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Vols return to practice after two days away from the field

11:03 PM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
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From the Vols--

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- 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.


"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."


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."


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."


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."


The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to

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