August 5, 2014

Players, Jones talk response to challenges

Devrin Young said Tennessee's players took coach Butch Jones' message to heart. Newcomer Vic Wharton indicated Jones' words played in the back of his mind Tuesday on the practice field, just a day after Jones lambasted his team and banned them from speaking to reporters.

"He was really upset (Monday)," said the freshman Wharton. "Today, I was just trying to make sure I did everything I could to not upset him. I'm making sure I'm running around the field because he hates when people walk. As a team we have to make sure we pick it up and I think we did pick it up.

"I think it was eye-opening for a lot of the young guys. We're not used to that from high school."

Added Young, "It was a 180 from (Monday). Guys came out full speed, not starting slow. Everybody was hitting, guys were making plays on both sides of the ball. Everybody looked good and I felt like they took what Coach said and turned things around."

For his part, Tennessee's second-year coach praised the response of his team just a day after the tongue-lashing and on the Vols' first practice session in full pads.

"I saw it at 7:30 this morning in our team meeting. I liked our approach. They were focused," Jones said. "Our team meetings are interactive. We call on players. They have to talk about the previous team meeting, kind of lets me know where their mindset is walking in the door. So I did like their overall approach today.

"And they're being challenged. Not only on the field, but again, this being the final week of classes. So they had papers due and final examinations coming up. So I think it's just a combination of a lot of things. But I was very pleased with the way they fought through it today. But not fighting through it, it's more how you attack the day. I thought they attacked the day exceptionally well."

The players were led to attack a day that featured myriad individual, positional and team-wide challenges. The Vols conducted more than a dozen one-on-one goal-line battles with receivers and tight ends taking on linebackers and defensive backs at practice's open; they also did extensive work in the 'Tennessee Tough' drill and in pass skeleton.

Following five-straight days of drills to open camp, the Vols get Wednesday as more of a developmental day; there's no scheduled practice, and they'll spend extensive time in film review. Jones said Tuesday's effort was a good springboard into that 'off' day.

"Again, I thought our game mentality, that game energy, that passion we talk about, I thought they came out and now, it became challenging at the end, towards the end of practice. It's part of learning to fight through the fatigue," Jones said. "And great-conditioned players are rewarded in football. Football rewards those in great condition, both mentally and physically. We have great, great teaching opportunities tonight and (Wednesday). And a lot of film. And again, this being the first day tackling, and being in full pads."


Former Knoxville Central standout Cody Blanc is out for the year, Jones confirmed, following the injury Blanc suffered last Friday on the Vols' first day of pre-season camp.

"He's out for the year," Jones said. "We got the results back. It's a torn Achilles tendon. It's torn, so he'll miss this year."

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Blanc has appeared in 21 career games during his first two seasons at Tennessee, with one catch --- a 43-yarder late last season in the Vols' loss at Alabama.

Blanc had been battling for a spot in the two-deep rotation at the Vols' deep receiving corps. He does still have a redshirt season available.


With Tuesday being the first day of full-contact work, Jones was asked to state if any specific players had stood out.

Jones simply wasn't going there Tuesday night immediately following the workout.

"I'm going to wait and see, until I watch the video," Jones said. "We did some live one-on-one tackling. A.J. (Johnson) got a few reps, but not a lot of reps. Same thing with Curt Maggitt. We really wanted to see our younger players, see their physicality, see how they played instinctively when the pads came on. So I'll know a little bit more after I watch the video."

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