March 16, 2013
Competition a fixture for Jones
The rhythm was noticeable and the improvement, simply from beginning to end, was unmistakeable.
That high-stakes close to Tennessee's first-ever practice and scrimmage under new coach Butch Jones inside Neyland Stadium?
As Justin Worley settled into a modest groove during the defining closing stretch of the Vols' work inside their autumn home, the Vols' junior quarterback was anything but surprised at the environment Jones had simulated.
"You find out about individuals when their blood-pressure goes up and how they perform when there's something on the line." - Head Coach Butch Jones
It has, after all, been this way since Day One.
"I think it might have been coach Jones' first meeting, he said we're going to come in and we're going to set up a competition-based system. And it's transitioned onto the football field as well," said Worley, who led the Vols' top offensive unit to four closing scores in modified and sudden-change situations. "There is an accountability, and definitely whoever wins the day and the losing team, they have a little chip on their shoulder coming into the next practice. It's like losing any game, you're going to have a chip on your shoulder going into the next year or the next week. It definitely kind of forces the level of game to step up."
Jones has emphasized he will accept nothing less. Tennessee's coach made clear he believed much can be gleaned about how a player enters into a pressure-cooker environment.
"You hope that they embrace it. The great competitors, they embrace those situations," Jones said. "And that's what we're evaluating right now. ...
"I'm not pleased, and I'm not satisfied. I think we've made great progress."
After Worley directed three no-doubt scoring drives late and one debatable one --- a touchdown was signaled to end the day, only to have the defense declared victors when it was ruled Worley's jersey was touched before his final pass to Brendan Downs --- Jones also established an intense, peer-pressure laden competition for his kickers.
Scholarship kickers Michael Palardy, Derrick Brodus and George Bullock, kicking from within a human tunnel of teammates, were charged with connecting on field goals for points to be awarded to either the offense or defense.
All three made the early kicks, and then Palardy set up the do-or-die play between the offense and defense when he smoothed through a 52-yard field goal.
"Well I think you have to [set up those circumstances]. And you find out about individuals when their blood-pressure goes up and how they perform when there's something on the line," Jones said. "That's why we did the kicking at the end of the scrimmage, too. I've got to find out who our field goal kicker is. Who's going to be able to get points for us under pressure? And when you play in front of 102, 107,000 people in Neyland Stadium every home game, pressure is what you put on yourself. We have to do that.
"We'll do that with our punt team and getting punts off and getting them under 2.0 operation time and finding out who our punter is going to be as well. And our long-snapper and our holder. There are so many things that go into the kicking game. And we rehearse those and we have to try and manufacture competitive situations or stressful situations."
Regardless of this day's outcome defensive end Jacques Smith, a senior who committed to Lane Kiffin and stayed under Derek Dooley who now finds himself with one final autumn to play for Jones, praised Jones' approach as an avenue to improvement.
"I think the benefit for us is when we're in a pressure situation and we need a serious point like that or a serious turnover or whatever play it may be, whatever situation it may be, I think coach Jones is taking the time to realize this is where our team needs to grow," Smith said. "And he's definitely taking those steps with us for us to mature in those situations. Definitely our kicking situations when we're putting the pressure on the kicker and we're lining up and it's just him and the field goal, I think that's a perfect situation to win a ballgame for that guy and that individual. Whether it's that or the defense and offense going on the 2-yard line and battling it out to see who gets in, I think those situations are where this ball team needs to get better at and we definitely did today."
It's a step. Because as the Vols are learning under Jones, the stakes will only get higher.
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