July 31, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- What did Butch Jones have to say about Team 118 on the eve of the Vols' first practice? Find out here as he talked culture, quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and more.
"It's great to see everyone, and I hope everyone had a great summer. I am looking forward to going on a long journey with everyone in this room as we start practice tomorrow, but I have a few announcements just to make sure we are clear on some dates and things that are going on. We will hold an open practice on Saturday August 16. The gates will open at 6 P.M. with practice starting at 7. As big as anything else, there will be free parking. We need to create a game-like atmosphere for our football team, and we are going to try and put them in some pressure situations, some live game repetitions and see how they perform in front of our great fan base. Again, that will be August 16.
Another thing, I would like to congratulate Ellen Renfroe for winning the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She is our tenth winner in the last four years. That ranks us fourth in the country. We are very proud of her accomplishments, and we talk about being one Tennessee. Congratulations to her.
In terms of the summer, I think it was very productive in all aspects and regards to our football program. It started in the classroom with summer school. It's the first time we are finishing up with our second-session of summer school and nobody is in any eligibility concerns or issues. Everyone is qualified and ready to go. That's a great thing, and it's going to be a great challenge starting training camp Friday night in terms of we have another week of school left. It's going to be a balancing act of classes, finishing strong and getting ready for Utah State coming up very shortly.
It was also a productive summer in terms of the community. We talk about being champions, productivity in the strength and conditioning area and the former players. If you look at the former players that were back on campus, I can't name all of them because there were so many, but as we all know, we had Peyton Manning, Jason Witten, Eric Berry and Chad Clifton was back for the first time since the indoor field was 60 yards. It was great to see him and his family and his children. Albert Haynesworth and Jon Gruden were here for a number of days. My good friend Charles Davis was also here.
Our Vol For Lifes are very important and critical for our players to see them coming around the program. As we speak about Vol For Life, also our personal growth and development program, we had some great speakers and developers over the summer months. Adam `Pacman' Jones' message was outstanding. We are very appreciative of him for getting on a plane while they are in minicamp and coming here. Jon Gordon, the author of The Energy Bus, came. If anyone has to read that book, I recommend it. It is a team book, so our team read it this summer and presented to each other on it. Then we had the opportunity for Gordon to fly in from Jacksonville, Fla. and spend the day with our coaching staff and players. It was extremely valuable for us for a number of reasons.
The program of the United States Military and Leadership training came and spent two days with our players. We spent the day with the Knoxville Police Department. It was a great day, and I want to thank them and everyone involved because our players looked forward to it and building lasting relationships with them and the sheriff's department as well. We just recently concluded the Habitat for Humanity house. It is making a difference in all aspects in this community.
It was a very productive summer, but now we get down to football. Our players are understanding that football is a lifestyle. You have to live it everyday. So much of that life style is rest, recovery, nutrition, your mental approach, your physical approach and as we all know, it is well documented that a lot of our individuals will be going through this for the first time. It's our daily approach and how we handle that. We are striving to be the best football team that we can possibly be. That's our only goal, and we will see how far it takes us, but everyone must meet their full potential in our football program. We are going to challenge them each and every day to meet that goal.
The culture is in place and the language is in place, but there is still more to earning that right to win. It's not just hoping to win, but it's earning that right to win in your approach, team chemistry, leadership, your toughness or mental conditioning. It's players stepping up and making big time plays. It's that consistency and performance that we talk about everyday. That's what goes into earning that right to win every single day.
The key in being the best team we can possibly be is learning how to manage the natural adversities of a very long football season brings about in training camp. How do we adversities, setbacks or time demands? So much goes into being a student athlete that a lot of individuals don't realize. They have a full academic workload; you have study hours, study table, community service, three and a half or four hours of football, rest, nutrition or getting up at 6 A.M. to get treatments. There is so much that goes into it. In your mature teams, or the teams that can manage those, are usually the ones winning championships come November and December. It's focusing on the process one day at a time, and again, it's great to see everyone."
