April 18, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- On Thursday, Butch Jones led the Vols through their final paces prior to the DISH Orange & White Game. In addition to a morning practice session, Team 117 rehearsed running out of the locker room, pre-game warm-up locations and even sang Rocky Top.
Saturday's game is a chance for the fans, supporters and recruits to see the type of product that Jones and his staff have been working on for the past few months. They are looking forward to an exciting stage for the 2013 Vols to make their debut.
"I think it's good for atmosphere wise, how we do things, and the culture change," said wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni. "It's good for the recruits to see. They won't a perfect product out here on the field. I just want everyone to see improvement, a different attitude in kids, and a different culture of doing things and tempo; and the excitement around the program."
Along with the energy and raucous environment expected at Neyland for the fans, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is looking forward to putting the Vols in as close-to-a-game situation they will see prior to the August 31st opener vs. Austin Peay.
"We always talk about trying to create stressful situations for all of our players, especially our quarterbacks," said Bajakian. "For the first time it is not just going to be Coach Jones' reel of annoying noises. It is going to be the pressure of playing in front of a real crowd. Putting our punt returners out there and the pressure of them being the only ones on the field and catching a punt with however many people that they will be watching. I am looking forward to that added element of having a little more pressure and a little more stress to their game."
JANCEK SEEKING CONSISTENCY
As Tennessee heads into the DISH Orange & White game on Saturday, defensive coordinator John Jancek is looking for one characteristic from his defense above everything else. Consistency.
"I think we're making progress," Jancek said. "We're not where we want to be, it's not our final product but I see progress with the guys. I see them trying to do it the way we're asking them to do it. We're just staying consistent. Don't be up one day and down the next. Just stay consistent with your teaching, stay consistent with your message and just keep building on it."
This progress, according to Jancek, is the result of the defense's constant approach to improving as a unit.
"Their attitude has been great," Jancek said. "Their overall want to. We've got a great group, an older group. They just want to be coached. They want to be held accountable. They've responded and done everything we've asked them to."
"Obviously the things you can improve on are angles to the football, body position," Jancek said. "The physical part you can't, but you can work on those other things like angles and body position."
Jancek is confident that the fans will be pleased with what they see come Saturday.
"I think you're going to see guys running to the football, guys that are communicating," Jancek said. "We're not going to show a lot, we'll be pretty vanilla, but I think you're going to see a good product."
SPRING'S DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS
Jancek was asked about Vols that made major strides during spring practice. He was quick to point out cornerback Justin Coleman, who made perhaps the play of spring so far with a leaping one-handed interception during last Saturday's scrimmage.
Jancek also pointed to several linebackers in junior A.J. Johnson and senior Dontavis Sapp. On the front line, the players that Jancek noted were sophomore Trevarris Saulsberry and senior Marlon Walls.
"Justin Coleman really had an unbelievable pick in the last scrimmage. He's really come on," said Jancek. "Sapp has done a great job. A.J. has gotten better. We really like the fundamental improvement A.J. has made. Our safteties are doing a much better job of communicating and taking charge. I'm really pleased with those guys.
"Up front, Marlon Walls has really come on the last couple practices. Saulsberry, they're so much better with their hands after these spring practices. it's amazing if you watch the film. I showed a clip today of the defensive drills and then them actually performing it in practice so they can see that "hey, this stuff works."
Jancek can see the players' receiving and processing the gameplan, which is always a pleasure to a coach.
"We're really excited to work with these guys. They've done everything we've asked them to do. We just have to keep moving forward and I keep saying it: It's a level of consistency. It's not up one day and down the next. As a coach you have to continue to lead your side of the ball, lead your position and be consistent with your messages and your teaching and it will grow from there."
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, BUT NEVER SATISFIED
With an entirely new coaching staff teaching an entirely new system to players they've never coached, making progress in the allotted 15 days of spring practice was never going to be an easy task.
However, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is happy with his side of the ball leading into Saturday's DISH Orange & White Game at Neyland Stadium.
"We accomplish a lot," Bajakian said. "I don't think you ever leave spring ball feeling satisfied with what you have accomplished but we are happy with the foundation we've laid."
Although he would probably prefer to run two-a-days for the remainder of the semester and through the summer months, Bajakian believes Team 117 will have taken full advantage of its 15 sessions this spring.
"We have a better understand of who are leaders are," said Bajakian. "We have a better understanding of our strengths that we need to accentuate and we have a better understanding of our weaknesses that we need to work on.
"It has been a valuable spring from my standpoint and the guys' standpoint in terms of being able to learn different techniques, mechanics and the schemes we are asking of them."
As for the first public appearance in front of the Vol faithful this Saturday, Bajakian is looking for his guys to go back to the basics.
"My goals are to play hard, play fast and to play with great effort and emotion," Bajakian said. "That is No. 1. From all positions, I am looking for them to go out and execute."