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April 9, 2013

Annoying sounds test Vols mettle

Tennessee was in the midst of team red zone drills Tuesday morning when the speakers surrounding Haslam Field began blaring out the shrill screams of a crying baby.

The baby gave way to the buzzing of bees. Then the blast of a jet engine. A high-pitch whistle that was as dizzying as it was deafening came later, followed by the sounding of a car alarm.

The Vols didn't flinch.

A leaping Jason Croom beat Dan Gray to a jump ball in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Marlin Lane shook a back-up defensive back around the left side for another score. LaDarrell McNeil broke up a pass intended for a dragging Devrin Young on the goal line..

The noises kept coming. The reps didn't stop.

"It may be corny, but it is what it is," Butch Jones said of distracting sound effects after practice Tuesday morning. "It's being able to focus and 'X' out everything.

"Playing, obviously, in the SEC and having to play at Oregon - some people have described it as the loudest venue in college football - you have to learn to sort those distractions out.

"You have to focus on your communicative skills," he continued, "your non-verbal skills and your command presence. We'll continue to grow as spring ball progresses in using that."

There was good reason Jones waited until practice No. 10 to break out the distractions.

The first nine practices focused on scheme installation on both sides of the ball. Now it's executing that scheme without distraction.

"I wanted to make sure we had a foundation and a basis," Jones said. "We'll evolve more into that; And obviously it will be a staple in training camp. But I also like to do it when they're not expecting it."

Alex Bullard said the message was received loud and clear.

"That just helps you stay focused," he said. "When we first started hearing it we were like 'What's going on?' Then we realized that was Coach Jones' way to keep us locked in, stay focused.

"It really helps, because when you line up at first, with multiple distractions we learn how to clear that out and focus on what we have to do."

Corey Miller had never heard anything like it on the practice field, at least not until Tuesday.

"It's different, I'll tell you that much," Miller said. "You just have to keep your assignment and keep going. You have to be ready for anything; you never know what you'll hear in Neyland.

"I was wondering what was going on. I was like, 'What kind of period are we in right now?'"

AJ Johnson said he didn't even notice the off-topic noises from his linebacker spot.


"I thought it was pretty funny, I just heard a crying baby," he said, laughing. "A crying baby, that was different."

With the baby sounding off in the background, Jones grabbed the microphone that's become his staple on the practice field.

"That sounds like you, McCullers!" Jones screamed.

"The sounds kind of throw you off, but at the end of the day, when you're on that field, you have to be ready to roll," Alton 'Pig' Howard said, adding that Jones calling out McCullers got a laugh from both sides of the ball.

"(McCullers) got a deep voice, so we knew it wasn't him."

Where, exactly, does a coach come up with that kind of soundtrack?

"That's kind of materialized over time," Jones said. "We went from music, and we'll mix it up, but I like annoying noises. I like something that really focuses you.

"That was a 'C-minus' though, we'll really tune it up a little bit on Thursday."




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