Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) After two days away from the football field with the start of school here, the Vols returned to action on Thursday afternoon.
"I thought it was a productive day today getting back to work after taking a couple days off from the field," said Butch Jones. "I think the big thing is treating this week like it is game week; our players have to learn the intensity, the mental preparation, has to be turned up."
With school back in session, the balancing act of athletics and academics is one many players will have to learn to deal with.
"You can see a lot of the younger players now they are struggling with their routine with getting into school, a full academic workload and then managing that with playing football," said Jones.
"It was great to see some of the elements; we finally had some heat and some humidity, so we had to really push our guys through. I am going to rely on our players staff and our seniors to really help lead that charge as we continue to move forward."
The Vols will be in Neyland Stadium on Friday night for their mock game.
"We'll have our mock game tomorrow," said Jones. "This was kind of the final exam for a lot of individuals. The mock game is anything and everything that can occur at a football game and even the season. We'll practice everything."
As far as who will start at quarterback for the Vols, Jones says it may be a few more days before the starter is announced.
""Right now I am thinking Monday (to name a quarterback). I want to have the opportunity to really watch the film and watch all four individual's body of work throughout," said Jones. "It will be the individual we think gives us the best chance to beat Austin Peay."
So to get back on the field I thought today was extremely productive. You can see a lot of the younger players now they are struggling with their routine with getting into school, a full academic workload and then managing that with playing football.
WILLIAMS: IT'S MY TIME
"Somebody needed to step up," defensive lineman Jordan Williams said. "With a couple guys being hurt, it's my time to step up."
With Corey Vereen and Jacques Smith out of the lineup, Williams knew he wanted the spot from the start and has been working for it all along.
"Everybody wants that starting job, but if you want it, you have to show it from the beginning," he said. "I feel like this whole camp, I've just been working hard. It's not any one thing; it's my speed, my pass rush and my effort."
Not only have his coaches seen his leadership to step into the starting defensive end spot, his teammates have seen his hard work every day at practice.
"Jordan has shown some really good plays and he brings it every day," said senior offensive lineman James Stone. "I like to see him out there with the ones. He has a quick strike, but he's not soft-headed at all. I like to see that from the guys on our defense."
Even though they aren't always up against each other in practice, Williams' work doesn't go unnoticed.
"Jordan is really explosive, he comes off the ball hard," Corey Miller said. "He has quick feet, he knows exactly what he's doing at all times, he's been in the film room, he's been working hard in the weight room."
More than just his performance on the field, his teammates have noticed his stepped-up role off the field as well.
"I see a lot in Jordan and he has definitely stepped it up," Miller said. "He understands the importance of the opportunity he has right now. I feel like the leadership has shown."
On the same line as Williams is Daniel Hood, who will block beside of the junior at game day next Saturday. Hood not only has noticed his leadership to step up to the starting position, the defensive lineman has seen his technique improve for Williams to solidify his spot in the starting lineup.
"He has just been playing smarter and harder than the other guys and that is why he got moved up," Hood said. "He got his technique down, his hips and things like that. He is coming off the edge and making small plays and then at the end of every play he is finishing.
"He is not stopping and looking for the ball, he can see the play and go make a tackle."
At Daniel Hood's first day of practice for Tennessee football, he saw a number in the thousands on the board in the team meeting room.
The number was how many days remained at his time at Tennessee.
"It was the first meeting I remember being at UT," Hood said. "A guy named Carmen (Tegano) came and spoke to us and wrote a number on the board and said this is how many days you have left at Tennessee.
Four years later, Hood, a redshirted senior, doesn't know where his time has gone.
"I looked up at it and was like, `that's forever away,'" Hood said. "And then I looked up on Tuesday and thought, `it's over'. `
But it isn't over yet.
The Vols' seniors have one last season to be leaders to the underclassmen and help rebuild the legacy of Tennessee football that coach Butch Jones has laid out for them.
Senior offensive lineman James Stone knows where the freshmen mindsets are this year and says they are improving every day.
