that you are going to come and learn how to become a man under coach Butch Jones' watch. I am going to be able to go in there and sit down with a defensive player and tell them about the moral standards our defensive coaches have or a quarterback and tell him about coach Jake. Obviously I get a chance to go meet kids and evaluate kids, but I think what really sells kids is the people I am able to work with at the programs I have been associated with to be honest."

(On the relationships he has made with high school coaches)
"A lot of the times with a lot of the kids you recruit, their coach are the biggest part of their lives. You really have to take time to get to know those coaches, because in the critical moments at the end of the process those kids are going to look to someone. You have to find out who that person is and a lot of times it is the high school coach. That is the person that they trust and that they believe in. I just think you have to treat people the right way, you have to get to know them and get them to trust that if they send their kids to you, that you are going to take care of them for the next four or five years."

(On his time coaching against his new staff while at their former universities)
"Well there is still some sour feelings about that game (in 2011). I wont say who one the game, but we went into that game respecting the style of football that Cincinnati played. Their defense, everybody at the end of the play there were 11 guys in the picture. On offense, same deal, there were 11 guys in the picture. As a coach on the other side of the field, you respect those guys. Now that I am here I am able to see it on tape. They play with maximum effort. At times you know they did a lot with a little. The exciting thing here is that we have more to work with. We can get these kids to understand the standard we want them to play at, the Tennessee standard. If we can play that way with these kinds of athletes then we have a chance to win a championship here, so that is the exciting part."

 

 

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