KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- With spring practices getting underway on Tuesday, Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones met with reporters on Monday to set the stage for the next five weeks of workouts.
The Vols will partake in 15 practices over that time frame, practicing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday before culminating the spring slate with the DISH Orange & White Game on Saturday, April 22. Parking and admission for UT's annual spring game are free while a fan appreciation event will precede kickoff.
Select quotes from Coach Jones' press conference can be found below while the a full replay of his comments can be viewed through the player above.
"It is good to see everyone. Obviously, it is a very exciting time. This is a great time because it is all about individual growth and development and really building our overall identity for Team 121. I think it has been a very productive offseason. I think the last time we spoke was Signing Day, but as we know it hasn't been a typical off season. A lot of new faces that have lent themselves, in turn, to a lot of new energy and a lot of excitement and fresh perspectives from the five new coaches.
"It all starts in the weight room and Rock Gullickson and the entire strength and conditioning staff have really done a remarkable job. They have set the temperament for our football team. Coach Rock has a unique way of challenging our players in a very positive way and we are getting the results that are necessary to compete at a high level. We have been very excited for our players and seeing all of the gains. I think tomorrow when you are out there during practice you are going to see a much stronger, a much bigger and a much more explosive football team. We still have a long way to go in that area and that is why even with the start of spring football we need to continue to have that growth and development from a strength and conditioning standpoint.
"In terms of our teams we have challenged our players in three areas: details, accountability and toughness. It is really about zeroing in on the details and turning it up a notch. Turning it up in terms of details with everything that we do from a fundamental standpoint, from a communication standpoint and its all about the details. Accountability and accountability to each other, accountability in terms of the way we communicate and all that is responsible and accountability off the field with going to class and accountability to what it means to play at The University of Tennessee. And overall toughness, not just from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint too. So much can be classified and defined as toughness and a lot of times it's doing the small details and the small things that no one wants to do to be successful and that is a part of toughness. I think our players have responded and I am looking forward to getting them out there.
"Again, it is just practice one of fifteen so we will see how it goes. Another thing we talked about is winning every day. Winning every day with everything that we do and that competitive character that we speak about in our program on a daily basis. The big thing when you are competing is compete and don't compare. I know the first question is going to be about the quarterback situation and to me we are all competing. Every job is open and it will be a very competitive spring. There is no depth chart, we have an organizational chart and all that organizational chart means is who will take the first rep in practice and then we go from there. Again, we want them to compete. No time table has been set on a starting quarterback or any starting position. They have to earn that right and they earn that right on the field and off the field and in meetings. The thing is you compete in everything that you do from the classroom setting to on the field and off the field and leadership and command presence and all that is associated with competing every day."
(On the quarterback competition)
"From a quarterback perspective, it comes down to consistency. Consistency and performance every single day. You can never be too high or too low. Individuals who can manage our offense and get us in the appropriate plays, leadership that is associated with playing the quarterback position. I would say the big thing is going to be consistency day in and day out and competing. I think when you compete on a daily basis you are going improve each and every day. We want to see constant growth and improvement. From a personal note, I was really fortunate to be at the Gruden Quarterback Camp with Joshua Dobbs. It was really eye-opening to me. He was finishing my sentences and I was finishing his sentences. To me that was a challenge with a lot of young players in our program. Obviously the competition with finding a quarterback is that we are all on the same page, we all speak the same terminology and that was really evident when we were in Orlando at the quarterback camp with John Gruden. So those are things that take a lot of time in terms of the communications aspect."
(On players who will not participate in spring football due to injury)
"Some individuals will be limited and they will be determined how it goes. The following players won't be available and that is: Micah Abernathy, Rashaan Gaulden, Brandon Johnson, Brett Kendrick, Kyle Phillips, Josh Smith, Shy Tuttle and Kendal Vickers. We will have an intense recovery program, rehab program, but also from a mental standpoint the mental repetitions for them will paramount in them moving forward. So we have them on their own development schedule and we start tomorrow."
(On additions to the coaching staff)
"As a leader it is always difficult to make changes and you are in constant evaluation of your program and what you need. Each team is different and each year is different. I have been excited about the staff. I think the chemistry has been there almost instantaneously. We have done a great job of spending quality time together and I think any time you add individuals that have the experience that they have, it lends itself to creative thinking, new ideas and new energy. Again I think it has also been verified that we are doing the right things in this program and that individuals want to be a part of this football program. I think it has been invigorating for our players. They have an opportunity and everyone has a clean slate. You are responsible for creating your identity on and off the field with how you win everyday. So these players can walk in and it doesn't matter what you have done in the past, good, bad or indifferent. You have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and the opportunity to be responsible for what you create on a daily basis. It has been great. It has been great for me to hear different perspectives, so I think the chemistry has been good and they are a good fit. Here is the thing, they all want to be here and they understand the standard and expectation that comes with Tennessee football and so I have been very pleased."
(On spring philosophy and goals)
"Spring football is paramount to the deployment of your football team from a mindset, from a work-ethic standpoint, from your standards, expectations and toughness. If you have to wait until August camp to build your toughness as a football team you are in trouble. So to me, this is the most important part of the development of your football team. Now obviously, many faces will change when the signees get here. Leadership is developed here. Everything about your football team is developed through these months, starting when we came back from the bowl game in the strength and conditioning area. I am excited to see a lot of these players apply all of their gains that they have made in the weight room, to really apply them on the field and playing football. To me, this is where your team is developed from a leadership, from a toughness, from a discipline, from a fundamental standpoint. Everything that we talked about -- the details, the accountability, the toughness -- it all starts here."
(On the vast experience held by the coaching staff)
"I think anytime that you add individuals like a Brady Hoke, Charlton Warren, Walt Wells, Mike Canales, they understand. They have been there and especially if they have been a previous head coach or an interim head coach they understand the chair that you sit in. They understand the position. A lot of these individuals I have known, and some that I didn’t, but I was very impressed in the interview process. Anytime you can hire individuals that have great experience from a recruiting aspect, but from a football knowledge standpoint in different places they have been, I think your entire football program is going to benefit."
(On the team's depth entering the spring)
"In terms of depth, I think the eight individuals that are out we would love to have them be available. That is how you continue to grow and build as a football player. And I think the other thing is in this offseason we need to get those eight individuals back where they can get into a full routine of the strength and conditioning because Rock Gullickson has made a monumental difference in our football program along with the staff in the strength and conditioning room. So we need to get them going. I think that we will have competition and will be limited in some spots, so that will dictate a little bit of the structure of practice. I expect our players to compete each and every day. That is the standard in our program."