Vols' assistants talk as team preps for Saturday's scrimmage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- On the eve of the first scrimmage of camp, the coaching staff breaks down Team 118.

QUARTERBACKS

(Coach Mike Bajakian On Quarterbacks)
"(In tomorrow's scrimmage), I want them to come out and execute the offense with a level of consistency where we are making what I call the pitch-and-catch throws and the easy completions. What I'm looking forward to is, the fact that we just get to go out and play ball. Practices have been very productive thus far but it's a lot of scripted situations. Tomorrow we get to just kind of put the ball down, play first, second and third down and let our guys react to different situations. Once we get into the red zone, how that changes their thought process and frame of mind along with getting in and out of different first and third down situations. Tomorrow will be a little bit more of the complete package. We'll be able to incorporate a little more of our procedure and tempo into it.

"We came out today and had a good day. But again, I think that if nothing else, that's an illustration of the consistency that we need. It's not good enough to have a sub-par day yesterday and come out and have a great day today. We need to perform at a high level, day in and day out, if we're going to be a great quarterback group. You're always looking to improve and you're always looking to get better. So, not having that consistency, yeah I'd say is disappointing. By no means am I panicking. They're good players. We have a bunch of good players in my meeting room and they work hard and have the right mentality. It's just a matter of coming in a performing day in and day out."

RUNNING BACKS

(Coach Robert Gillespie On Marlin Lane)
"He has grown a lot. Probably had the biggest growth off the field. He has learned from his mistakes. He has done a good job of putting those behind him. His teammates have done a good job. Probably want to compliment his teammates a little bit more than anything because I think at times no matter how hard you work, you have to be around a group of guys that are willing to forget your past and willing to look at what you're doing now. It's a true testament to the types of kids that we have one this team and have allowed Marlin to come in and be a good leader for them."

(Coach Robert Gillespie On Jalen Hurd)
"He's still goofy, clumsy, makes mistakes, have to remind him where he has to be. He's not Superman. He's an 18-year-old kid just like anybody else, so he still makes mistakes. As a staff, we are going to have to live with some of the mistakes that he makes out there. His learning curve is obviously going to have to come fast, but he's going to have to learn in front of 100,000 people on Sunday, the first game. He makes the same mistakes that anybody else makes. He and I talk all the time, and I don't want him to be anything but Jalen. I don't want him to be anything but a freshman. He's going to make some plays for us, but he's also going to make some mistakes. There's no pressure on him to come in and be something or be what the media says he should be or whatever star-ranking said he was. He's just going to be Jalen Hurd."

"Jalen is a humble kid. He wants to work hard. He wants to prove a lot of people wrong. Jalen is already highly motivated, but we do a good job within our running back unit making sure everyone understands the level of respect they have to have for the older and younger guys."

"He's tough not just physically but mentally. He's a highly motivated kid. He comes from a good family. His parents did a really good job with him. He's focused. This is something he has been working towards for a long time. A lot of kids talk about it. Some kids actually walk that life and live it. He is a kid who so far has been able to walk it. Obviously, it's going to be a long season. That wall hits everybody, older guys and young alike. The true test will be after two or three games seeing how he can handle, taking care of his body, getting the proper rest, eating the right things. There are still a lot of unknowns but I guess that's one of the exciting parts about coaching a freshman."

(Coach Robert Gillespie On Derrell Scott & Trayvon Paulk)
"Those guys are obviously a little ways away. Jalen [Hurd] coming in early helped him a lot. Both of those kids are willing. Reps are hard to come by during fall camp having a group of guys like Devrin Young, Marlin [Lane], Jalen who went through spring, some really good walk-ons in Justus Pickett. You have four or five guys that are a little bit older that you have to make sure they get their reps. When those young guys get reps, they have to make the most of them. Right now there are still some missed assignments, the way we play, the speed, getting lined up, so there are small things those guys need to continue to work on."

(Coach Robert Gillespie On Devrin Young)
"He's a guy that has been kind of ping ponged around, played a lot of positions, asked to do a lot of things, but I think right now he feels comfortable. I think he feels he has a niche for them. Coach Jones talks all the time about giving guys buckets. Let's not flood the guy. Let's give them small buckets and throw a little bit in there and let those guys understand their roles. Then, they'll buy into it and gain confidence. I think that's what Devrin is. Devrin has been asked to do so much and now we're trying to narrow it down. I think he feels comfortable with the role that we have him in."

