April 6, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Under sunshine at Neyland Stadium, the building of Team 117 continued with a scrimmage on Saturday. Prior to the ninth practice of spring for the Vols, the team welcomed hundreds of UT faculty members to Neyland for a breakfast and tour of the facilities.
On the field after the gathering, Jones was teaching the Vols, about the finer points of football.
"I thought it was a tremendous teaching opportunity with all the different situations," he said after Saturday's scrimmage. "We really have a lot of things to teach in terms of situational football. That is so much a part of it, the intelligence factor that really goes into playing football."
The defense dominated the action between the white lines on Saturday, which pleased Jones in one sense, but also bothered him from the offensive perspective.
"It is different when you are the head coach because obviously you want the defense to do well and you want the offense to do as well," said Jones. "I think we are taking strides defensively, which is the mental energy and the intensity that we need. I will know more when I go an access the film.
"Offensively, I am not pleased at all. I didn't think we were physical at the line of scrimmage. I was disappointed in the way our offensive line came off the football. I was disappointed with our running backs and obviously our receivers have a long way to go.
"To finish out the last portion of spring our offense needs to step up, somebody needs to take ownership. And defensively the same thing but I liked the way they flew around."
NO FLY ZONE
The trash talk started Friday night as senior defensive back Byron Moore called out offensive coaches Zach Azzanni and Mark Elder on twitter, explaining to them that Saturday would be a no fly zone for the receivers and tight ends at Neyland.
Azzanni and Elder fired back and the Vols wide receivers got in on the ribbing, but the defense went out and did what Moore promised and won Saturday's scrimmage.
"I expect it to be like this every day," said Moore. "To come out with that mentality that the defense is going to set the offense and give our best against them because they are going to give their best."
Defensive lineman Daniel Hood believed that this practice was the best the defense has had this spring.
"Yeah it looked like it," said Hood. "We have some tendencies we need to fine down but from an energy and effort standpoint, I thought it was a lot better today. We had a lot of three-and-outs today and even though when we made mistakes; we had someone making up for us."
Saturday was not a fluke for the defense, since returning to campus from spring break, the D has been preparing hard for today.
"It has started in our meeting rooms all week," explained Moore. "I think we have been having good quality meeting time with the coaches. Everyone is in sync with the game plan and the calls. There is not a lot of thinking going on. When there is not a lot of thinking going on it allows us to play fast and that is the big thing right now. Everybody is flying around with no hesitation. The guys are just reading the plays and just making them."
The defense will return to the orange jersey's Tuesday at practice, and according to Hood, today's scrimmage will be a big boost of confidence for the Orange Swarm.
"It was incredible just to be a part of it," said Hood. "We could almost sense it this morning when we came in. I saw A.J., we were joking around, had energy and intensity before we even got our pads on. We knew it was going to be a good day, and we came out and played like it."
HANDICAPPING THE QUARTERBACKINGQuarterbacks Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman continue to see the lion's share of action under center as spring practice progresses. But neither has established themselves as the early front runner as spring wraps up in two weeks.
Head coach Butch Jones has been up front about not knowing when he will name a starting signal caller for the 2013 opener vs. Austin Peay on Aug. 31.
"We are earning that depth chart every single day," said Jones. "They better have a sense of urgency. If they don't, they should have it after today and I can promise you they will have it on Monday. They do, they understand the importance and they are all prideful. They are extremely competitive."
Worley admitted he wasn't pleased with his performance on Saturday.
"I was a little disappointed," said the junior. "We came out strong and really executed in some of the situations well, but towards the end we fell off. The defense had a lot of energy and we could not really respond. I have to go watch the film but Coach (Mike Bajakian) always says, 'it is never as good as you think it was and never as bad as you think it was.' Hopefully that is the case and we definitely have some things to approve on."
Peterman praised to the defense as well.
"We give credit to our defense and love it when they make plays as a team, but you don't love it as an offense," said the redshirt QB. "We're going to get better from it. We didn't think we had our best practice and we weren't perfect today as always, so we got to get better."
After two-thirds of spring ball, the competition is relatively even according to the Vols.
"They both bring different things to the table," said receiver Cody Blanc. "I think everybody knows that Nathan (Peterman) is a little bit more mobile than (Justin) Worley. The competition has been good. I've been with both of them, and to me, it's about even."
"Somebody is going to have to step up and play offense here come the first game against Austin Peay," said Jones.
"I'm not sure what the coaches are thinking," said Peterman. "I'm just going to trust the coaches with what they think and say while just giving my all."
THE VOICE OF THE VOLS
If you were within a mile of Neyland Stadium today you might have heard a familiar voice floating through the air.
That would be head coach Butch Jones, who spends the majority of practices calling out both plays, and players, on the Neyland sound system for all to hear.
There are times players are called out for doing well, and usually after praise from Jones, the player turns around to see the head coach running at him for a chest bump.
But then there are the times players make mistakes, and Jones is sure to let everyone know.
"I like it really," said defensive lineman Daniel Hood. "You have to be accountable for everything you do and you can't get by with stuff. If you get by with stuff and he allows it, it's just going to become habit. To have him call it out, you know to correct it right then and so the whole team is held to the same standard."
Instead of straining to hear their coach at practice, the Vols are fully aware of the omnipresent Jones.
"It adds some excitement [to practice]," said senior offensive lineman James Stone. "It lets you know how into it coach is and lets you be alert and be aware of what is going on around you in the practice and lets you be more efficient with speed and tempo."
"Having him call you out," continued Hood, "is like okay I messed up this time so let me try to fix it on the next one. It's really nice to have it so that you can work on it during practice than to wait until after practice to try and correct it."
Hood has realized in the last few weeks that his head coach does not miss a beat.
"He's got good eyes," said Hood. "He's been doing it a while and probably has seen it all, so he knows exactly what to look for."
TAKING A STEP BACKButch Jones has been clear since his arrival that he wants the Vols to be a player-led team. The evolution of players leading players continued on Saturday as Jones and his staff allowed the players more autonomy.
"Coach Bajakian came over to us and told us he was going to be a quiet coach today," said Worley. "He was not going to be loud and vocal because he is going to be in the booth when we are playing in a game situation.
"Coach Bajakian did a good job of staying out of the way and just giving us some teaching points here and there. There was never a big, vocal point in practice. He was on the headset, Coach Azzanni was calling plays in the huddle to run on the field."
Heading into the scrimmage at Neyland, Jones vowed to the players to allow them more control as they are the ones on the field who will have to execute come fall.
"I feel like there were times when we needed more from the guys on the field," said center James Stone. "But the coaches held true to what they were saying. They stayed out of it and they left it to the players to dig ourselves out of a rut."
Tight end Brendan Downs agreed with Stone as Tennessee moves closer to game-type situations.
"That is a big part of the scrimmage," said Downs. "Getting into a game situation and also stopping to evaluate and teach, getting teaching out of it as well. That is really important for us."
After a season of struggles on defense, new coordinator John Jancek has simplified the game plan and it has been appreciated by the players as they continue to gain confidence.
"The coaches give us a lot of freedom to go and get after it," said Couch. "The playbook is not as critical. We're not installing something new every day. A lot of guys are learning the defense and comprehending everything. It's just a better overall defense and mentality."