<Butch Jones (@UTCoachJones) March 14, 2013
March 14, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vols hit the field for the third practice of spring ready to hit as Thursday's practice marked Tennessee's first practice in pads under Butch Jones.
The practice also took the form of a competition between the offense and the defense as to who would wear the coveted orange jerseys during Saturday's scrimmage at Neyland Stadium.
According to Butch Jones's post-practice tweet, the offense will be repping the Big Orange Saturday.
PUTTING THE PIECES IN PLACE
With a new coaching staff, comes new offensive and defensive schemes. Both of which are in the installation stages during the Vols' spring practices.
The Tennessee defense will be installing a 4-3 defense for the 2013 season and the man in charge of making that happen, defensive coordinator John Jancek, has already taken steps in getting the pass-rush happy defense in place.
"We actually started [installing] before we got to practice so that it would be more of a review when we got here and not installing something new every day," said Jancek. "[There has been] very good retention. A few things here and there as always but by in-large it has been pretty good."
The defense is led by many upper classmen, whose football knowledge is making the transition to the new defense a lot easier.
"It is nice when you have older guys that are more comfortable and have heard more football," said Jancek. "They are able to adapt and adjust a lot quicker. Having those older guys with more experience helps us."
On the offensive side of things, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has been taking things slow with the fast-paced offense.
"Our approach with the entire offense has been to keep it simple with the purpose of understanding what we want out of practice," said Bajakian. "Since our very first unit meeting we've stressed it's not what we do, but how we do it. We're going to play with great effort and great tempo and we've really been slow in the installation process for that reason."
"Until they understand the expectation for practice and playing," continued Bajakian, "then we're not going to throw a lot of X's and O's at them."
QUARTERBACKING THE COMPETITION
The Vols third practice with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian may have picked up physically on Thursday, but the mental game and leadership remain the primary focuses for the Big Orange quarterbacks.
"They've taken control. They have a firm grasp of everything we've thrown at them. It's just a matter of executing," said Bajakian. "We've got to make sure our ball location is in the right spot and our decision-making process is accurate, but I'm happy with where they are and how they've progressed."
Preparing for a season is a process, and while progression may be the primary focus of that process, competition is certainly not far behind.
"We're creating an atmosphere of competition or really it's not so much us, but it's them creating that atmosphere of competition. It's a quarterback battle and they're both competing very hard and making progress."
Quarterback is just one position and winning on the field takes much more than just one man.
"It comes down to playing with great effort and playing for one another," said Bajakian. "When you create a family environment it encourages an atmosphere where guys are going to play for one another.
When the Vols take the field at Neyland Stadium on Saturday it will be just the second practice in full pads, but in the spring, every day counts.
"It's a game of inches. That's what Coach Jones talks about. Details make the inches and inches make the champions. We've been in games where we've won or lost because of once inch. We're going to coach that inch."
ON THE RIGHT TRACKOne challenge for any new coaching staff is getting to know the current players at their new university.
For football coaches that means learning about the 100 players that they coach on a daily basis.
For defensive coordinator John Jancek, this has been a somewhat easy task.
"I have seen a group that is eager to learn and I think they are going to try and do it the way we are asking them to do it," said Jancek. "It has all been very positive up to this point."
"Right now, I love working with these guys," continued Jancek. "They are trying to do everything we are asking them to do. They're up in meetings, they are paying attention, they are excited. Everything has been really positive. Are we at where we need to be at? No. But we are making progress every day."
Jancek, and the rest of the coaching staff, has made it easy for the players to feel excited about coming to meetings and practices every day.
Defensive back Brian Randolph has noticed this change in the team.
"I notice everyone is more up," said Randolph. "They communicate more. They seem like they have a pep in their step."
Jancek has been communicating a new defense to the Vols this offseason. And the positive attitudes surrounding the team have made it easier for the team to progress.
"I have really just been focused on these guys and their attitude," said Jancek. "Do they make mistakes? Yes. Are they sometimes out of position? Yeah. But from day one to day two, a lot of the mistakes that they made we got corrected. I thought that was positive."
"It is a matter of time," continued Jancek. "You are going to have to put guys in there, let them have some reps, and see what they can do. It is an ongoing evaluation."