March 21, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Day six of spring practice for the Vols marked the final practice before spring break and a vacation of sorts for the team and the coaching staff.
With the excitement of spring break around the corner, teams can likely be seen taking the day off, but the Vols were working as hard as ever.
"I thought they had good focus and energy," said defensive coordinator John Jancek. "They were excited. I addressed that before practice. They came out and did a pretty good job."
With the early start to spring camp, the coaches wanted the team to get adjusted, and quickly, to the new tempo of the offense. By starting early, the coaches' expectations were also set early.
"You are going to have a week off no matter what," said Jancek. "We thought it was going to be up and get six practices under our belt, get these guys going in the right direction and then come back and finish it with nine more. We started to learn how to practice. We're not where we want to be but we are taking strides. We've just got to come back and pick up where we've left off."
Spring break will be somewhat a test for these Vols.
"It's going to be a test on the maturity of our football team," said Jancek. If they go out and don't do anything that tells us their level of commitment. If they go on Spring Break and they continue to work out and train and make that a priority for them, then we know we've got something to be excited about. If not, then we've got to continue to educate them."
Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian is already looking forward 10 days when the Vols will return to the gridiron.
"The next step is to shake off the rust from spring break, continue to improve in the effort and tempo parts of the game, but now we'll be a little more aggressive with our install," said Bajakian.
"We're focusing on effort," continued Bajakian. "We're focusing on technique. We're focusing on tempo. Once we have those three things under control, now we can focus on X's and O's."
ESTABLISHING DEPTHNot only is the entire coaching staff and system new, but with only five returning starters, the Big Orange offense is filled with new faces.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian is tasked with establishing the starting 11, as well as looking to develop depth at every slot.
"We're always trying to establish depth and competition at every position," said Bajakian. "The whole program is built on competition every day. You're never satisfied with where you are from a competition or depth standpoint."
"It's a developmental process that comes along with having young and new players in your program year after year," Bajakian said. "It's not the NFL where we have 10-year veterans. We have new faces in our program every single year."
While that may be the case, Bajakian and his staff are pleased with the effort and willingness to learn that the offense has shown through six practices.
"I am extremely happy with the approach our entire team has taken," said Bajakian. "They are doing absolutely everything we've asked of them. It's refreshing as a coach to have that. They're fighting every day."
Bajakian even believes his offensive Vols would go that extra mile for him.
"If I told them you need to do a cartwheel on this play because it's going to help us, they wouldn't even question it," Bajakian said. "They'll just go out there and do it."
Though the Vols have switched to a 4-3 defense, the focus for defensive coordinator John Jancek right now is for the team to learn the basics.
And that begins with tackling.
"You've got to drill it. You've got to teach the fundamentals," said Jancek. "They've got to go in and watch themselves on film, then come back out and continue to do it every day. That's the basis of playing great defense; you've got to be great tacklers."
"It doesn't do you any good to have a bunch of calls if they don't know how to tackle, run to the ball, or do the things that are necessary to play great defense," continued Jancek. "I want them to learn how to play the game with the tempo and passion that we want to have on defense. Once we establish that then we can get into plays."
Though the plays come later, a basic knowledge of the defense is already instilled.
"The one thing I will say though is that we have a lot of our rule sets in place so anything that we add should make total sense to these guys," said Jancek. "It is not something foreign, so that is why we are taking it slow."