April 4, 2013
KNOXVILLE -- As Team 117 dives back into practice, the Tennessee coaching staff is looking for their players to exude a level of consistency.
If you are consistent, you will improve.
The coaches aren't holding just the players accountable; they hold themselves to the same standard as well.
"My thing is be consistent," said defensive coordinator John Jancek. "Every day we need to be consistent. As coaches and as players. If you get a little bit better every day, by the time the first game rolls around we should be in good shape."
With just under 150 days to go until the first game of the season, the Vols have some time to learn to be consistent. But they need to use these spring practices to show their coaches that they can be playmakers.
"We need - not just playmakers and not just flashes - but guys that are going to play consistently and make plays consistently," said offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. "Those "go-to guys" that you have in your offense that you can get the ball to. And that's what we're still trying to identify."
There have been some stand outs early on, on both sides of the ball.
"The guys we've talked about all along are doing a good job," said Bajakian. "Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal are doing a good job. On the perimeter, there have been flashes from Pig Howard and Devrin Young. We've seen Jason Croom make some plays and Vincent Dallas and Cody Blanc make some plays."
On the defensive side of things, it is the veterans that have been improving and standing out for the Vols.
"Dontavis Sapp has been coming on," said Jancek. "He has showed a steady improvement. AJ [Johnson] has shown some improvement. Our D-Line, Marlon Walls has shown some improvement up front, Corey Miller is doing some decent things. On our back end, Brian Randolph, you can tell that he is a sharp, smart guy. He and Byron [Moore] back there and LaDarrell [McNeil]. We just have to keep working. There are some things that we have to get better."
"It's funny, everyone is a little bit different," continued Jancek. "Some players continue to get better and improve and some guys are up and down. We want a level of consistency. We talk about the fact that consistency is the truest measure of performance. Guys that come out every day and are consistent are usually are the guys that end up on the field at the end."
TACKLES, TACKLES, AND MORE TACKLES
Prior to spring break, defensive coordinator John Jancek discussed the Vols' tackling ability.
With a couple of practices under their belt after spring break, Jancek has seen a slight improvement in his defense.
"I wouldn't say there has been great improvement," said Jancek. "We have been working on it pretty hard and a lot of our periods have been thud, keeping the guys up. Saturday we will find out if all the drills and things that we are doing will work out because that will be a live day and we will be able to play some football."
Jancek has high expectations for the defense this season. Eighty-ninety percent high.
"When you talk about a tackling percentage, you talk about 80-90 percent efficiency," said Jancek. "You have to be able to tackle, if you don't tackle, it is not doing any good. You have to be in the high 80's to 90's. That is my goal. I don't want any missed tackles."
Jancek will see his defense at full speed for one of the first times this spring as the Vols will scrimmage Saturday between the checkerboards at Neyland Stadium.
The game will be a good evaluation for Jancek of where the team stands halfway through spring practice.
"I put a lot into the scrimmage," said Jancek. "That is football, when you don't know whether it is run or pass. A lot of times you will do an inside drill and they all know it is run, or its pass. It is advantage defense."
"When you go 11 on 11, it could be a screen, a run, a pass, a boot, those are the things that you want to see your guys react to. And obviously tackling. That is going to be big. You can't be a good defense and not be able to tackle."
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
As the Vols crossed the halfway mark of spring practice Thursday morning, the installation of the team's offense was in full swing.
Walking that line between adding more while continuing to play fast is a thin line, however, and one that offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian knows UT will be working through for a while.
"It's a slow process and today we made a lot of mistakes," Bajakian said. "We threw a lot at them today so it goes hand-in-hand. Our approach after spring break was going to be to add volume and then master those reps. Coming off today, we have some work to do in order to improve on the mental part of the game, but that always comes with reps. Guys will get better with each and every rep."
While the process may be slowed down a bit by the learning curve, one thing that hasn't is the team's overall effort, which Bajakian knows will pay off in the long run.
"Our entire team has [been working hard]," Bajakian said. "They don't come in here with any preconceived notions. They know across the board that we need to improve at everything; at technique, at execution and at executing our assignments. They're working hard. It's amazing, Coach Jones has commented, and it's evident to me, that our guys want to learn and they want to win. They're coming in here all hours of the day and all hours of the evening asking questions and trying to get better."
That appetite for knowledge and improvement is energizing for Bajakian, who enjoys working with players off the field as much as on it.
"We're teachers, that's coaching," Bajakian said. "Since way back when I recognized that my future of playing football was limited - and I recognized that pretty early on - I knew I wanted to go into teaching and coaching. In many ways we're in the field of education. So much of coaching is what you do in the classroom. So much of coaching is what your guys are able to absorb. Your product is what you see on video. We're going to make sure that we approach the game from a standpoint that we're going to focus and improve on details and coach every little thing we need to improve on."