For the Tennessee football team, much of this spring is about new beginnings. Among the novelties, five new assistant coaches hit the field for the first time as members of Butch Jones’ staff.
The Vols are searching for a new quarterback and it’s imperative that new leaders emerge.
As springs go, suffice it to say there’s a lot happening.
It’s not like this is the first time that the players affected have met their new position coaches, but getting out on the field with them for the first time is a different animal than simply visiting in offices or a meeting room.
So from that standpoint, today was a bit of a discovery process for a good chunk of Team 121.
Today, the secondary got acclimated to a new way of doing business under Charlton Warren, who replaced Willie Martinez on Jones’ staff.
“Coach Warren brings energy and he brings a lot of details and that’s what we need. I really like him, I think the whole group likes him,” senior cornerback Emmanuel Moseley said.
“There aren’t any big changes. He and coach Shoop are working together and we’re just doing what we’re asked. I knew that he was in the military so I knew he was going to be serious about certain little things, details and things of that nature. That’s what we need though and I like that he’s pushing us on that.
“You could most definitely see that carry over on the field today.”
The changes on the offensive line might not be as pronounced due to the fact that new position coach Walt Wells spent last year working with that group as a quality control assistant.
Wells will certainly be putting his own personal stamp on things with his guys, but he’s at least ahead of the game in terms of getting to know personalities and what different guys can do from an ability standpoint. That familiarity has helped ease the transition up front where the Vols bring back a solid core of veterans with playing experience.
Without making too big of a deal about it, senior guard Jashon Robertson noted that one stark difference was that Wells was the only voice the offensive line had been hearing. A noted departure from last year when offensive coordinator Mike Debord appeared to function as a co-position coach with Don Mahoney, while Wells was also in the mix in his quality control role.
“To this point he’s the main voice that we’re hearing and to me that’s the only difference,” Robertson said of getting acclimated to Wells and his style.
“We have some minor things that we switched up footwork-wise that he’s really comfortable with using.
“I’ve enjoyed the transition with Coach Wells. Guys are together and working hard. I think that going forward it will be a great process.”
It goes without saying that things may not be so unanimously positive after the honeymoon period wears off for players and coaches alike.
For now though, Jones’ massive staff overhaul in the offseason doesn’t seem like it’s created any schisms in his program.
If anything, from the outside looking in the team seems energized and definitely upbeat. Whether that’s a result of just getting back on the field and playing a game they love, or for many of them, getting to start over with a clean slate, is hard to say.
The bottom line though is that this team has a good energy about the now no matter where it’s coming from.
Jones took a bit of a gamble this offseason, shaking his staff up in the fashion he did in front of what looks like a pivotal year.
At least for now he doesn’t come across as a guy who’s second guessing himself over some monumental decisions.
“I’m excited. We have great teachers. Great communicators. Great coaches that have great expertise,” Jones said when asked about the new faces on his staff. “I’m excited to get back and meet as a staff and say, ‘Ok, tell my your guys’ thoughts on Day One. What can we do better?’
“Today I was a little bit of a quiet coach. I sat back and I took notes. I’m not only coaching the players now, but I’m also coaching the coaching staff about our expectations on the grass and in the meeting rooms.”
Jones was quick to note that the groundwork for having things go so smoothly on the practice field today was laid long ago by his new hires.
“Our coaches have done a tremendous job and what I see is that they’ve built great relationships with our players already, from a trust factor and a communication standpoint,” Jones shared.