"We want it to be where we don't have to say anything to the freshmen," Stone said. "It's good to see guys respond and see guys put the pressure on the younger guys. They need to know they have to work at practice to get reps on game day."
Going into game day, the senior mindset that Jones is instilling in his players is catching on from the top down.
"He just wanted us to know that we have to go out and play like a team that's hungry every day," Stone said.
With only 92 days of regular season play remaining for these seniors, each day matters that much more.
"It was so fast," Hood said "You are proud of what you put in, but you hate that it has gone so fast."
As for his teammate on the other side of the defensive line, senior Corey Miller hasn't thought about his few days remaining on Rocky Top.
"It just hasn't hit me yet," Miller said. "Four years, it goes by so quick and I try to explain it to the freshmen that they don't have much time here."
UPHOLDING WIDE RECEIVER U
Preseason training camp may officially be over for Team 117, but with Austin Peay just nine days away, the Tennessee Volunteers know they still have room for improvement.
Wide receivers Pig Howard and Devrin Young are two players that have been extremely impressed with the new coaching staff and what they brought to training camp this year.
Often referred to as "Wide Receiver U" because of the number of wide receivers the Vols frequently obtain, both Howard and Young have gotten the chance to see their position from many different angles.
"I was excited when they told me [I was moving]," said Young. "Immediately I got with Pig because he's been playing wide receiver from the jump. I had him teach me the basics and I took everything in moderation. Every day I kept running and getting my game right."
Throughout spring practice and preseason camp, both wide receivers realized how important it is that the team has more vocal leaders and both have become just that.
"We take it really seriously," said Young. "You want to be that go-to guy; you want to be somebody that the team and the coaches can depend on on Saturdays. You take it to heart. You don't want to be on the sidelines come gamedays. I just listened to them."
Howard realizes the importance of leadership and the playbook, just like Young.
"I have told all of them [the freshmen], you all have that opportunity to start as a freshman," Howard said. "Most people around college, they're coming in, don't have that opportunity, so I told them to take advantage of it and get in the playbook."
Butch Jones stresses the importance of family within this team and it is evident between these wide receivers.
"We're brothers; we always push each other," Young said. "If he's having an off day I'm there for him and vice versa so we're always challenging each other."
THESE BACKS HAVE SOME BITE
Though the quarterbacks and wide receivers may be a young group of players, the running backs are ready to stand up as a veteran group in 2013.
Throughout fall camp, the running back group has consistently performed, even shining at times.
"[We have showed Coach Jones] we can make plays," said senior leader Rajion Neal. "We show consistency at times. That is still something we need to work on but we showed him that we can play. We have something he can look forward to and stand behind and put his name on."
Neal, who broke free for a 98-yard TD run in the first scrimmage of fall camp, has been one of many UT running backs to break out at one point or time over the last month.
Spring standout Alden Hill has continued to improve, and Tom Smith, who redshirted the 2012 season made some breakout plays during the team's open practice. And Marlin Lane, returning to the team this summer, has showed Coach Jones what he is capable of.
The balance between the running backs leads one to believe the position could be by committee in 2013. But when it comes to Coach Jones, there always could be a sudden change.
Either way, Neal is ready to go.
"As long as you go out there and do what you are supposed to do," said Neal. "If you have the hot hand they are going to continue to roll with you. At the end of the day that is my biggest focus. Go out there and go hard."
"I showed him I got some bite," said Neal. "We showed him we got some bite. Was it perfect? No. Are we going to lay down? No. We are going to give you what we got."
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Defensive Line coach Steve Stripling had an odd suggestion for senior Daniel Hood the other day.
Take a look back at last year's training camp footage.
With nothing else to do at the time, Hood took a look and "the difference from last year to this year, it would blow your mind," said Hood. "The difference... I was literally speechless. I called every D-Lineman and told them to come to the room and watch it."
Hood, who said that the difference was not just in the defensive line but in the entire team, focused on one simple play to explain the change that he has seen.
"It's little things," said Hood. "Like a seven yard slant route. The D-Line before, you would play a block, maybe plant, maybe get pulled off. Now it is like, even if there is a tackle made, it is a dead sprint. It is not just turn and look, it is more of a turn and sprint."
