Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) Nine days from the opener, Butch Jones had a message for Team 118: "Do you love the Power T or do you love the Power of the T?"
Jones has had a consistent message since arriving in Knoxville in December of 2012. He is building a team that represents the University of Tennessee the right way with high-character players that live for football.
"It is priorities, live it, love it, or like it," Jones said Friday, " which we speak about each and every day. We talk about also, the power of the Power T. Do you love the Power T or do you love the Power of the T? The standard and expectations by which is expected here at Tennessee."
The psychological part of the game is a major importance for Jones. Friday presenting a challenge that Vols -- surprisingly -- have not had to deal with often in August: extreme heat and humidity.
"(It was) another good productive day," said Jones. "Another good opportunity to get in and practice in season schedule but also with the elements in the heat. Mental conditioning, the mental toughness that we talk about, learning to play in these elements."
Tennessee will hold its annual "Beanie Bowl" on Saturday, a version of a mock game in which the team goes through procedures in anticipation of the opener vs. Utah State on Sunday, Aug. 31.
"Tomorrow is a big day in terms of meetings and lifting and then our annual Beanie Bowl," Jones said. "There is so many things, from where we dress in the locker room, how we take the field, to sideline organization, substitution patterns, all those things will be address. Then Sunday they have off and then Monday will be a recovery day."
CROWDER PRAISES WORLEY
Junior center Mack Crowder has seen the Tennessee passing game make great strides since the end of the 2013 season. The development, he says, has been largely due to the improvement and hard work of recently named starting quarterback, Justin Worley.
"On film, he's been looking good, (his) timing's been great," Crowder said. "That's really due to the offseason, because they got a lot of throws in and they're just on the same page right now and it's working out for them."
Worley put in hard work this offseason to improve his leadership, says Crowder. That work made a big impact on him and inspired him to be a better lineman.
"That's another thing he was also working on this offseason, his leadership qualities," he said, "and they've definitely carried over to the field.
"He's definitely taking command of the huddle. That's definitely somebody that you want to block for, whenever he's just in there confident and knows what he's doing. It's a good feeling to be blocking for him."
Crowder is not the only one that has been inspired by Worley. The veteran lineman says his entire position group has seen a difference in their play thanks to Worley's calming presence on the field.
"In the huddle (he's) being more positive," he said. "Just coming up to us whenever it's been a hard drive or something like that, and saying, `hey man, let's go. It's time to start stepping up right here.'
"Also at the line of scrimmage, he's been doing a better job of just making the calls loud and being very positive with his voice, just letting us know that he's back there and he has our back on every play."
LEG UP ON THE COMPETITION
As of Friday evening, Butch Jones had yet to name a starting kicker for Team 118. With two quality and unique candidates in redshirt sophomore George Bullock and freshman Aaron Medley, the growing sense is that Jones may not anoint one into the position until game day against Utah State. In the meantime, each continues to work on his craft as friends, as teammates and competitors.
"Well, it's not that unusual. It's something we do every day," Bullock said. "We see each other, we're friends and right now, we realize that we are competing every day to try to get the same spot. But our friendship doesn't play a part into what we do on the field."
While working to earn the starting role and compete with Bullock, Medley's focus remains on quality repetitions and remembering the fundamentals that brought him to the University of Tennessee.
"I think it's just getting my alignment right and making sure my hips are coming through the ball," Medley said. "It's a good competition. George is a great kicker and I'm trying my best every day to make sure I'm doing the things to I need to be doing to get that starting job."
Each competitor brings different experience levels and skill sets to the table. While Medley enters his first season of collegiate football, Bullock hopes his recovery from last season and comfort level with the Vols will help him win the job.
"The longer you're here, the more comfortable and confident you feel," Bullock said. "We've had a great snapper and a great holder this offseason, so the more reps we get with them, the more comfortable I am."
At the end of the day, despite their differences in experience, the biggest similarity between the young kickers right now is their trust in Coach Jones and his staff.
"We're going to compete and do the best we can, no matter how long it goes," Bullock said. "So, we leave that up to the coaches and trust their decision."
With the game day clock down to nine days, Team 118 is preparing for its first game against Utah State. For the upperclassmen, the excitement of getting back on the field is climbing, and the adrenaline for freshmen hoping to make their collegiate debut is towering.
"I'm a little nervous," defensive end Derek Barnett said. "I'm nervous for every game, even in high school. It will be a good experience. I listen to music, say my prayers and then it's go time."
