April 17, 2013
(Opening Statement) "Going through the spring they are all very, very important but the last day of full pads until the Orange and White game. Not playing since Saturday, I thought we were a little rusty. We needed a little bit of time to get going. We need to finish having a mindset of physicality and being able to transition. When we get into the summer now it's about really moving forward as a football team. We still have a long way to go but, again, our players keep coming out and working. We keep demanding and the big thing moving forward is having the foundation to where we can make the summer extremely productive. It is all player-led meetings and player-led workouts and we have to have a great foundation moving into the summer. That is really the next phase when your team is really developed and born. I am a firm believer that is where your overall leadership takes place, is in the summer."
(On the importance of having a large crowd on Saturday) "I think it sends a message in a lot of regards. First and foremost, we do have the best fan base in the country and the most passionate fan base in the country. We need to continue to make Neyland Stadium a home-field advantage. Anytime we get to compete in that venue, it is special. You look at all of the events going on with a record number of lettermen coming back for a golf outing on Friday, a record number of former players, VFL players, coming back. That is going to be exciting. It's an opportunity to compete, it's another evaluation tool for us as coaches. And then also, obviously, it is a chance to play on national television. That is a great opportunity and everything is about recruiting as well so it is all about a great weekend and it is a chance for us to continue to prove that there is no better place than Tennessee."
(On using Saturday as a building block) "It is big in all regards, not just in recruiting. Every day is important in recruiting. You win with the players. It is important for everything. We still have a number of concerns that need to be addressed going into this spring and August camp. Who are our punt returners going to be? Can they catch the ball consistently? Obviously, everyone wants to know about the quarterback but I am more concerned about who is number six on the offensive line, who is number seven? Who is number five and number six on our defensive front, heck, who is two and three? Then obviously our secondary, so there are still so many [questions] that need to be addressed. A lot of those won't be answered until Austin Peay, but it gives us a better gauge moving forward."
(On the Orange & White Game format) "We do have a format. Obviously, we would like to have a draft, we would like to draft teams but that is where we are at with our program right now. We don't have much depth so it is going to be offense versus defense. We will have a scoring system so there are numerous opportunities for the defense to manufacture points with three-and-outs, turnovers, tackles for a loss. It is the same formula that we have been using throughout the course of the spring so our players are used to it. Also, I want this to be game day for our coaches. It is game day for us. There are little things that maybe people take for granted, from the way you do pregame in your locker room, the way you do pregame in warmups, the way your team takes the field, areas on the field for pregame, all of those little things. This is basically a dress rehearsal for Austin Peay, so we also think it is important that we have our coaches connecting in the press box. We'll be on the sidelines and we understand that communication is critical. That is kind of the format. I know our players are really looking forward to playing in front of our fans. We need everyone to come out and continue to support. This is really the first public display of Team 117 and it is all about first impressions. That is the mentality we have taken this week in practice."
(On the offense's scheme) "We are going to run our offense, but we've proven over the years that we are an offense that likes to push the ball down the field. But we also need to play to the strengths of our players and I think that is critical. If you do the research, over the last six years we like to push the ball down the field."
(On the secondary) "It is open-ended, it is still a work in progress. I still don't know who our number two corner is. Obviously, Riyahd Jones was out of practice so that sets us back there a little bit. It is ongoing. The big thing is leadership, having that foundation of a standard and expectation, our style of play, pride in our performance and moving forward into the summer. This summer will probably be the most critical summer we have had here in a long period of time because we have to get better. I've seen teams go from having a very average spring to having a tremendous offseason in the summer, where coming into training camp they are ready to go and take off. We need to start fast in everything that we do."
(On spring practice standouts) "I see a level of consistency and I see players continue to progress and get better and better. I think Alden Hill has had a tremendous spring. He continues to get better and better. He has the mentality that we expect and demand. I think Rajion Neal has developed a lot, especially from a pass protection standpoint and the interior running game. Dontavis Sapp I love. He is valuable. He is starting on kickoff, he is starting on kickoff return, he is starting on punt, he would start on punt return but also he is one of our starting linebackers. I think he has come a long way. I think Justin Coleman has had a very quiet spring. He has just been very, very consistent. James Stone has had a great spring. Zack Fulton, I like Ju'Wuan James' confidence. I think he has done a great job. I think both of our quarterbacks continue to roll their sleeves up and work each and every day. We still need some individuals to step up at the receiver position. I'm not anywhere near satisfied and we are not where we need to be to play winning football at that position yet. The other thing is that these 15 practices will be a gauge. Like I told our players when we got here in December, they are responsible for building their identity. We have identity files and they are responsible for it. Now we bring the other freshmen in and we promised every freshman that he would have the opportunity to compete for playing time and you will see that when they get here in June and August."
