VOL REPORT: Offensive Coaches Meet Media

Dec. 20, 2012

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Tennessee's offensive coaches met with the media on Wednesday. Check out what they had to say.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian

(On his first week at Tennessee)
"It has been a whirlwind since we have arrived 10 days ago on Sunday. It is a great environment, obviously they are passionate about their football and we are excited about that. We love being in an environment where football is an important part of everyday activity."

(On the current UT players)
"The few players that I have met, it was finals week when we got here so some of them had already gone, but I like what I have seen so far. I haven't delved too deeply into the video to get a good sense of where they are athletically, but the personality, and frankly that is as important as their athletic ability, is impressive. Guys want to be successful. They have come in asking how and what to expect. They want to work hard, they want to work well and those are the types of guys you are excited about working with."

(On the offensive system)
"We will mold the system to the strengths of our personnel that is our bottom line. We are not going to try to be something we are not. If our strength is throwing the ball, we will do that. If it is running the ball, we will do that. Schematically, if we block zone better than we block power we will do that. Or vice versa. We will find out what our guys do well and mold the system to them. The same goes to recruiting. We are going to recruit the best players and mold the system around those players. That is the approach we take."

(On recruiting and the environment)
"It is relationships. Developing relationships with recruits, with our players, so much of what we do is based on the family environment and getting to know our players closely. We want to get to know our recruits so they know where we are coming from and the type of environment we are trying to create. The difficulty is that we are in a dead period where contact with recruits is limited so you explore all those avenues you can, reaching out to coaches. Number one we have to build those relationships with our current team, with recruits, that will help give us the foundation."

(On his relationship with Butch Jones)
"You have heard the phrase players coach and that is definitely accurate. I've loved working with him, I've been coaching around him since 2002-03, when he was the offensive coordinator and I coached quarterbacks. At that time, he always asks for input. He wasn't one of those guys as a coordinator that locked himself in his office. and came out hours later with the game plan and said `this is what we're doing.' He always wanted to know `What do you think?' or if you came to him and said, `Coach, I want to do this," and he'd ask you why, and as long as you had a good reason, he was all in. When he asked me to come back in 2007, to be the coordinator, I didn't even ask questions, I just knew that I was going to enjoy that working relationship. He's given us the opportunity to coach our positions and our side of the ball. He focuses his attention on being what he calls the `attitude coach.' He coaches the attitude and mentality of our payers. He is the motivator, and does a great job of it. That allows us to focus on the x's and o's, the techniques, and the fundamentals. He has a great grasp of that and a lot of input on that, but he loves the motivational part of the game and that makes my job easier as a coordinator and as a positional coach. It makes it easier when you have a head coach that is motivating your players on a daily basis."

(On the up-tempo offense)
"In our first stint at Central Michigan when he was the coordinator and I was the quarterbacks coach we utilized the tempo offense at that point. We moved quickly. He went on to West Virginia with Coach [Rich] Rodriguez, that is when I went to the Chicago Bears, but I had always seen the advantages of up tempo. I knew when we reunited, three years later that whatever we were doing we were going to be going as fast as we could. ... I think coming into a system that has utilized a no-huddle offense is advantageous, there is a certain degree of familiarity with the communication process and procedure. That is an important part of the whole thing. Once we hit spring ball, we will spend as much time coaching tempo and effort as we will scheme or anything else for at least the first half of spring ball. Once we get them used to volume to the offense. Again it is the tempo, the effort and playing for one another that will lead to success."

Tight Ends/Special Teams Coach Mark Elder

(On the last few weeks)
"It's been fast, it's been very fast. I got a call on Saturday that I was coming down and then a call on Sunday that I need to pack permanently, so I had my wife throwing as much stuff in a bag as we possibly could because had about an hour and a half to be able to get to the airport to make our flight. We came down on Sunday, did recruiting all day as far as watching film, all day Sunday until late at night and then hit the road on Monday morning. It's been a whirlwind, but it has been great."

(On recruiting)
"We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to make up, as far as recruiting for both 2013 and 2014. That's been our focus thus far, is making sure that we are ahead of the game in recruiting, know who we are going after and working hard to continue to build those relationships."

(On leaving his hometown)
"Certainly growing up in Cincinnati, that is a special place for me, but this opportunity is just tremendous. Having recruited the state, having been here the year before for the game, I knew how special Tennessee was and I am ecstatic to be here."

(On transitioning from selling one school to another)
"It's certainly a transition, but this is such an easy school to sell. Who wouldn't want to come here? This is the greatest place in the country. As far as that is concerned, it is an easy transition because this is such a special place."

