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March 18, 2013

Defensive win a good start

For the first time in some while the Tennessee defense wasn't wearing its usual orange practice jersey on Saturday and that was the penalty for the Tennessee offense winning the day during Thursday's practice.

Saturday, the defense was hungry to have their usual attire back and after a lackluster defensive Thursday the Vol defense made a renewed effort to gain back the orange jerseys by the end of the day.

"We worked really hard. The defense knew we had to win every drill. That's what we love about coach (Butch) Jones. He's making every drill a competition and so that's why you see the tempo of practice picking up every single time we're entering a new period," defensive end Jacques Smith said. "We worked and we worked as hard as we could today and we wanted those orange jerseys back. I don't like being in white, honestly. It's one of my favorite colors, but I'd rather be in orange and we came out with the win."

Senior defensive end Corey Miller said Saturday's work was much better and the defense took pride in having to win their jerseys back, but noted there still a ways away from being where they want to be.

"We came out today with the mentality that we had to do better than the previous practice. Everybody had, I'm not going to say low heads, but we knew we had to get a lot better," Miller said. "So, today we stepped it up a little bit but we have a long ways to go. We've got a long, long ways to go. It's just the beginning of spring practice and we're going to see where it goes."

Jones saw the defense step onto the field with more pride on Saturday after not being happy with their performance the last practice, but noted that wasn't the first time he's seen his team work hard to be better even though he agreed with Miller saying the team still has a ways to go.

"Well, I did. But it's not still up to our expectations. The way we practice, the way we take the field, the mental effort, the mental energy, the intensity that's required. But they're learning it as we go. And I think the big thing is how do you improve? I think it's you demanding of yourself. That example that you gave of them not being happy, that's what we want," Jones said. "And I'll tell you this: It's been amazing. I walked through our building (Friday) night at about 7:30 and you would've thought we were having a team meeting. The amount of players who are coming around to visit with our coaches just to get to know them and just them wanting to come to the building. That's very encouraging to us as a coaching staff."

The defense led most of the day but the offense rallied and almost came back on the defense according to Jones' scoring system. The head coach said it's too early to find anything definitive from the defense not being able to hold a lead but noted that it didn't come down to just one final play.

"I don't think there's any discouraging thing or encouraging thing. I think the big thing is that you just play. And it's like I told our team, it came down to a final play but did you know that that one rep you had taken an hour before in that one-on-one drill could have been the difference between winning and losing? And they have to learn how to value every repetition," Jones offered. "You have to value every rep in everything that you do. That's how you improve. And you value every rep to win that rep, and that's just a mindset that we're working towards getting here each and every snap, each and every day."

The next step in getting better each day according to Miller is learning to play together as 11 men on the field.

"Definitely just playing together at as whole defense, trusting your brother, trusting the guy beside you and getting your assignments done and definitely running to the ball and getting 11 hats to the ball," Miller said.

That better come quickly as the Vols are likely to begin expanding the defensive playbook and will be asking more mentally from each player.

"We've just touched a little bit on the playbook. I think we've skimmed over the top of it, but I think we're about starting to get in-depth next week going into our spring that way we can study our film while we're on vacation and we can come back and hit it hard," Smith said.

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