(On teaching the younger players how to handle adversity)
"They say adversity is the greatest teacher of life lessons but as they say, `if it is so great why does nobody want to experience it.' I think we have to manufacture different situations in practice. That is why the open practice is critical. We have to create game speed repetitions, we have to create game like situations. So we will continue to do that, we have to rely on our older players. I think our team chemistry has greatly evolved. We had our first, what we call, orange code night, last team where our players put together their code on how we are going to win. Not in terms of the plan to win but off the field, and to hold each other accountable. It thought we took a major step that way but I think it is persistence and I think it is consistency in everything that we do. And again, focusing on the moment, one snap, one day at a time, one practice at a time. I know we all now understand John Adams and his life of one. So we understand that now. I really mean that, we cannot get ahead of ourselves. The minute we start thinking down the road, we are going to lose that moment and we are not good enough to lose that moment."
(On why fans have invested in him)
"Well I don't think it's investing in me. I think it's investing in this football program and in this football team. I've said it, and I'll continue to say it; we have the best and most passionate fan base in the country. They make me work even that much hard, as well as our staff and our players, and it's important that our players understand what they're representing on a daily basis. Our fan base has been exceptional and that's why recruiting is going the way it is because of our great fan base. People can feel the positive energy and excitement that surrounds Tennessee football. So it's great to see and we're going to need them. We're going to need their support. We live together, we die together, we do everything together. That's Vol Nation. And so making Neyland Stadium a home field advantage, starting off against Utah State, will be absolutely critical."
(On his quiet concerns going into the season)
"I think just the overall development. My concern, initially, isn't quiet; it's our offensive and defensive line. Quite simply, we'll be as good as those two positions develop. They know it and our players understand it. Our coaches know it. It's a great team game and we have done a great job as coaches to try and provide some relief but there has to be a sense of urgency with everyone in this football program. Not just in the offensive and defensive lines but across the board. You know, I hear talk about Marquez North and he'll be here for three years. I'm worried about Marquez North getting a break. I think sometimes we're too quick to anoint and crown individuals when they have a long way to go. This football team has worked exceptionally hard but again, we just have to continue to get better. Also, overall physicality as a football team. I think about the leadership, when you only have 12 seniors and we put three walk-ons on scholarship that bring that number to 15. Leadership is going to be at a premium. What type of leadership do we bring? These are the type of things and rigors that go into a long season that you think about. Right now, it's the overall level of health and we're still not where we are in terms of depth. This is why recruiting is critical and they won't be there for a number of years yet. The ability to have rest, recovery and staying healthy, that's going to be critical as well."
(On when to name the starting quarterback)
"As soon as one person steps up and takes control of the offense and takes command of the program. I just spoke with our quarterbacks a little while ago again about the brand of being the quarterback at the University of Tennessee. It's a global position and there are not very many brands across the country when it comes to quarterback play that are more vivid and more out there than being the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee. Demanding that respect and that leadership that comes with that position for the entire state of Tennessee, for Vol Nation and within the four walls of Anderson Training Center as well. There's a lot that goes into it; managing the game, taking care of the football, elevating the play of others around them, holding everyone accountable. That's critical along with productivity on the field, but off the field as well."
(On naming a quarterback before Game 1 week)
"No. We'll know maybe for you guys so you can write about it that week. For us, it doesn't matter when we name him. All three of them are going to be ready and all three must be ready. We found that out last year with what happened. So whoever it is, when the time is appropriate. The great thing about it is, they all bring a different dynamic. When Joshua Dobbs is our quarterback, you're going to see more of a quarterback run game. Justin [Worley] can run the quarterback run game but you may see a little different personality and the same thing with Nate Peterman. So they all bring a little bit of a competitive advantage. Each has their own strengths that they bring to the table."
(On using the new wide receivers and tight ends)
"I think it's going to help our quarterback play tremendously. We talk about it this past year and I think we forced our quarterbacks to have to play perfectly at times. In no way, shape or form is our receiving core to the point where, you know; We want to be exceptional. We want to be the best in the country. We still need to recruit and we still need to develop. But they have taken tremendous strides and I do think the quarterback position will be elevated this year because of the supporting cast around them. The additions at the tight end position with Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf; they bring a different level of competitiveness and athleticism. So now you're going into camp and everything is about competition. There's no secret about it. Competition either brings out the best or the worst in individuals and we need to get to a point where every position on this roster is competing. Just like the wide receiver position; we still have a long way to go. Some individuals need to take monumental strides in moving forward but we have some players on this football team that can catch and advance now. That's going to be critical as we move forward."
