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September 4, 2013

Quick HiTs: More mind games for Vols

Butch Jones isn't holding back.

Tennessee's first-year head coach has worked relentlessly to fire up his team and have the Vols prepared for Saturday's contest against Western Kentucky, which kicks off at 12:21 p.m. inside Neyland Stadium.

Jones cautioned on Tuesday that he was going to make senior defensive tackle Dan McCullers wear a number 63 jersey in testament to the Vols' creed of six seconds and three good strains. Well, McCullers indeed found himself wearing a far-too-small 63 jersey on the practice field Wednesday.

But the bigger news on Wednesday remained Curt Maggitt's continued work on the practice field while junior wideout/return specialist Devrin Young did not practice and is expected to be lost for several weeks with a hand/wrist injury. Redshirt junior punter Matt Darr was not on the practice field during the open portion of practice Wednesday, but Darr was spotted making his way to practice around 5 p.m. after returning from class. Jacques Smith was not on the practice field as the senior defensive end was scheduled to have the pins removed from his surgically repaired right hand.

With Young out, Tennessee appeared set to turn to Jacob Carter, Pig Howard and perhaps Cam Sutton in various aspects of the return games. Carter is considered the "good-hands man" and would likely handle punt return duties deep inside the Vols' own territory. Howard is seen as an option with more explosiveness and also should work back into the kickoff return aspect. Sutton battled Young for starting punt returner duties during pre-season camp and could factor into the mix as well, as he's seen as someone with some good agility and elusive ability.

Jones again emphasized special teams and punt coverage during the open part of Wednesday's practice. He also challenged his team to block out the heat and be prepared to showcase its physical conditioning with Saturday's contest against the Hilltoppers.

Jones also again had the team jump into bull-ring or 'circle-of-life' drill, though he continued to utilize only younger players. Nonetheless, Jones clearly wanted to send a message of physicality to his team.

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie also showcased some new ball-security drills.

VolQuest.com will tweet and post notes immediately following today's post-practice comments --- and will do so each day of practice. Additionally we will have a variety of content items this evening, more Thursday including War Room and have podcast and predictions on Friday. Staff twitter handles are: @VolQuest_Rivals, @VolQuest_Paul, @VolQuest_Rob, @AustinPriceless, @John_BriceVQ and special contributor @GrantRamey.

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