Aug 14, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- On what is being dubbed "Championship Wednesday" Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra took in practice and will spend the day with his friend, Vols' coach Butch Jones.
"Anytime you can bring an individual like Erik Spoelstra in to speak to your team it's great," said Jones after the first of two practices on Wednesday. "It means a lot to this team. He's going to talk about the building process of creating a team like they have in Miami. He's been a great resource for me."
GETTING READY FOR OPEN PRACTICE
There is at least one Vol who is excited for Saturday's open practice at Neyland Stadium.
Senior defensive lineman Daniel McCullers loves the feeling of getting to play on Shields-Watkins Field, game or not.
"Once you go in Neyland, you get into a certain mood," said McCullers. "For me, I get a little hype because it is like a crazy atmosphere when game day comes. I just get a good feeling and I want to play hard."
Saturday's open practice starts at 7 p.m. with the gates opening at 6 p.m. and is free to all fans.
"We are ready," said McCullers. We are getting ready throughout the week. That is going to be a big day for us and all the fans want to come out and see Team 117 so we are going to give them everything we got."
RATCHETING UP THE COMPETITION
Though physically they are very different, Smith listed at 6-1, 193 pounds and North a little taller at 6-4, 215 pounds, the duo both exudes athleticism.
"They're pure guys, said redshirt junior wide receiver Jacob Carter. "They're really raw right now, so we have a lot of work to do with them. But as far as how athletic they are, they're making plays for us."
Smith and North have the added benefit of working under a hard working wide receivers coach in Zach Azzanni.
"Coach Z is hands down one of the hardest working coaches, anywhere," said junior Devrin Young. "He gives you every opportunity to get better. He gives you every piece of information you need to get better. There's no excuse to stay stagnant as a player with him. By far, he's one of the best coaches I've ever had. I'm blessed to have Coach Z here and the sky's the limit with him."
Young believes that North has the ability to come in and make an impact right away.
"Marquez has an ability to come in here as a freshman and manhandle some of the older guys and catch deep passes," said Young. "Just his maturity level, you can see that he was at a different point than most freshmen that come in here, so I'm really excited to see how he produces this year."
"They're two guys that come in ready to play every day," continued Young. "Marquez has made plays early and Josh, Josh is a real good wide receiver. He runs cross routes and he's hard to cover. He catches the ball often, so you know, they're both showing signs of playmaker ability real early in their careers and I feel like they're just going to get better as time goes."
The duo has added some competition to the wide receiver position and the battle for the starting spots is currently wide open.
"We need that [competition]," said Carter. "We don't need one or two guys that are just the ones that are making plays and everyone else is just sitting at the back. Competition is good for us."
"They increase the competition and it makes everyone fight for a spot which is good."
BYNUM BACK AND TURNING HEADS
Back on the field after sustaining a season ending knee injury last year, linebacker Kenny Bynum is beginning to turn some heads at training camp.
"Unfortunately, his development has been set back with numerous injuries," said head coach Butch Jones. "But he is having a relatively healthy camp and I think you see him getting better and better along with his growth and development. You also see the confidence coming."
"I basically just try to mimic them and do everything they do," said Bynum. "They are pretty good teachers."
One of those teachers has taken notice of the pupils' progress.
"Kenny just works hard; he's a grinder," said Sapp. "Every day he's in his book, watching plays and doing anything he can to get on the field to play and help this team win."
One play out of Bynum really caught his teammates' and Coach Jones' eyes. During Tuesday's team period, he had the presence of mind to take a knee after intercepting a pass during the two-minute drill.
"The only thing that was going through my mind was that we only had 10 seconds left and the offense was down by two points," Bynum said. "If I ran the ball and they stripped it, they would get it back. So the smartest thing to do was to down the ball."
Coming out of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla., Bynum had originally committed to Coach Jones' Cincinnati Bearcats, but had a change of heart and decided to join the Vols last season.
So when Coach Jones took office on Rocky Top, Bynum was thrilled.
"I was elated inside when I found out that Coach Jones was going to be my coach," Bynum said. "When I committed to Cincinnati I loved the staff there. Coach Jones, Coach (John) Jancek, and all the coaches. So it was an easy transition."
Now Coach Jones can get even on the field.
"Obviously we were disappointed when he came to Tennessee," said Jones. "Everything happens for a reason and now I get to demand from him and coach him. He is very coachable and very prideful. You can see him getting better every day."
In his senior season, Dontavis Sapp wants it to be known that he is a leader on this Vol defense.
But Sapp isn't holding back his leadership skills for just the linebackers; he wants to help lead not only the entire defense but the offense as well.
"We have to bring everybody along," said Sapp. "At the end of the day, we're one team. People try to separate it like its one offense and one defense, but at the end of the day, we're all one team. We have to come together for one purpose."
Togetherness is the focus of Team 117.
Sapp, who has shone on special teams for the Vols in his first three seasons, is bringing his leadership abilities to that side of the ball as well.
"Special teams is one of the three main things on the field," said Sapp. "Offense, defense and special teams, a lot of people leave that out, but it's an important role."
Sapp has transitioned to a starring role in the defense, and feels like the team is on the right track for August 31.
"I feel like we're moving," said Sapp. "We're not there yet, but we're getting there. We're constantly grinding and trying to improve every day. We're steady building on what we have. We have a good foundation laid. The coaches are preaching and teaching effort so I feel like we're moving in the right direction."
Like many of the Vols, Sapp knows exactly how many days there are left until football returns to Rocky Top.
And he can't wait.
"I'm really excited," said Sapp. "That's pretty much it. I'm ready to get out there and play against Austin Peay. The countdown clock is ticking, and I'm ready to get out there and play. 17 days... I'm ready to go right now. I just need to go get my helmet and I'll be ready."