"He wants to win. These guys are in a position that they can demand to play a certain position. It's been a long time since we've won. Anything that these kids can see themselves in a role to help us win, get us back to where we need to be, I think all these kids are buying in. Not just Devrin. We've asked a lot of guys to sacrifice who they were, who they thought they were going to be, for the betterment of the program. That's a testament to the types of kids that are here."

OFFENSIVE LINE

(Coach Don Mahoney On Jacob Gilliam)
"When we first got ,here he was hoping for an opportunity, when I first met him, he said, `Coach, let me have an opportunity,' I said, `Sure' I looked at the numbers, who all was here, going through the spring and Tiny [Antonio Richardson] being out, `you are going to get plenty of opportunity.' Now instead of hoping, I think he expects it. Now that he knows he is going well and he is more confident, he expects to do well. He is plenty with an extremely high confidence level because he is showing it on film everyday."

(Coach Don Mahoney On Coleman Thomas)
"His size, his athleticism, he was a basketball player, baseball, so we knew his overall athletic skill. I saw him play twice during the recruiting process. Being a center and being that tall, it was impressive for just how agile he was. He is not a guy who just moves around like a guy that is 6'5" or 6'6". Coleman is a guy that we just knew from his skill set that he could be someone who could help us out."

WIDE RECEIVERS

(Coach Zach Azzanni On Josh Smith)
"I have always had a tremendous amount of confidence in Josh, I have said that all through his struggles last year. Even this year I have. Josh, now that we have his knee better, last season is behind him, I don't think he understood how to take care of his body last year. I think he understands all those intricacies. He wanted a new and improved Josh Smith, he wanted a new chance, a new lease on life as far as playing football. So I have been trying to keep him focused one day at a time. The crazy thing is Josh has a ton to work on, I think he hasn't even reached even half of his silly. So that is pretty scary, he can get really good.

"Josh is easily one of the, if not, the toughest in my room. He is a kid that I can ride hard and he responds physical and mentally. Last year I challenged him hard, I was on him hard and I think he got down a little bit mentally. But he has come out this year and he has been extremely tough. Mentally too, to play here, to have a season like he had, maybe not the way he wanted, it says a lot about his character. Physically, he is a tough as they get. That is why I love him, he is going to play like I like him to play."

(Coach Zach Azzanni On Josh Malone)
"I think Josh has a lot farther to go to prove that he is a tough football player, mentally and physically. He has never been pushed like this, he has never had to strain. I think the great thing about our program is the guys that don't strain and don't give great effort consistency, they stick out a little bit. I think he is slowly but surely learning that. He has put two good days back-to-back, I am proud of him. He had a first good day, then some bad days, then these last two practices he has tried to fix that to his credit. If he can keep doing that, he will bet better and better."

TIGHT ENDS

(Coach Mark Elder On Alex Ellis)
"Alex plays with great `63' effort and strain. He plays his tail off, he's very athletic, very coachable and he gives everything he's got to every single play. We would have loved to have had him last year but he's having a great camp so far this year. He's really playing himself into a really meaningful role for us offensively."

(Coach Mike Bajakian on Alex Ellis)
"He's a tough kid, athletic, intelligent. He came in as a walk-on quarterback and has put on 20-plus pounds, if not more, in the year and a half that he's been here. He's got the right mental makeup obviously coming off of last season. Now, he's just got to take the next step."

(Coach Mike Bajakian on the tight ends)
"Last year, we had a ton of injuries at that position and by the end of the season, I think we only had one healthy tight end. That limited us tremendously from a personnel standpoint. Now to have the two freshmen come in, with Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm, and to have A.J. Branisel and Brendan Downs and Alex Ellis back healthy, it allows us a lot more flexibility from a formation standpoint and a personnel standpoint."