With expectations of earning playing time as true freshmen, tight end Ethan Wolf reminisces when the countdown clock was set to 180 days and realizes that the intensity of practices have increased.
"When we got here the countdown clocks were at 180 and now they're nine days away," Wolf said. "It's crazy, but I'm ready."
"Mistakes have to be taken care of," Wolf said. "We have to learn everything and know it at the back of our hands because the game is a week and two days away. There's another level of intensity."
Here are sound bites from #Team118:
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
»(On the team responding after stopping practice in the middle)
"They did but everything is a teaching opportunity. From the one-minute drill on both sides of the ball and every time you practice situational football a different nuance a different coaching point arises and that is why you practice situational football. But it is also these individuals being dialed in to the situation in which we are practicing and how we are practicing it. And you learn from you mistakes that happen in those types of situations."
SENIOR QUARTERBACK JUSTIN WORLEY
»(On prep changing in game week)
"Coach Jake and the quarterbacks and I start off watching formation cut ups and we move on to third downs and red zone as the week progresses. It varies day by day but having fall camp and having a little extra time to watch Utah State has been really helpful."
»(On being a senior)
"We started off a little slow yesterday. I told the group that was running with the ones `Look this is my last go round. This is Marlin Lane's last go round. It's a lot of these guys last run of things, so let's go out with a bang. Let's start things off right with week one."
JUNIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN MACK CROWDER
»(On the position battle at left tackle)
"Jacob Gilliam has been doing a great job. He's a very sound guy with his technique and things like that. He has a little aggression to him to, which is always good with offensive lineman. Across the board, there's competition, as well. That's going to continue through the season, so the left tackle spot, along with everybody else, is just going to continue to get better."
SOPHOMORE WIDE RECEIVER JOSH SMITH
»(On Utah State)
"They're a good team. We're going to have to really come out and show our stuff. We're not going to sleep on them. They're a good team, they're a bowl-game team, so we've just got to come out ready."
»(On Coach Azzanni's confidence in him)
"I love that about Coach Azzanni, he sees all the potential in us. He tries to get it all out of us, too. I'm just trying to take it day-by-day and really grasp what he's telling me, and not really how he's telling me, but what he's getting across. I just try to work on it every day and try to be a better player."
»(On Michael Williams)
"He's done a lot better. He's stepped up through training camp, and overall he's done great. Coming from track to football is a big transition, and he's translated great. He's a physical guy and he's very fast. That's what we need in a DB. He's been making some plays."
SOPHOMORE PLACEKICKER GEORGE BULLOCK
»(On a benchmark range he'd like to hit)
"We'd love to show perfection all the time, of course. No matter what kick it is, whether we're kicking from 55 or a 19-yard field goal like [Coach Bajakian] had us do in the open practice, no matter what it is we're trying to make perfection. Every kick is done and approached the same way."
»(On how the open practice crowd helped prepare him)
"Forty thousand is small compared to what is normally in the stadium but it's fun. It's fun to see the fans and it's fun to interact with them a little bit after the game. When it comes down to us, it's just another day at the job, making sure we make our kicks and go through with our actions and plans."
FRESHMAN PLACEKICKER AARON MEDLEY
»(On Coach Jones' mid-practice team pep talk)
"I think he was just trying to get the team focused and reenergized. We kind of came out slow today but you know, things are getting better. We've just got to be mentally ready for tomorrow."
»(On how he compares to fellow kicker George Bullock)
"I'm not quite sure. I think I might have a stronger leg, maybe. But George has been here for three years, he has the weight room behind him and so I think we're pretty even."
FRESHMAN DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DEREK BARNETT
»(On how he has been able to be as far ahead as he is)
"Just the upperclassmen giving me good direction. When I mess up, they'll tell me what to do right and I try not to make my mistake again. Coach Strip keeps working on me. The coaches push me and get on me in practice."
»(On improving during camp)
"I'm still making mistakes. Every day I just try to get better at one thing. Like Curt [Maggitt] that's what he tells me to do, write on my wrist. Write something to get better at and that's what I've been doing lately."
FRESHMAN TIGHT END ETHAN WOLF
»(On how comfortable he is playing compared to when he just arrived)
"A lot more, further along in the play book. I definitely feel pretty comfortable with it. We still install every day. It's coming along pretty fast."
»(On Jones stopping practice to address the team)
"There have been times we've had bad practices obviously. It's something we don't want to do. We don't look forward to getting yelled at by Coach Jones, and we try our hardest not to. Today was just a day we came out flat. We'll get that taken care of."