Butch Jones fast and furious pace is not just an offensive change, it has translated to all aspects of the game.
"It seems so little [of a change]," said Hood. "but I promise you, if you can just see the field from last year's camp to this year's you can tell this was a 5-7 team and then you look at this year and you can say ok, they have these things, let's see what they can do."
ONLY 9 MORE DAYS...
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
»(On settling on one quarterback)
"I would like to settle in on one guy but the competition will not be over with. It is all about productivity and your body of work. I think we proved that last year at Cincinnati, I want to say we were 6 and 2 or something like that and we made a quarterback change. We went with the individual we felt was best at that particular time. It will be an ongoing process of really evaluating how we continue to grow at the position, but not just the quarterback position but every position."
»(On tomorrow's mock game)
"The mock game is anything and everything that could occur throughout the course of a football game and the course of the football season. We will even practice the center getting injured and the backup center has to come in and get snaps from the quarterback. We are going to practice half time and where we go at half time, we will practice pregame warm-ups, we will practice all the little game management situations, the small details. We don't assume anything. There are a lot of mental repetitions involved. We will also do an educated guess of what Austin Peay will give us and we will rep those as well in that mock game."
»(On freshmen adjusting to a new schedule)
"Twenty Six years of doing this and you get used to it. You see the younger players and being able to manage all the distractions and we talk about it. Everything is about taking care of your body, making sure you get eight hours of sleep, making sure you are hydrated, that you are drinking the water, making sure you are eating the right things. All of those little things that big time players do, that big time teams that win do. So everything is a teaching process, a teaching opportunity for this football team."
»(On the importance of special teams)
"Monumental... You win with special teams. Special teams tells you about the makeup of your football team, from role understanding to doing your job to field position. Part of playing winning defense is great special teams because it is a field position game. Our room of error with this football team is very slim; our margin of error is very small. It is really accelerated on special teams; it is magnified by your special teams and field position. Special teams is going to be a critical element to winning football games with this football team."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN COREY MILLER
»(On today's practice)
"It was hot out there today, so that was a little more frustrating for guys, but at the same time, we had a few more periods, you know, it was a lot more team periods. Everybody was working a lot harder today, so I feel like Butch is trying to set the foundation."
»(On today's message)
"Finish the week. Finish the week. This is a big opportunity for us to end the week strong, start game week on a good note."
»(On making the depth chart)
"He'll let us know that a couple days ago. He's going to choose after what happens on these last couple days, so guys that didn't come mentally prepared or didn't work their butts off--they just probably are hanging themselves out to dry."
SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN JAMES STONE
»(On the focus of practice)
"We're working on Austin Peay, but practice is still like camp. This is really the first practice that we got some looks from. We had specific Austin Peay looks as well as us against our own guys."
»(On this year's camp)
"It was a lot more energetic and we focused a lot on the energy levels of the team. It's not just about getting through the practices, it's about having high energy and getting something accomplished in each practice with a purpose. It was a lot more focused on effort and intensity as opposed to just getting through practice. It was about executing it with attitude."
»(On special teams emphasis)
"I could really sense the emphasis because it's a phase of the game that we really have to win in order to be successful. The coaches put a lot of emphasis on special teams and on the guys who have important roles on special teams. They're getting more reps and putting more emphasis on every practice. Each practice, we were doing special teams and it was a lot of full-contact reps."
JUNIOR WIDE RECEIVER DEVRIN YOUNG
»(On if today felt like an `audition')
"Every day is an audition. Every day you're trying to prove yourself, even if you have a spot secure. If you're not competing against anybody, you're competing against yourself."
»(On being proud of a specific play in camp)
"Just my blocking... I feel like I can go in there and block a Sam or Will linebacker, or I can run and block the nickelback. That's what separates me from a lot of receivers."
»(On the key to a good camp)
"One thing the coaches really helped me with was how to prepare myself and how to get my mind right before I step on the field. I listened to them as far as taking care of my body and getting into my playbook, and I feel like it's paid off a lot."
