Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) Head coach Butch Jones characterized this week's practices as critically important on Tuesday after the Vols forged through a short downpour during the middle of practice.
"I think this football team has to learn how to enjoy being uncomfortable," said Jones. "And this is where your football team is developed right now. Your bodies are sore, your minds weary and it's that mindset to push through. It's that competitive edge that gets you through. Everyone's tired but it's still playing up to your maximum potential, your maximum level that we talk about. Where are we at with that? We still have a long ways to go."
Jones also addressed several positions changes to increase the "overall depth" and to help alleviate some pressure on some thin positions making these coming practices even more critical in catching those players up to speed.
Former wide receiver turned defensive back, Vincent Dallas, took snaps at his new position for the first time today. Dallas, who has experience on defense, was the easiest switch when they looked at who could move according to Jones.
Riyahd Jones, a junior college defensive back transfer, suffered a knee injury and is still undergoing the evaluation process said Butch Jones. His absence has caused the move of Dallas and running back Reggie Juin to the secondary of the football.
In another defensive move, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was moved from defensive back to linebacker, a move that would put him in the tackle box and closer to the line of scrimmage.
A freshman from Northeast High School in Clarksville, Tenn., Maybin's versatility is one of his strongest assets and possesses the tools to play several different positions.
SUDDEN CHANGE... AGAIN
In an effort to establish more depth in the secondary, junior Vincent Dallas has returned to the defensive backfield for the second time in his three years with the Vols.
Instead of being frustrated with the situation, Dallas has embraced one of Coach Butch Jones' favorite mantras: `Sudden Change.'
"My mind is ready for sudden change; anything can happen," said Dallas. "I was playing defensive back, moved to receiver and now I'm back at DB. I'm ready for sudden change and ready to play wherever [Coach Jones] needs me."
Jones is happy with what he's seen from the former wideout so far, but knows getting him up to speed is a process.
"It's a crash course, everything is happening really, really fast," said Jones. "It is a complete change in fundamentals and details. He is showing some instincts for the position. We will know a little more on Vincent as training camp progresses."
Just two days into the switch, the Ellenwood, Ga., native is locked into the task at hand and not thinking about the possibility of heading back across the ball.
"Right now my main focus is playing corner," Dallas said. "That's what Coach Jones wants me to do, so my main focus is playing corner."
Fellow cornerback LaDarrell McNeil is actually a bit envious of his teammates' flip-flopping ability.
"I think he's lucky because he can play both sides," said McNeil. "That's what everybody likes [to do]. But I'm glad God gave him that athletic ability and thankful to have him in the secondary."
Dallas has also been able to have a little fun in his new spot. At Monday night's practice in Neyland Stadium he got to line up against his former wideout clan and duke it out in some 1-on-1 drills.
"It was fun," said Dallas. "We all talked a little trash, but I'm mainly just trying to make them better and get them locked into becoming better players."
A TOUGH MOTIVATOR
If there is one thing Butch Jones is good at its motivation.
There are, of course, more things that Jones is good at, but getting under his players' skin and getting them to practice hard is a specialty.
Jones also gets to know each and every one of his players and knows what buttons to push, and when to lay back.
"He will beat you down sometimes, because sometimes that is what you need," said defensive lineman Marlon Walls with a laugh. "People respond to certain things differently. He knows that is how you approach people. He is great at it. Ever since I first met him, he is great at motivating. He knows how to get under your skin and get you to go just a little bit harder."
Jones' motivating tactics have filtered down to his staff, including Assoc. Head Coach and Defensive Line Coach Steve Stripling.
Stripling, took his motivational tactics to another level today when he came into work with a Mr. Positive cup.
"Strip has hyped every single morning," said Walls' linemate Corey Miller. "He came in this morning with a "Mr. Positive" cup and said `I'm going to be positive all day, so let's have a good day at practice.' Whatever he says helps us."
"This staff is pretty good about getting under your skin," said Walls. "He knows coming in with a positive cup, it was trying to say that we aren't doing anything. We laughed about it but at the same time it was saying `hey guys lets go to work. Let's get better today.'"
"He was joking about it, but we understood what he was trying to say. It was trying to get us to go."
AN OFFENSIVE FRONT
There has been one freshman standout on the offense, which might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
He hasn't been making one handed catches, or bullying his way through for extra yards, but freshman offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman has made his presence felt.
Currently practicing with the twos at right guard, Wiesman has been knocking down defenders right and left.
"Right now, we chart knock downs," said offensive lineman Mack Crowder, "and I believe he is the second one overall on the ones and twos with the number of knock downs which is awesome."
Crowder knew that the Cincinnati native would be a force to be reckoned with from the moment he met him.
"I was expecting big things from him," said Crowder. "He just has that look about him. The physicality of him, he is looking to take somebody's head off every play. That is what you need on the offensive line. That is one thing that he brought to the table right off the bat, wanting to hit somebody every play."