(On having coached multiple positions in his career)
"It has been great. It is something that I really enjoy, having the opportunity to work with different positions. It makes you a more complete coach and I think it allows you to bring different things to the table. Having been a defensive coach for a long time, when I made the transition over to offense I brought a different perspective and a different set of eyes to things. I think that is a positive thing to give you a different perspective, whereas if you have only worked on one side of the football you can be locked in to that. I think I bring that other perspective, the flip-side of what to expect."

Running Backs Coach Jay Graham

(On the new staff)
"It's a change, but I'm used to it. This is a good group of guys that have come in. I've enjoyed being around them and I've enjoyed being around Coach Jones. There are no egos; they work hard, blue-collar coaches. They understand recruiting just from watching tape and understand what they're looking for. I've really just been soaking in all the information."

(On the emphasis of recruiting the state of Tennessee)
"I think it's a great idea. Just to make sure we cover the state as well as we possibly can. Every coach in this state should have a great relationship with the University of Tennessee and that comes from the assistant coaches."

(On the meeting with the former letterwinners)
"It was a great meeting. You're in a room with a lot of former players that have won a lot of games. It was great to see. We just talked about how important it was to have our players hear how important it is as far as carrying on the tradition. It's one thing to have pictures up on the wall of these guys, but when they can see them in person and talk with them that's an influence that they can have on the players. That's how I understood and that's how I started to understand what the tradition meant."

(On Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane)
"They finished the season better than they started. We've got to continue to build on what we finished with. I think that's the most important thing. Now they know me. They understand what I expect. We spent the whole spring working on what to expect from me so now we can work on other things and I think that's going to help us."

(On working with Coach Jones)
"I just think he's personable. People like spending time with him. You walk away saying, `I really like this guy.' That's how I felt when I met him. It has been good to be around him and see how he does things. What he likes, what he doesn't like... So it's good to spend time with him."

Offensive Line Coach Don Mahoney

(On coming into a good situation)
"There are guys who have played a lot of football together and they have been through a lot. It was very, very positive last week sitting down and meeting with them. They were very engaging and had good eye contact. This week I've been in touch with the parents. I am reaching out to the parents, calling them and introducing myself. You would be surprised what you can find out about from the parents, some things of interest about that person. I know this, we have to keep building this relationship because, as I have told them, there is something different about each one of them. I have to get the right buttons pushed to get them to play at their best. As a room full of 15 guys, there are different personalities and we all have to be on the same page. They have been through a lot together and they are willing to embrace this change. We have to develop depth. We have to have some guys step up and play at an even higher level than they did last year. That is one of the challenges that I am going to present to them. I hear positive things and I haven't really sunk into the film yet, but let's step the game up even more. I know that they are going to take off running with that."

(On having a coaching staff that has had past success)
"I think it is very important because, obviously right off the bat, just the impression that it puts on the kids to say, `Hey, these guys have been there, they have done that. They have been in big games, they have been in the big arenas, they have played for championships and not just played for championships but in some cases repeat as champions.' The biggest thing for the guys on the staff who have been with Coach Jones, we know what his expectations are and have seen him work. In six years, from the weight room to Coach Jones to all of it, I have seen it work. It will be put in place."

(On installing a new system)
"I met with Tiny Richardson a little bit and we talked through some things. That is probably going to be the [biggest] adjustment the kids are going to have to make because, at any time, the calls, the actual terminology is going to be different. Understand this as well, I know that they have now been through three line coaches and from my experience in going through this with Coach Jones from Central [Michigan] to start out with to Cincinnati to here, I'm willing to do what's best for us. If I even can tweak some things that helps it make more sense for them. I'm not about to create confusion and I told them that. That would be foolish to do that. Quite frankly, after so many years, sometimes as a coach you don't want to keep staying the same. You always have to work to get better, so I'm willing to tweak some things a little bit. I want to make what is best for them as far as the learning part. Like Coach Jones always says, `We never want our minds to tie up our feet.' We certainly don't want to do that up front with as physical as we want to play. Whatever is best for them."

(On why he has worked with Coach Jones for so long)
"I think it is about how well we get along. It is a matter of the person that Coach Jones is, the father he is, the husband he is, the values off the field are what I want to surround myself with. When I go to work every day and I see guys like Mike Bajakian and Mark Elder and even Steve Stripling, I've worked with Willie Martinez before, they are all guys that have the same values for what we stand for and believe in. When you have that for as long the hours that we put in, the work we put in and the demands, that makes coming in to work a heck of a lot easier. And at a place as special as this... That's why. I know this, I have been with Coach Jones as long as I have because, again, I've seen it work, I know it works and I know big things happen. It's a matter of time that has to be sooner than later, but it makes that easier too. The other thing is that our families have grown to know each other. Having our families as friends, because they are really important as staff for each other because of the time when we are away. That is huge to me being a family man as well."

Note, wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni is still coaching with Wisconsin for the Rose Bowl and was not in Knoxville.





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