KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- A day after the pageantry of unveiling the Vols new adidas uniforms, it was back to the practice field for Team 117. Butch Jones continues to harp of the Volunteers, the need to make progress.
"I thought it was a productive day today," he said. "But we are nowhere where we need to be. This is where we have to keep grinding."
Tennessee will return to action on Saturday with an open practice at Neyland Stadium getting underway at 6:50 p.m. Jones is looking for a huge showing.
"I'm expecting a big crowd tomorrow," said. Jones. "We need to get that home field advantage back. We have a great passionate fan base. I know our players are just looking forward to competing in Neyland, competing in front of our fans. We are going to need them."
As far as the format, the Vols won't run a full scrimmage, Jones will put the team through a normal practice. "What can fans expect tomorrow?" Jones said."They're going to see a practice. They're going to see some individual periods. The neat thing is they're going to see some one-on-ones. They're going to see wide receiver versus DB (defensive back) and we're going to call them out. So, they're going to have to step up in front of a great crowd and do one-on-ones. They're going to see some scrimmage situations.
Jones will be showing the crowd a team that he has spent 15 practices in the spring and now 15 practices in fall camp molding.
"A team that plays extremely hard that has taken great strides, but again, this is another evaluation tool for us. We're going to play anywhere from 13-16 or 17 true freshmen, so this is an evaluation tool for me. They didn't have a spring game. They haven't played in that venue when there are people in the stands. I have to see which guys are going to perform under those conditions."
COMPETITION FUELING FERGUSON
The Vols are 15 practices in and not much has changed behind center. After Friday's practice, Coach Jones reiterated that no starter has been named and that all four signal callers were still in the competition.
However, with the Tennessee quarterbacks being live today, one man did stand out.
"Today we made the quarterbacks live and the individual who stepped up was Riley Ferguson," said Jones.
Coach Jones quickly added that the freshman was by no means the starter and the battle was ongoing.
"Don't write about it... He's not the starting quarterback," Jones said. "We don't have a starting quarterback right now, so don't put words in my mouth. But I thought he showed some poise. The thing I liked about him was his pocket presence. He doesn't get rattled. He made some big throws."
After mentioning the possibility of having 13-17 true freshmen starters this season, Coach Jones was asked about starting a rookie at quarterback.
"I'm just trying to find the best quarterback who manages our offense, and puts us in the best situations to win football games," said Jones. "It doesn't matter if he's a freshmen or a sophomore. It doesn't matter. We're going to put the best players on the field that are going to help us win. We're a long ways away from naming a starting quarterback."
All four QBs have shown improvement through camp, and Coach Jones believes it's the day in and day out competition that's really pushing them.
"I think all four of them are getting better and better," Jones said. "I think that's because of the competition. They can't take a day off. When they walk into the meeting room, if they're not bringing their best mentally, they're going to get passed up. I think that has elevated everyone's game. That's what we need to have in our entire football program."
THE STRIPES COME OFF
Two more newcomers to the program have had their black stripes removed. On Thursday morning, Draw Bowles removed the stripe of JUCO transfer receiver Johnathon Johnson. On Friday, freshman defensive lineman Jaylen Miller's stripe was also taken off by 'big brother' Daniel Hood. That brings the Vols' totals of stripe removals to seven.
"The stripes keep coming off," said Jones. "I have really been proud of our big brothers because they have been demanding. They are making the freshmen earn their stripes so to speak so that has been great."
Black Stripe Removals In Order
Cameron Sutton, Aug. 8
Dylan Wiesman, Aug. 11
Justus Pickett, Aug. 11
Marquez North, Aug. 11
Corey Vereen, Aug. 11
Johnathon Johnson, Aug. 15
Jaylen Miller, Aug. 16
THE NEWEST JOHNSON
In a crowd of fresh faces on the Tennessee football team one has really stood out to Butch Jones.
He doesn't tower over the crowd and isn't overly loud, but his play has spoken volumes to Jones through the first few weeks of fall camp.
Blinn College transfer Johnathon Johnson has shown Jones something that he wants to see in all of his players.
"[He has] consistency in his performance," said Jones. "He is extremely competitive so he has added another element to the dynamics of the receiver room in terms of a competitive environment."
There are many new faces in the wide receiver corps that have been making a name for themselves and providing competition to the young group.
Johnson is one of them.
"He is consistent, he is extremely smart and he is reliable," said Jones. "You win with reliable, tough, smart, instinctual football players."
ONLY 15 DAYS UNITL...
The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to UTTix.com.
For more information about Tennessee football, visit UTSports.com/football, follow @Vol_Football on Twitter or like the Vols at Facebook.com/VolFootball.
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
“I hope everyone is doing well, it is good to see everyone. I thought it was a productive day today, finally got some elements in terms of heat, not where we need it to be yet, that was great to have. Nowhere near where we need to be, mental toughness, mental conditioning. Are we better? Yes. But we always talk about championship habits and the violence of practice and the competitiveness and that is football. We are great and then when we get tired we lose the mental effort, the mental intensity, we lose our base of fundamentals. This is where we have to keep grinding; training camp is not over with. That is kind of the mindset that we are talking with this football team about. We just have to keep working through and pushing them and pushing them. The great competitors, they fight through the fatigue, that is something that we have to do a much better job of.”
“It starts with our offensive line, we had a fourth-and-one today and we ran the ball and didn’t get it and that is inexcusable. I think too many people want to crown them but they have a lot of work to do. They need to step it up because we are going to rely on them. Those are things that they have to continue and they are prideful and they will but we need more from them.”
“I thought Marquez North had some big time catches, but again, Marquez still needs to learn to finish routes. We need to learn how to finish as a football team, more how to use our hands, accelerate our feet. So, we have a long way to go and finishing this week off obviously with the open practice tomorrow, Sunday, and school starting next week, we have to be in finish mode and we’re going to keep pushing these guys. So, I’ll answer any questions you may have.”
(On the defensive line)
"Our defensive line... We need to recruit, recruit, recruit. Why? Because we need competition. That's the greatest motivator of all. If you look at all the top 25 football teams in the country, they all have a common characteristic across the board. They have depth so your practices can be more competitive, your practices can be more physical. That is what we have to get to at Tennessee, we aren’t there yet. But we are getting there and I promise you we will get there.”
(On Justin Coleman)
“He has, but we can’t allow Justin Coleman to be complacent. He gave up a big play today to Marquez North. What happens when you aren’t having competition at your spot you really find out about that person’s character and how they really compete because they are competing with themselves. How they compete to be the best that they can, that is the situation that we are in right now. Justin is extremely competitive but we can’t allow him to become complacent, we have to push him harder than anyone on the field.”
(On the special teams)
“All of them. We have to identify, just like in the spring we spoke about who our punt returner is going to be. You are going to see them on the field tomorrow night with five or six guys around them, their name called out and we are going to compete with catching balls and call their names out. We want consistency. We just want to up the blood pressure. It is going to be a great venue. Our band is going to be there, it is going to be a great environment and a preseason type atmosphere and getting everyone ready for football time come August 31.”
(On if he will ask the fans to get loud Saturday)
“I may, but I anticipate our fans getting excited. That has never been an issue here. I will try and educate them on what is going on and keep them informed with what we are doing and why we are doing it.”