March 16, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The fourth practice of spring marked Butch Jones' first at Neyland Stadium as the Vols scrimmaged in front of an enthusiastic crowd full of ... the Tennessee family.
Day four of practice was officially `Family Day' on Rocky Top.
All of the current Vols invited their families to campus to watch them practice, and at the end of the session, take a picture at midfield -- of the Vol football family.
The field was full from 40-yard line to 40-yard line with Vol coaches, staff, families, current players and former players who returned to Neyland to take in a day of football.
"It is days like this, the competitive nature in this program. There were 600 people here today, our football family coming together," said Jones. "That is special. There is only one Tennessee. People may try to emulate Tennessee, there is only one Tennessee.
"Let's make sure we understand that. We have to get Tennessee back to the standard and expectation associated with this program. That is on going and a work in progress. We have a long way to go. But anything that is worth building that is going to be around for a long time, takes time. I think our program has a lot of momentum right now."
Some recent VFLs at practice, included players on the 2012 roster who are back in town for Wednesday's Pro Day.
Joining them were recent Vols Malik Jackson (currently with the Denver Broncos) , Shane Reveiz, and Gerald Riggs, Jr. as well as some notable members of the Orage & White from years past including 1991 NFL first-round draft pick Charles McRae, 1951 National Championship team member Gordon Polofsky, and All-American Charlie Rosenfelder.
THE ORANGE IS RETURNING TO THE DEFENSE
At Tuesday's practice, the orange jerseys will return to the defensive players thanks to a last minute, goal-line, winner-take-all stand.
Though it appeared as Brendan Downs had the game-winning touchdown secured in the end zone, the Tennessee defense got to quarterback Justin Worley just seconds before he released the ball "sacking" him and taking back the rights to the coveted orange jerseys.
"I was trying to throw you guys off a little bit," said head coach Butch Jones. "Everything is about sudden change and how your players will respond. Football is a game of sudden change I thought they did a great job with it. It is hard because the quarterback wasn't live. I like the way our players competed at the end. There is a method to the madness."
The defense was not happy having to hand over their orange jerseys Thursday, but the offense will be out for revenge on Tuesday to gain back the rights.
"Today was a down day for the offense," said Antonio Richardson. "The defense won the battle, but there's going to be days like that where they come out with fire. We just have to come back on Tuesday and win."
Heading into the final period of action, the defense had a 20 point lead, but allowed a few goal line touchdowns making it into a closer game.
"From what Hawk said, we got the sack," said defensive lineman Jacques Smith. "And I'm going to leave it at that."
GETTING INTO A RHYTHM
Junior quarterback Justin Worley - the Vols' only signal caller with in-game experience at UT under his belt - is locked in a spring battle with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman. On Saturday morning at Neyland Stadium, the pair heated up during the team session.
"You always hear of quarterbacks getting into a rhythm and getting into the flow of the game and that's what happened," Worley said. "We started getting into our uptempo pace and had things rolling for a while."
According to Worley, the offensive unit actually came out a bit slower than he would have liked to see.
"We started a little slow, but once we got into the team periods we picked it up," said Worley. "The defense had a lot of energy and we tried to match that."
Whether they occur in a game or at practice, a big play always provides a spark. Worley made one of those at practice today - extending a drive on third down with a completion to sophomore wideout Cody Blanc.
"Making throws like that always builds your confidence, especially on third down when they keep the drive going," Worley said.
Coach Jones agreed it was the big play that got Worley going, but he saw more than just big-play capability in the junior on Saturday.
"I think that he started to get into a rhythm, and Cody Blanc made some big catches at the end of the scrimmage," said Jones. "I liked what I saw in terms of Justin and his ability to manage the game. The big thing is the overall leadership. I can see him getting better each practice."
DEVELOPING AN OPTION
"When you have the option to keep the ball, you have to develop and work on that," said Worley. "It's just like you work on throwing and timing in the passing game. We put a lot of emphasis on carrying out fakes as well as running the ball."
According to Peterman, it's not all about the offense, but the decision to give it up or tuck it depends mostly on the defensive front.
"If the defense is going to let us run and squeeze down the running back we are going to take the block and gain some yards," Peterman said. "It isn't just about us getting the ball to other people but letting the defense know that we are a threat too and can gain yards so they have to be prepared for that."
THE PACE OF PRACTICE IS 'RIDICULOUS'Four days in practice and the increase in energy and excitement of practice is tangible. The returning Vols have taken note of the ramped up tempo of the sessions.
"The pace of practice is ridiculous," said senior defensive lineman Jacques Smith. "Coach Jones and that offense, they go fast. Whenever you hear 'gas, gas, gas,' they are going. They go fast. We have played up against fast teams in the past, we played against Oregon and Cincinnati when (the coaching staff) was there, I think they top them."
The offense is studying hard in the film room to learn the new philosophy while executing it on the field.
"We learned a new offense, a new tempo with all new coaches," said sophomore receiver Pig Howard. "It's about building chemistry, coming together, and execution. That is something we have been doing and that's something we're going to continue to do.
"It's a lot quicker. With the play calling and signals, it's just about getting your eye to the signal and getting prepared to line up."
Junior Antonio Richardson echoed Howard's feelings on the increased velocity of practice.
"That's the fastest pace we've ever ran" said the All-SEC tackle. "We ran fast pace last year, but we really just need to get used to the pace. Being able to keep our eyes open and see the rotation."