"Since he plays right next to me, I can definitely notice his presence there," continued Crowder. "Whenever you get with him, just like whenever you get with Marcus Jackson, you are knocking people off the ball. It is pretty hard to stop those two with a double team or anything like that."
CARR REVING UP FOR OPPORTUNITY
With several injuries on the defensive line, freshman Jason Carr has taken a step forward according to his senior teammates. The freshman from Memphis is making the most if his increased playing time.
"(Carr) stood out to me a lot," said defensive lineman Corey Miller. "He had two sacks today. I was really proud of him.
Miller has an extra incentive in working with Carr.
"That's my little brother on the team, so I'm always looking for him to make big plays," said Miller. "He's getting closer and closer day-by-day. It's the little things-- I talk to him.
"You know he's my roommate over at Gibbs during camp and I talk to him every day. I told him, hey, it's the little things. One day choose this-- improve on this. The next day, choose this--improve on this. He'll have that stripe off in no time."
With the defense sustaining most of the team injuries throughout preseason camp, everyone is realizing the importance of being focused, being prepared, and knowing the ins-and-outs of every position on the field.
Tennessee Vols head coach Butch Jones told Team 117 that this is where the team is going to be born--the hard days of camp, and the defensive secondary is working hard to finish strong this preseason.
During these final days of camp, defensive back Byron Moore and the defensive secondary are using their experience to persevere through the tough times.
"I think we have a lot of good guys back there, good character, and guys that come in every day willing to learn the technique, willing to learn the defense," Moore said.
Moore realizes that the physicality this preseason is weighing on players and himself a lot more than in years past and that they still have work to do.
"More consistency," Jones said. "So much in our defense we rely on our safeties to make tackles. It is a safety- activated defense. Not only do they have to cover in one-on-one, but they have to be great tacklers. If you guys have noticed, we have worked tackling extremely hard in the last two days. Coming to balance, having a great base, running your feet, keeping your head up. I think a high level of consistency of tackling."
While the defensive secondary still has improvements to make, Moore is impressed with the unity that the players have created over this preseason period.
"They just throw us in there," said Moore. "We all play, everybody's getting reps, so we're not even worried about who's first and second right now."
The secondary's unity is apparent while they maintain enthusiasm for each other with players going and coming with injuries, switching positions, and freshmen still getting familiar with the system.
For example, a task done by few individuals, junior Vincent Dallas, experienced time on both sides of the ball. Dallas, who started camp as a wide receiver, has moved to defensive back.
"I'd probably think most guys wouldn't be willing to do it, but he's not a selfish guy at all," Moore said. "As soon as the coaches brought the idea to him, he was ready to go, so he didn't think twice about it."
"So I definitely applaud him for that," Moore said.
ONLY 18 MORE DAYS...
The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to UTTix.com.
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Here are sound bites from Coach Jones and the players after Tuesday's practice:
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
»(On the demands of the WR position)
"The receiver position is a technique driven position, getting in and out of breaks, catching the football, putting it away, advancing the ball, getting released from the line of scrimmage, playing with a high level of physicality and blocking. It is very demanding. We take great pride in the fundamental aspect of playing wide receiver, it is a detail oriented position. They speak to the quarterback by their body language, the way the stick routes. All of that is so important. It is a demanding position. People think you just go out there, you run the route, you catch the football. It is a thinking position and everything happens fast especially when you are a no-huddle offense."
»(On the new helmet to helmet rule)
"It is the nature of where we are at in football today. It is the rules. We have to continue to educate our players about it. One thing you never want to do is take away their aggressiveness and going for the football. But it is a reality and we have to coach it every snap."
»(On the freshmen on defense)
"They are going to play. That is where we are at in our program. We are going to have to rely on some freshmen at the edges of our defense and the corner position. It is what it is. We are trying to force feed them, we are trying to challenge them on every single rep. Every single rep is a learning experience for them and they are doing a great job. We have to get them ready, we have no choice."
JUNIOR DEFENSIVE BACK VINCENT DALLAS
»(On the positional change)
"It's been great... I'm just trying to lock in. My main focus is knowing what I'm doing and learning my techniques. Taking in what Coach (Willie) Martinez coaches and learning everything."
»(On having an advantage on the WRs)
"I've got a lot of knowledge as far as splits and watching the wide receivers hips. Playing receiver and now playing defensive back, I've clearly got an advantage."
»(On being hesitant to make the move)
"Not really... You've always got to be ready for sudden change. Coach Jones came to me and told me he needed me at a position, so I said whatever I can do for the team."
RS SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN MARLON WALLS
»(On Coach Jones' knowledge of the game)
"That is the significance of Coach Jones. He is always studying, he is always doing his homework. Every time he hits you with a certain stat it is something that you don't even realize but it's like, well it makes that much of a different. Whenever he hits you with something like that, we all come out and starting working on our pass rush and start timing ourselves."
