Vols forge through 'critical week' of practice

9:18 PM, Aug 13, 2013   |    comments
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From UT Sports--

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- 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.


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."


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."


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."


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.


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.

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