(On the offensive line and tackle positions)
"They've progressed. Again, they've had a very productive offseason with strength and conditioning. There's only so much you can do in strength and conditioning and now it's time to play football. I'm excited to see the growth of this football team from the Orange and White Game, to practice one, to practice two and all the way to game time and see how we continue to progress and develop. The big thing is now, can we transfer that strength that we've gained in the strength and conditioning arena now onto the football field."
(On the newcomers staying on-pace to start the season)
"Well, again, it's critical because everything is about installation. Every day is a new install. Once they learn something new, you're moving on and if you don't keep up it's just like academics. There is no difference. You know, you're always moving on so if you don't get part one, you're going to struggle with part two and part three and part four. So that's where you rely on your older players and we'll do a lot of walk-throughs and different things. We've had a company come in and access how our players learn, their ability to learn, how we teach them and each individual learns differently. Some learn by seeing it done on the video, some learn by drawing it, some learn by doing it, some are audio, some are visual and some are hands on.
It's going to be a great challenge for our coaches to try and reach every player in our program. That's why I talk about there's a difference between teaching and presenting. Anybody can get on a PowerPoint and present. We have teachers in our football program; Teachers of the game of football and teachers in life. And I talk to our coaches all the time because it's hard to be a college football coach because there are four elements that go into being a college football coach. One, you have to be able to scheme. Two, you have to be able to teach fundamentals. Three, you have to be able to recruit. Four, you have to be able to evaluate talent and really fifth is mentor, making a difference in their lives and being a father figure. So there's so much that encompasses going into being a college football coach and that's what I look at. I rank our coaches and they know exactly where they're at. When you throw in the mentorship and being a father figure, all five elements, we discuss it.
We have to extract every ounce of value of everyone in our football program and everyone has a role. They must understand their role. It may be four snaps on special teams. If that's your role, you need to excel in your role and you need to understand your role and you need to embrace your role. That's going to be critical."
(On the addition of the two hour rule)
"Especially with a young football team, I think it is going to benefit us greatly, that is why I am excited to see it practice one and practice two. It was a balancing act for us. I know that has been the number one question across the country, how was the new two hour rule? For us it was challenging because not only are you trying to develop the mentally but you are trying to develop them physically. Especially offensive and defensive lineman so the more time you spend in the classroom the more time you are taking away from their personal development in the strength and conditioning area. We had a plan and I believe we executed the plan very, very well and it has been a big benefit for our players."
(On Dontavius Blair)
"Dontavius Blair is extremely motivated and he has had a great off season. He has done exceptionally well in the classroom. He has really changed his body in his strength levels, just his overall body makeup. We check the bodpod, we do that test all the time and he has made tremendous strides. Now it is that confidence in his ability, now it is how he applies his offseason to on the field. We are going to need him to step up. We have who we have, that is not going to change. I like the direction he is going right now."
(On the early enrollees versus the players coming in June)
"You bring up a great point and what was interesting to see was the difference about six months make in the development of 17 to 18 year olds is amazing. Now we view those 14 newcomers as veterans of our football team, having them already completed a full academic work load, the expectations we set forth in the classroom, going through spring football, understanding how we practice, going through the winter months of strength and conditioning. They have been a great resource to the other signees. But when the newcomers in June came in and the 14 that were here, there was a big difference. The individuals who reported here in June, they have really caught up. But you are right, we will only know that when we get on the field. That is when we will know. We will see the retention from the spring, will be very big for us in moving forward, the retention from the two hours a week and our meetings. But also the ability to maintain information and continue to learn more and more as we progress throughout training camp."
(On developing the players who enrolled in June)
"Yeah we have and we say they may not be ready game one or game two but kind of the measuring stick may point to game three or game four. Or we may say we just need to continue to progress and our goal is to have him ready by SEC play. So again, every individual is different and every individual is different in how they develop and mature. But as we know, this league is very unforgiving especially if you play a lot of true freshman. If you look at a lot of good players that have played in the SEC and you look at their play from their freshman year to their junior year to their senior year, it is remarkably different. It will all be based on how they develop but we have a plan for everyone."