»(On filling in for injured D-Linemen)
"Guys are definitely taking advantage of those reps. As a group, we got better. We understood guys need to take more reps or guys that aren't playing as much they need to come in and get those reps. I think we took it as a challenge. He came in and challenged us all and said that these two guys are down and we have to step up. Guys are definitely answering the challenge and I appreciate that guys are going hard and accepting the challenge."
»(Looking back at his Achilles injury)
"For me it is different, because I remember when I hurt myself and I tore my Achilles in camp I just remember how much better I got the next year just by sitting back and watching. I just tell those guys, you are injured, don't get down on yourself, don't go into a hole. We are your teammates, we got your support, we got you and try and take something from this. If it is just sitting back and learning for a while, get better from a mental standpoint of understanding the defense. I just tell them to stay positive, we got your back, we are your teammates."
»(On stepping up during injuries)
"It is tough, but at the same time it's football and that has been going on ever since I have been here. You pray for those guys, and encourage them and let them know that you are still behind them, but at the same time you understand that it's football and the next guy has to step in and go to work. It hurts because those guys are good players for us, but at the same time that is just more pressure on another guy to say your time is now and you have to go to work."
RS SO. OFFENSIVE LINEMAN MACK CROWDER
»(On the cohesiveness of the 2nd team OL)
"Now the team two offensive line has been together for two years, just like the ones have been together for a while. The offensive line is one unit. We have to know what everyone is doing on every given play and the more you work with each other the better you get. Dylan Wiesman has been playing with the twos, so now it is just a matter of getting him in there with us. He has been doing a great job though. We have all been working well together."
»(On the progression of the offense)
"The thing that surprised me the most from this camp so far is what we have retained from the spring. A big part of that was how we worked in the summer, and brought the freshmen along with us. We didn't really take any steps back, we have just really progressed with this offense. It is relatively new, but we are coming along with it well."
RS JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN MARQUES PAIR
»(On playing with the 1st team offense)
"It gives me great confidence and great motivation, knowing that they would give me a shot there if something happens. At the same time, it is still work. So I have to make sure that I understand all the concepts and all the plays."
»(On the offensive line)
"Yes, because I think as a running back, you kind of go in and look at the cuts that you missed--the holes, you know your reads. Unless you go in there and actually hear at exactly what they're seeing, what they're trying to reach up to, how they're pulling and snatching the double team, it's crazy because a lot of times, a running back will miss a cut and is like ah man, there wasn't anything there. You go in there, get inside the offensive linemen's heads and that view. You'll see, they blew something up and gave you a small crease and we just missed it."
»(On where he believes he's at on the line)
"I just keep working, and working hard, to make sure that I know what is going on. So whenever the time comes I am ready."
SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE BACK LADARREL MCNEIL
»(On competition with Byron Moore)
"We compete to be honest with you, we tell each other 'You better come on with it, because we're going to compete today"
»(On personal improvement)
"All around, especially just the knowledge of the game. I feel like I increased that this summer. It is making me better as a secondary player. I spent a lot of time in the film room. Coach Lawson and the trainer guy they helped me out tremendously."
»(On changes to his body)
"Tremendously, thanks to Coach Lawson and Coach Szerszen. My body improved, I got bigger, I got a lot of muscle instead of body fat. I think I can compete."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN COREY MILLER
"Where I'm trying to improve is my hands, work with my hands. We read all types of articles all the time about how hands are beneficial in the NFL and you can't play in the NFL without hands, so basically what we're doing is working hand volleys and hand to hand combat."
»(On newcomers learning the defense)
"Everybody understands right now that everyone on the d-line has to contribute. Yes, we have six seniors, but we need them. In order to play d-line in the SEC you need guys that can rotate in and that can benefit and help the d-line immediately."
»(On being a senior)
"It helps a lot, because over the past few years, you learn how to deal with adversity, deal with new coaches, deal with you know, losing games, coming back and having to have a positive attitude. So at this point in time, being a senior, there's not much I have to say."
RS SENIOR DEFENSIVE BACK BYRON MOORE
»(On today's practice)
"Today we came out with a good mindset. You know, guys, it's getting to the middle part of camp, so legs are starting to get heavier, calves are starting to feel a little heavier. You just have to start pushing through it. Coach said this is where the team is going to be born -- these hard days of camp. When it's hard, you just have to push through it and come fall, it'll be easier. Right now, we're just trying to come with the right mindset every day and just stay positive."
»(On nickel and dime coverage)
"We've been playing nickel a lot. We're going to need at least eight guys out there for the whole season to be able to play good defense, so we're not just going to take four or five, they're going to take eight, nine guys, so definitely trying to make sure everybody in the room knows what they're doing and can be out there and be a playmaker for us."
»(On Jalen Reeves-Maybin)
"I think Jalen [Reeves-Maybin] will be a great playmaker in whatever position he is as far as defense as he gets older, playing here at Tennessee. He definitely has a lot of ability I've seen at safety that he's going to be able to take down and play at linebacker."