DEFENSIVE BACKS

(Coach Willie Martinez On Emmanuel Moseley)
"When he came to our camp, he performed at a high level. First and foremost, we look to see how smart a kid is as far as his instincts. He competed at a very high level. He competed against some kids that were highly recruited and really did a nice job, and we loved his athleticism. When you play in the secondary, you have to be an athletic player and a guy that can run very well but also be able to play the ball in the air and have great body control and have a nice understanding of what offenses are trying to do. I think him playing both sides of the ball, every single one of the guys that we recruit in the secondary, which we like to recruit, the number one thing we talk about is athleticism, being able to do many, many things. That's what we saw in him and like the other guys."

(Coach Willie Martinez On Malik Foreman)
"I think Malik has done a nice job coming back to camp. He was in the best shape of his life. We can see that. He made some strides in the offseason. His knowledge with our defense has improved tremendously. He understands it better. He still has a lot of room to improve and he knows that. Hes made some plays this fall camp that he wans't making last year. That's good to see because again he's one of those players that has a lot of athleticism, a guy that is accustomed to having the ball in his hands. He has pretty good instincts about where to find the ball and where it's at."

(Coach Willie Martinez On Cameron Sutton)
"He has made tremendous progress. There are things we discussed as far as his physicality, playing better with his hands. His play making with the ball in the air is still outstanding. He has improved that. He's got a lot more confidence. He's leading. Last year, he was a little bit quieter, really more of a follower. Now he's coaching up the young players, the first year players. He's doing a really good job in our meetings. It's important to him. Every phase of our program, he's dialed in. That's only going to help us improve on the back end."

DEFENSIVE LINE

(Coach Steve Stripling On Derek Barnett)
"The boy wonder has a long ways to go, but he is really progressing. He's physical. I think he is playing with some maturity right now. He is showing up for a freshman. I've been very pleased with his progress. He's a freshman. Obviously he is making mistakes but he showed the physicalness and maturity that is uncommon in a freshmen."

(Coach John Jancek On Derek Barnett)
"Derek is a tremendous talent. He's strong, he's quick, he can change direction and is in great shape, in great physical condition. I think that's to the credit of our great strength and conditioning staff and also to Derek. But you can throw a lot at Derek. He's a guy that can pick it all up and have it make sense. He's doing a great job. Obviously the strength of an 18 year old versus a guy who's been in the weight room for four or five years is not going to be equal. But Derek is extremely powerful and he has great leverage and balance."

(Coach John Jancek On Jordan Williams & Dimarya Mixon)
"They're doing well (with the more to tackle from end). You know, they're not the biggest guys in the world, that's for sure. But they're playing with better leverage. They're playing with better hand violence. They're guys that can get off blocks and run and change direction so things are certainly a positive. We're able to do more as far as some of the line stunts, having those guys exchange gaps and those things will be more effective than they were last year."

(Coach Steve Stripling On Kendal Vickers)

"We coach for success. We are going to put young men in a position to make them successful. Everything we talk about as a defensive line is all for one. All four guys are hooked together. We should have that flexibility to play inside and outside with multiple guys."

(Coach Steve Stripling On Dimarya Mixon & Owen Williams)
"I think it took Mixon a few days for him to get back to his spring standard, but his last few days he has been flying around and running like the Mixon we know. Owen is always going to be a work in progress with his conditioning level and those types of things. But again, when his motor is on doing things right, he's pretty powerful."

(Coach Steve Stripling On Curt Maggitt)
"Attention to detail, some of his technique, footwork, those types of things. He's the type of young man that texts me about once a day "What do I have to work on today." So that, along with his leadership, puts him in a position to focus on those small detials."

"It shows an inner-drive. He wants to be great. He has leadership skills. He has maturity. He has energy. He wants to be good. It doesn't matter. Curt couldn't care if you put him at offensive center. He would want to be great, and that is the type of young man he is."

(Coach Steve Stripling On Jordan Williams)
"I like Jordan Williams. I think he has done a good job as far as keeping his weight up, allowing him to play inside. I think he will give us some real athleticsm inside. I think for him, he is getting comfortable."

LINEBACKERS

(Coach Tommy Thigpen On Jalen Reeves-Maybin)
"He is a lot more vocal. He finally knows it. Last year it kind of went into a slump where I kind of felt like he lost a little bit of confidence because he didn't know what was happening. But now he is taking a leadership role on the team, his first time on defense. The fact that he knows what everyone is doing, I think he is taking a lot of pride in it. Dillon Bates and Berry, they gravitate towards him because of his approach to the game."

