Vol Report, by UT Sports
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vols were back on Haslam Field on Tuesday as Butch Jones continues to build a new UT team, 'brick by brick.' Tennessee returned to action after spring break week and Jones was happy with what he saw from the Orange & White.
"We wanted to see how our players would respond," said Jones. "We had a focused group of young men yesterday in our meetings. And today I liked our mental focus and I liked our mental effort. It is like building a building, you build it brick by brick.
"That is what we are building right now as this football program, this football team. We still have a long way to go. I also saw some individuals who really went on spring break and came back and they were in great shape. Overall, still a lot of work to do."
Jones continues to emphasis the physical nature of the game and is putting a significant focus on it each day.
"I think our overall physicality as a football team has to improve greatly," he said. "That is going to be the emphasis each and every day. We are going to get even more focused because obviously playing in this football conference we have to be a much more physical football team then what we showed today. It is all how you practice.
"The way you practice really tells you the culture of your football program. The thing I like about our players is they are here and they are willing but we still have a long way to go. But like I said earlier it is brick by brick."
JONES LOOKING FOR LEADERS
Of his course of time as a coach, Jones has placed a major importance on the impact of leadership within his teams both on and off the field. It is no different at Tennessee and Jones continues to look for the men to lead Team 117.
"It is critical. Leadership is everything," said Jones. "We (coaches) aren't on the field with them, we aren't in there when they start their summer strength and conditioning program. We always talk about it, it is better to be a player-led team than a coach-led team, or a player-coached team then a coach-coached team."
Jones has pointed to several upperclassmen including Ja'Wuan James, A.J. Johnson and Jacques Smith, who have emerged as leaders. He also pointed to unheralded Raiques Crump as a player who is rising to the occasion.
"Ja'Wuan has done a great job, but we need more," said Jones. "I thought A.J. Johnson stepped up a little bit. For the first time I saw some energy, I saw a passion to get to the football, tackles for loss. Jacques Smith has been an individual who is bringing it in terms of his demeanor every day.
"Crump has been doing a great job. There is a number of individuals, Byron Moore, again we need more, we need more of a collective group effort."
WALLS PAYS TRIBUTE TO KATELYN NORMAN
With most of the university students gone over spring break, a handful of Vols remained on campus working out and getting ready for the second rounds of spring practice. Little did some of the players know a 14-year-old girl would change their lives forever.
Katelyn Norman, the 14-year-old from La Follette, Tenn., who had been battling osteosarcoma for the past two years, passed away last Friday morning, just before several Vols took part in a walkathon in her honor.
Marlon Walls was touched in such a way after meeting Norman on March 27 at the East Tennessee Children's Hospital.
"That little girl changed my life and I mean that with the utmost respect," said Walls. "She literally, she changed my life. Man, words can't explain how much I look up to that young lady."
Walls, Corey Miller, Allan Carson, Daniel Hood and Daniel McCullers took part in the walkathon and were welcomed with open arms of Norman's family despite knowing her just a few days.
"We were getting a lot of attention, and asked her sibling if this is okay or should we leave," said Walls. "She was like, "No man we want you here because that's what Katelyn would've wanted." I don't know man, it touched my heart. I can honestly say my life will not be the same from meeting that little girl."
CROOM GETTING PHYSICAL
At 6-5, 232 pounds, you'd think being physical would come natural to RS freshman WR Jason Croom.
However, Croom says that's exactly what the coaches are stressing to him thus far in practice.
"Coach has been talking to me about using my size more and having more confidence when I am out there," Croom said. "That is what I have been working on."
Croom said the he wants to go up and get the ball, but also make it tough for defenders to bring him down once he lands. During Tuesday's practice, Croom ensured he'd maintain that attitude with a friendly reminder on his wrist.
"Today, I wrote on my wrist, no missed physical opportunities," Croom said. "Every chance I had I tried to be physical and go grab a deep ball if it came my way."
The coaches are working to instill this toughness among the players and Croom's progress has caught the eye of Head Coach Butch Jones.
"The one individual who has really started to impress me right now is Jason Croom. I thought he came back from spring break, I could tell he got into his play book, he ran over break and I really liked the way he approached practice today. He is a big 6-foot-4, 225-pound individual and he needs to play like that. I really saw some glimpses today and was very encouraged by what I saw with him."
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPRING BREAKS
As the Vols reunited for meetings Sunday night leading into today's practice, several had stories and tales to tell from their time away from Knoxville while others staying in town honing their craft.
Nathan Peterman returned to his native Jacksonville, Florida, with some teammates.
"A few guys went home with me like Justin King, Jason Croom and Kenny Bynum," said Peterman. "It was good to have those guys with me. I threw a few times and ran on the beach for a little beach workout. It was nice."
Croom got a taste of a type of workout.
"I just ran on the beach," he said. "I heard it made your feet fast. That is the first time I ever had done that. I felt it, I felt the difference."
Several of a Vols went on cruises including A.J. Johnson, who was "having a good time," but added he he came back "ready to practice" with lots of energy and tempo.
Unlike previous seasons, the Vols' break came in the middle of spring practice.
"I didn't know what to expect because this is the first time since I've been here that we've had spring practice with spring break in the middle," said Ja'Wuan James. "I feel like it went well and everybody stayed out of trouble and came back today with a great mindset."
Brian Randolph was in great spirits after Tuesday's session. "I felt we were fresh," he said. "We were uptempo - sometimes we were down - but I think we had a good practice."
LANE AWAY FROM TEAM
Junior running back Marlin Lane was not at practice on Tuesday due to some personal matters. According to Jones, "He is taking care of his family right now. He has had some health issues in his family and he wanted to be there for them. He will be back tonight."