(On moving players around to play running back) "No, we are going to go with the running backs that we have. Obviously, Devrin brings some different skill sets so we will get him the ball in different ways. Devrin has to get himself in the mental conditioning that it takes to play in our offense, both physically and mentally. He has done a good job of really trying to do that. But that is again why summer is going to be big, not only for him but for everyone."
(On Daniel McCullers' responding to being called out over the microphone) "He has responded every day. He has that quiet look but when I get him to smile, he responds, he is respectful. He is an individual who has, you look at this big body, he is working exceptionally hard. He is the strongest person we have on our football. But it is an effort, it is a mentality, it is the ability for individuals to be able to play 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 plays in a row. In the first play to the tenth play, it is at the same intensity level, the same endurance level. That is what we are working through. He has been able and he has been willing."
(On being eager to see Antonio Richardson out on the field) "Very eager. I have challenged him. I said, `man for one person who has played very little football, all I hear is about Tiny.' He chuckles and he takes it in stride. We have challenged him from a mental standpoint. He has done a great job. He is a football player. He loves the game of football. He is always coming up to me, `Coach, did you see this, did you see this video?' He is in Coach Mahoney's office all the time and he is in my office. We have demanded a lot from him when he is not taking the mental reps being down with Mike Szerszen and Dave Lawson. It is time to get him on the field and see what he can do."
(On LaDarrell McNeil) "McNeil has done a good job and he's another individual who takes coaching on every snap, he's doing a good job on special teams, but again, it's just habits, forming habits that it takes to perform, not just play, but to play winning football, to play championship football, not just being satisfied with putting the uniform and and participating. Don't be a participant. Be and individual who is a play maker, who can affect a game. He's really working exceptionally hard.
"That's just another teaching tool that you'll see flying around here at Tennessee. We're going to do everything to be able to teach with the greatest technology and everything, with different camera angles and all that so I'm actually looking forward to see what those angles bring."
(On whose idea it was to do the different camera angles) "It's a number of guys. It's our support staff, it's Joe Harrington. It's everyone just always trying to make the program better each and every day. That's the culture that we're building here. It doesn't matter if it's our secretaries, our equipment staff, our training staff, or our cooks. How can we make Tennessee football better each and every day?"
(On if they used the cameras on special teams) "Well we did do it in special teams. We wanted to get it on film because that's a great way to go into training camp, but again it's constant and never-ending improvement. Everything is about putting your players in a position to win and develop."
(On what he's seen from this team so far) "I think they're willing, I think they're trying to give everything that they have, I think that we need to continue to demand more from ourselves, the leadership needs to continue to demand more. I like this team and I really do believe. I've said it before, our margin of error is very, very small, but you know what, I really think our fans are going to like this football team. I think they're going to see a football team that it's not cliché, they're going to give their all for Tennessee and that's something that we're working on but I enjoy coaching these players. They come in, they want more, they want to know how they can improve and we're here to do that. We're going to continue to get better."
(On Marlin Lane possibly returning for Saturday) "There's still an opportunity. He has some criteria that has to be met. He's meeting that criteria but as of right now he's still out and that's all I'll comment."
(On who will be out of the game Saturday) "Brendan Downs will be out, I'll know a little bit about Riyahd Jones, but obviously Tiny. Mostly the individuals that have missed spring will be out. You know, it's not fair to them to put them in that type of environment and that situation when they haven't performed in spring. I would think Riyahd would be the first one, both receivers will be out. It was good to get Vincent Dallas back today at receiver so it was great to see that."
(On leadership) "I think leadership is a skill you have to practice and perform every day. There are no off days in leadership. We'll have some Navy S.E.A.L.s coming in here and also we voted on the players' staff the other day and it was voted by their peers and our players did a great job. They were the same individuals I would have elected to represent them. Again, we're going to continue to strive to teach them what makes a great leader and that's something that you have to practice each and every day. Leadership is hard because it's making decisions first of all upon yourself and living the right way but it's also holding each other to a very high level of responsibility and accountability."
(If he's happy with the pace of practice right now)
"I'd like to go faster but you know these players are going to have a summer with what I feel is the best strength and conditioning staff in the country and I firmly believe that, so they're going to have a full summer of training with them and I think our players understand that type of physical shape, mental conditioning, mental and physical endurance that they're going to need to play in our offense, which I would like to come and I would like it to be much, much faster and it's going to be much faster."