(Coach Tommy Thigpen On Dillon Bates)
"He is still 18 years old. He is making a lot of mistakes. But the thing about him, he has a lot of pride, he comes in a lot and asks a lot of questions. He will get it, right now he is struggling with all the concepts and all the different defenses from sub to penny to dime, just a lot of things going through his head. But he understands that he has to get out of each one of those categories. For him, he has a football knowledge but right now he is playing a little bit slow but he will pick it up."

(Coach Tommy Thigpen On Gavin Bryant)
"A little bit behind, we have guys who have been here since January that kind of have it. Kenny Bynum has a good feel for the game. [Colton] Jumper who was here in the early spring. So he is a little behind as far as communication. That MIKE position, we say it the most difficult position on the field if you are MIKE linebacker. He has to get everyone lined up, know all the checks. So for him he is a little bit behind the eight ball right now trying to catch up but the kid has a lot of pride. Like Dillon [Bates], he asks a lot of questions and does a lot of one-on-one time."

SPECIAL TEAMS

(Coach Mark Elder On Matt Darr and Aaron Medley)
"It's good. Things are coming along as far as that's concerned. [Matt] Darr has been having a couple of pretty good days. [Aaron] Medley has done a really nice job the past couple of days. We put him in pressure situations last couple days. Yesterday, we finished up practice with a few in a row and the team up around him. We were going to practice more if he didn't make those kicks and he drilled them. We did it again today and he drilled them. Particularly with him because it's going to be his first time ever being in a stadium with 100,000 people, we want to try to put him in stressful environments and see how he reacts. He's doing a good job with that and handling any adversity, snapping and clearing it and moving forward."

SOUND BITES

Here are sound bites from the assistant coaches after Friday's practice

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE BAJAKIAN

»(On the inconsistency of the quarterbacks thus far)

"There are so many factors that result in that inconsistency. I can't say I'm surprised. You're always going to shake off a little bit of rust at the beginning of training camp. You can work out all summer long, throw all summer long, but when you start getting people in your face with a pass rush, people in the receivers faces with press techniques and things like that, it's going to throw off timing. I can't say I'm surprised but we need to adapt more quickly."

»(On dialing in this spring with the young receivers)

"There's always going to be an adjustment even for guys that a freshmen that were here in the spring. It's a matter of getting used to training camp and then when we get into the season, getting used to the season frame of mind. Coach Jones has pointed out multiple times that 40-something guys on this team have never gone through a season. From that standpoint, we're still a young team, still have to improve on a daily basis. Everything is new to those guys. This is a new experience for them."

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN JANCEK

»(On what he wants to see in tomorrow's scrimmage)

"The big thing, number one, is their effort. Then we have to look at the execution of the calls. That will be a big indicator of how we can progress with this young group. If they can grasp some of the concepts and do it against our offense in a competitive situation, that would be a really good sign. If they're struggling, we're going to have to make some adjustments and curtail to their learning curve and maybe pull back on a few things. We've thrown a lot at the defensive players. It's been full speed ahead and it is a lot, especially for a freshman."

»(On the value of scrimmaging the young guys)

"They're extremely valuable. One, you don't get to tackle all that often anymore and then, for us, it's the closest thing we can simulate to a game. Again they're going to have that anxiety of a game-like situation. When your anxiety is high and you're amped up, that's when you make mistakes. That's what we're going to be able to gauge; how much can they handle in a very highly-competitive situation?"

DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH WILLIE MARTINEZ

»(On the newcomers)

"I think again there is consistency. We know that is going to happen, but the thing that we have been impressed with is that they've been grinding it. They haven't really taken a step back. They're highly competitive, and that is all you can really ask for. They know that it's a work in progress, and I think that as long as they have a great attitude, which they do, they're going to get better with reps. That's really the thing that we've been trying to stress. It's important to take care of their bodies, to eat properly, to hydrate their bodies, so they don't miss reps out there."

»(On what it takes to trust a freshmen to start)

"Consistency. You have to be able to trust them that they get our defense and the understanding of it and all the things that are important from a back end, the assignment, playing with great leverage and being able to tackle in space. Like I said earlier, you have to have some athleticism as far as having some play making. You know, be a game changer. That is what Cam [Sutton] was able to do when he stepped into the starting lineup. Emmanuel [Moseley] has been able to do that from spring, and he has continued that in fall camp, but there are some inconsistencies that he has to clean up. Devaun Swafford has done a nice job and Brian Randolph and (Justin) Coleman. We're just trying to develop depth. That's the big thing, to get some depth."

