April 9, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Crying babies, police sirens, car alarms. How do you deal when you hear them? Butch Jones is trying find out how the Vols will deal with distractions.
"It is being able to focus and ex-out everything," Jones said of incorporating the annoying sounds. "Playing in the SEC and having to play at Oregon, some people describe it as the loudest venue in all of college football. You have to learn how to sort those distractions out. You have to focus on your communicative skills, your nonverbal communicative skills, and your command presence. We will continue to grow as spring ball progresses in using that."
Jones is known for thinking of everything that could come up in the heat of the moment in a game. So bringing the sounds of cracking glass and bells is nothing new to his staff. But for the players, it was a surprise -- a welcome one.
"The first thing I thought of was if this is how it's going to be in the game, we're not going to be able to hear each other," said redshirt freshman receiver Jason Croom. "(Jones) tries to surprise us with everything, so right away I just started looking to the sideline and I knew he was trying to make us focus on communicating today."
Jones waited until the 10th practice to debut one of his trademarks.
"I wanted to make sure we had the foundation and the bases," said Jones. "Obviously. it will be a staple in training camp. But I also like to do it when they are not expecting it. It is practice 10, that is why we did a live two-point play segment.
"Our defense has to understand, in order to play great defense the mental effort, the mental intensity, the energy that it takes, you have to bring it every practice, every day you have to live that way. Just like toughness, you have to live it every day.
"You don't learn how to swim without getting in the pool. It is that mental intensity, it really is. Our defense didn't have the same effort, the same energy they had on Saturday. It showed in our last team period, they got beat 18 to 4. You can't have that be a great defense. You play great defense by playing with a high level of consistency in everything that you do."
The players know having to hear the noises now will pay benefits down the road.
"We usually do the crowd noise on the speakers but when you have horns blowing and other things like bells it is a real distraction because we are not used to hearing those noises," said lineman Alex Bullard. "It will be beneficial."
Jones said Tuesday's commotion was just the start. "That was a C-minus, we will tune it up more on Thursday," he said.
MILLER TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SECOND CHANCEA year ago, Corey Miller missed all of spring practice. This year, he is taking full advantage of the second chance he has worked so hard to earn in his final go-around at Rocky Top.
"It's a big opportunity for me," Miller said. "I'm disappointed in myself overall for missing last spring, that is my fault. This spring I feel like I have a chance to take advantage of the missed opportunity from last year and hopefully it will snowball into the fall."
The senior defensive lineman made his presence felt in the team's scrimmage on Saturday, serving as a disruptive force and recording one of the defense's numerous sacks.
He was quick to defer the credit for his success though.
"I'll never be one to say that it is about my general technique or anything like that, it is all about my teammates," Miller said. "These guys free me up all the time. I am just happy that they give me opportunities and I would do the same for them."
Looking forward, Miller says he is pleased with the play of the defensive line so far but nowhere near satisfied.
"We are taking everything in that Coach Strip is trying to teach us," Miller said. "It is coming step-by-step. We are getting better day-by-day but we still have a while to go. The pass rush is coming along and we are just going to keep listening to him."
SAULSBERRY SETTLING IN
As Tennessee completed it's tenth practice of the spring, redshirt sophomore Trevarris Saulsberry is getting accustomed to his new position, defensive tackle, while fighting the incumbents for playing time.
"It's a rough battle," Saulsberry said. "I moved from end down to three-technique, so I'm having to battle with Big Dan (McCullers) Gregory Clark, Danny O'Brien, all them. It's a struggle but I'm pushing to excel in what I'm doing and try to get that starting position."
Saulsberry, who was an end in the previous staff's 3-4 system, feels the switch to a 4-3 allows him to use his size more effectively while reacting more and thinking less.
"I feel like it fits my body type better," Saulsberry said. "I'm big, I'm long and it's easier to read at three-technique. You don't have to look at everything in the backfield, you're just looking at that one man and focus on them."
Saulsberry said he used the off season to work on improving his strength and his reads, but that his main focus was on improving his pass rush with Coach Stripling.
"Coach Strip is a pass-rush guy," Saulsberry said. "You see he has a lot of pass-rushers in the NFL. He knows how to work the ball-points on offensive lineman's arms so we've done it a lot and it's really helped me in my pass-rush game."
CAN'T ANYBODY HERE RETURN A PUNT?
Jones lamented the fact this the Vols' punt return game isn't where it needs to be. The coach considers returning punts one of the 'hardest skills in the sport of football' and is seeking some answers as to who will be the team's primary return man.
"Very concerned with where our punt returns are," he said. "Not only to catch a punt but with 10 guys running down the field to try and tackle you. So much goes into it. That is a skillset where you have to do more than two things at once. It really challenges your concentration levels.
Last season, Devrin Young was the team's main punt returner, bringing back 16 returns for 155 yards (9.7 average). This spring he has seen time there, as has Jacob Carter, who Jones called the team's 'most consistent individual' at the position. But Carter is sidelines with an ankle injury.
"We are looking for the individual that gain a first down for the offense, get ten yards, but all secure the football," said Jones. "A missed judged punt can be the difference in 10, 20, 30 yards of field position. Obviously being able to perform the skill and catch the ball under demanding circumstances. Today we spent 10 minutes just trying to figure out and trying to continue to evaluate who our punt returners are going to be. I couldn't tell you right now. Thank God we don't have to play a game tomorrow."