RS SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DANIEL HOOD
»(On his goals for the season)
"My personal goal is to win. I could play one snap a game, but as long as we win that would be the biggest thing to me. I think our goal as a team was to set the foundation of the Butch Jones era. To get things back on track and not be that senior class that leaves with the worst record that came through UT. That is our goal."
»(On Coach Jones)
"He is always ramped up. There is never a slow version of Coach Jones. If there is ever a slow day of Coach Jones, I know something is wrong."
»(On Coach Jones getting the team excited)
"You met him haven't you? He brings his intensity to it and if you don't meet his intensity you get called out and booted off special teams. Being on special teams here is a priviledge. It is not something that you dread. For him to trust you enough to put you out there is big. That is why I wish I could do more special teams, but my spot on field goal block and field goal is enough."
SENIOR LINEBACKER BRENT BREWER
»(On how this camp is different)
"This camp was pretty hard, it was a grind. The speed of practices and everything was a lot different. When Dooley was here things were more relaxed but this year we're getting more in shape and we'll see what we can do come August 31st."
»(On blitzing is the same at linebacker as it is at safety)
"It's kind of different. You have to play more with your hands and beat linemen off the line and then going against the running backs so it's a little different"
»(On his situation freshman year)
"I had an opportunity to [play] and took full advantage of it, especially trying to work and learn everything at practice. Then I showed my ability in the Alabama game and went on from there."
»(On what helped him improve since the spring)
"I'm just coming in, trying to learn the playbook, and play fast. I'm getting more familiar with the reading my keys so I can just trigger and make plays."
SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVER PIG HOWARD
»(On today's intensity)
"I saw it... I saw a lot of players step up. Intensity was a lot better as far as the receivers to. Defense in general, I mean, getting going in the beginning, we weren't on point as we should be, but overall we finished strong."
»(On thoughts on the freshmen)
"I mean, it's a lot of unknown, but at the same time, I feel like the way they've come along, they are doing very well as far as freshmen handling the play calling, but I do think they have a long way to go."
»(On ball security)
"If I were to fumble, I would be mad at myself. I would be knocking myself probably all night, but I'm not known for fumbling and I don't plan on fumbling at all."
SENIOR RUNNING BACK RAJION NEAL
»(On the first two games for the team)
"I think it will be a big evaluation. Just because they are not the caliber of the competitors that we normally play against, you can't take them lightly. This is still going to be a measuring tool for a lot of guys to see if they can even play at this level and against this type of competition before we get into SEC play. This will be a big measuring tool to see where everybody is and how they can handle it."
»(On playing as a freshman)
"Honestly when I think I came in as a freshman, I was just so excited. I didn't care. I think that is how these guys are. They came out to play and they have adjusted to the offense and everybody out here. It is not going to be a big shock or an eye opener to them. They will get their jitters out on that first hit and then they will be off and rolling."
»(On the offensive line)
"They look like what everyone perceives them to be. They are animals. Straight beasts up front. That is what we need and what we are going to depend on. They have lived up to the hype and I think they are going to continue doing it."
»(On the No. 2 offensive line)
"The twos, I like them a lot. They are just coming in and straight nasty and gritty. I like those guys. They are coming in trying to make a statement."
JUNIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JORDAN WILLIAMS
»(On the emphasis on the pass rush)
"I mean there is definitely more emphasis on the pass rush, on us having, what was it, seventeen sacks last year. I mean we definitely need to get that up."
»(On aspects the defensive line has improved on)
"We've taken big strides. I mean one, our effort, and two, our get off and our hands. I mean I feel like that's one thing that a d-line needs that we didn't have before."
»(On now being experienced with school now)
"It's just less things to worry about I feel like. I feel like it's just when you're a freshman, you come in, you got football to worry about, camp, you come in, that's crazy. Then once camp's over, school starts. Then you got to balance school with football, and watching film, and learn the playbook. It's a lot, once you just get everything, knock one thing to the side, one thing to the side you get everything under control. I feel like that helps a lot."