(On taking experience from last year to this year)
"I think you are always learning and the minute you stop learning you need to quit what you are doing and move on. So you are always constantly learning. I think it is more solidifying what I believed in this conference. I have said it, you want a mark of a great quarterback? The mark of a great quarterback is the ability to lead his team from behind, on the road, in a one minute drill. That is what makes great quarterbacks. I think it is managing the natural adversities that a football season endures you to. In this conference, when you go on the road, you are going to play in hostile environments. You better learn how to embrace it and the concentration level is two-fold. You have to be at the top of your game. I think the overall daily grind of a long football season. From the media attention and now the addition of the SEC Network, it is going to be SEC football 24/7. That adds to it. The scrutiny that they are under. So much that does into it, just the overall daily grind."
(On preparing the newcomers on the defensive line)
"It is tough but they have no choice, they have to help. It is hard to gauge just in helmets or in skill development sessions or whatever you do. You will know more when you have to apply physicality to the thought process, to the thinking. When we get into our live contact practices and our padded practices that is when I will know a little more because so much goes into that."
(On replacing the offensive and defensive lines)
"I think when you look at it, we are the only team in the country that has to replace both starting offensive and defensive lines. So that is very unusual. Quite frankly that is the reality when you are building a program. It is something we all knew coming here. I think of it has a tremendous opportunity. It is a tremendous opportunity for Mack Crowder. Mack Crowder has worked exceptionally hard. Now is your opportunity, go grab it, go take hold of it. Marcus Jackson, we redshirted him because we knew this was going to happen. Now is your opportunity, you have waited for this, you didn't play last year. Go take advantage of it. We talked about Dontavius Blair, you have paid your dues in junior college, now take advantage of your opportunity. There are opportunities all over the place for individuals. Jordan Williams is probably the greatest illustration on our defensive front. He has played sparingly, he has worked exceptionally hard, he has had a better off season than any player in our program. He is a great spokesperson, he is leading, he has put the weight on that we have asked him to put on. He has had a very productive offseason, now go take advantage of that, reward yourself. Reward yourself for the many sacrifices that you have made in the off season so that you can excel during the season. There are a lot of good story lines of individuals that have worked exceptionally hard. Corey Vereen, is another individual. Danny O'Brien, now is your time, go get it. Take advantage of it."
(On improvements in team speed)
"I anticipate us playing at a little bit different overall team speed. The biggest area where you will be able to see that marked improvement will be the special teams coverage unit. We all remember what happened against Auburn. That drastically changed the whole complexion of the game. I think when you add an Evan Berry, an Elliott Berry, a Rashaan Gaulden, a Todd Kelly Jr., a Cortez McDowell and some of these individuals. It should improve our coverage teams and our press teams. That's the other missing piece that we haven't spoken about.
Everyone wants to talk about the offensive and defensive lines, but we have to replace our MVP, Michael Palardy. We have to replace our entire kicking game. Palardy was a constant force for us last year. Whether it was field position in punting or the reliability or consistency in field goal kicking. That is another storyline as well. As we continue to develop our football team, how does our kicking team play into that? Playing great defense is all about field position. Starting field position for your offense is crucial. If you have to go a long field, you aren't going to be very successful compared to when you have a short field."
(On Marquez North's improvements from last summer)
"He is a completely different individual. He was a high school running back. He really didn't understand the nuisances of playing receiver. It's like a toolbox. Every player has a toolbox. When you open your toolbox, what type of release techniques do you have? What type of breaking points, ball skills do you have and are you able to play freely? A lot of the times, his instincts took over. Now he has had a full year to transition from that. The big thing about this football team is that they are working together. When you watch our practice Friday night, you are going to watch a group of guys who are coaching each other. We always talk about it's better to be a player-led team or player-coached team than a coach-coached team in terms of them being around each other. They have taken great ownership in that. You will see a team that coaches each other on every single snap. Marquez is one of those individuals."
(On quarterbacks going to camps)
"It helped them a lot. Anytime you can get around other individuals and compete, it's a great measuring stick of where you are at and compare yourself. It's like working your craft or trade. All three of the individuals made that commitment. When they had the time off, they weren't going home and relaxing. They were going to better their skill sets and better themselves as a football player but also mentally. The experiences that those individuals had made them better."