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH STEVE STRIPLING

»(On new defensive line)

"We're wearing the black stripes out there. Sometimes you look and it's all black stripes. Obviously, that's encouraging for the future, but it's a little bit shocking in the present."

»(On the importance of the scrimmage)

"It's a big day. Getting into the stadium will kind of open their eyes a little bit I think. We've been in the grind. It's been the same routine, so tomorrow will be fun to put them on the game field and see what they can do."

WIDE RECEIVERS COACH ZACH AZZANNI

»(On the newcomers)

"Up and down, but I see some glimpses of some good things from them. I think Ryan Jenkins has got better and better, Josh Smith has gotten better, Josh Malone has been a roller coaster but he had two good days back to back. So I am seeing some progress. The all kind of hit at different times, some of them push through a little better than others. I am seeing some good things. I am pleased."

»(On what he wants to see during Saturday's scrimmage)

"Just some consistency. We are too inconsistent right now. One day we will have a great day and the next day we will look like we don't even have wideouts out there. We need consistency. I am playing a lot of guys, I am plugging guys in, they are playing at every single position right now. I am trying to see who does what, I am trying to see the right chemistry of the four that go out there first. So I am finding out a lot of different things. We got a lot of bad habits that I am trying to break. Those young guys got away with one-handed catches in high school, but guess what, they are not jumping over little short guys that aren't playing football anymore. They are going up against the best in the country. Just some habits that we are continuing to break and that is my job."

TIGHT ENDS/SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR MARK ELDER

»(On the cohesiveness of the tight end group)

"It's a great group of young men. They're friends. It's a tight unit and there's competition. None of them are naïve to the fact that they're all competing for time but one of the great things about it is they're always trying to help each other. You listen to them on the sideline and they're always coaching each other up. They know that if we're playing well, there's going to be enough praise and glory to go around for every single person. They're a hard-working group, they're competing their tails off, they all want to play a lot and they're pushing each other to get better."

RUNNING BACKS COACH ROBERT GILLESPIE

» (On tomorrow's scrimmage)

"The biggest thing is that we're going into Neyland Stadium tomorrow. That is a prize within itself. A lot of these kids haven't had the opportunity to go in there and practice. This will be their first time. They've heard about it during the recruiting process and now they get the chance to go in there and play."

» (On the focus of the group in the first week)

"It's been good. We ask these guys to do a lot. Their schedules are very tight. We require a lot of them. They don't have any time for themselves. They understand that is the time of the season that it is. Coach Jones does a good job working with the schedule, but these kids all bought in. All these kids understand what we expect of them, so they've done a good job responding to everything we've thrown at them."

OFFENSIVE LINE COACH DON MAHONEY

»(On getting to know the offensive line)

"Yeah, I know this group a lot better just because of time. Getting here at the time that we did when we first got hired and going to spring ball and summer and then the fall was right upon us. Everything goes so fast in the season that that is the part that you really enjoy, building the relationships, building trust and building the continuity as a unit and them really know you, your style of coaching and who you are. I think, just over time, I have gotten to know more about their personalities. Obviously, more about them as people, their family backgrounds and what buttons to push. How to motivate them each and every day. So it is different. It is one that I am enjoying more and more because it is something that as a coach you teach on the board, you teach in the classroom, but you have to find other things. And that is the biggest thing that Coach Jones being with him this time, for the number of years myself and Coach Jake have, that for him, that is one of his biggest strengths, getting the most out of players because you invest so much time into them. Now that we have more time with these guys, I think it will pay off for us."

LINEBACKERS COACH TOMMY THIGPEN

»(On his checklist for the linebackers)

"Our creed, never changes, be tough and smart. As long as we do our alignments and our assignments, play our gaps, be physical, be tough, Don't let people run wide open, fix your gaps. It is very simple for us. Play inside the system, don't be out there like you are the only one on the football field. That is what we constantly preach. Do you assignment, your alignment, then go makes plays."


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