From the moment new offensive line coach Walt Wells met the media back in early March, he talked about bringing a certain kind of mentality to the offensive line room. He talked about having a tougher group up front. One that doesn't make excuses and instead pushes through the tough times while other teams falter. Thirteen practices in and the healthy lineman are seeing a difference when it comes to their unit.
"Right now we are in the process of building a bully," Robertson said. "That's what we say and talk about every day. It's our demeanor and attitude and how we come out and approach things every day. We have done it in the past, but we are really focusing on the mentality that you come out here and play with."
Robertson said that building a bully starts with each individual guy and trickles down to the overall group. Head coach Butch Jones made a move to put Wells in his current role and he's happy with their improvement.
"You know it's about details, accountability and toughness," Jones said. "It's about pushing through those things when you are tired. It's the ability to finish a 12-13-14 play drive and be able to run the football and pick up the blitz effectively. The only way you can prove your toughness is to push yourself through that threshold every day. What happens is you gain more and more confidence."
Jones cited Tuesday as a big stepping stone for the line and also took a moment to praise their work in the weight room as well.
"You have to be great physical condition," Jones said. "Your body is your asset with everything you do mentally and physically. It's about the players understanding the physical condition and shape they have to be in from a mental standpoint and body standpoint once August rolls around."
SATURDAY WILL FEATURE SOME FOOTBALL
Spring games under Butch Jones have always been more than just scrimmaging. Saturday will be no different, but Jones said despite some guys being limited with injuries, fans will see football.
“It will be similar to what we have done in the past,” Jones said. “We will have some Circle of Life, some 1-on-1s. We will have our quarterback challenge with a new wrinkle this year. We will have a punter challenge and then play some football. It's a great evaluation tool for us to see how our players perform. A lot of individuals haven't performed much. It will be a great opportunity for them and for our fans. We are looking forward to it.”
As spring practice comes to a close this week, Jones and his staff are on the road some recruiting and they are also in individual meetings with players, where they will assess their spring work.
“What we spoke about when spring started is doing everything with details, accountability and toughness,” Jones said. “What we are doing right now is we will have exit interviews this week and every player in our program will be evaluated on those three things. We will evaluate everyone giving us a great foundation moving forward into our summer strength and conditioning program.
"I think this week has been beneficial because a lot of the guys who have missed spring with post season surgeries are back now. They are able work with the new coaches and do some of the drills and team situations as well.”
With five new position coaches and a new offensive coordinator, this spring has been a lot about change. From Day One, the players and coaches have spoken about how easy the transition has been. With one practice left and Saturday's spring game, Jones said he's seen his program grow closer together thanks to a lot of discussions.
“They have grown together,” Jones offered. “Everything is about chemistry and family. I think the coaching staff has been outstanding. I think our players have gravitated towards them. Everything is about communication and earning that trust each and every day.
"They have done that. And they are great teachers. It's one thing to be a great presenter, but they are a great teachers. I am excited to have them and I know our players are excited to be coached by them as well.”
In less than a week, Tennessee’s well-publicized quarterback battle will return to the shadows, as gunslingers Jarrett Guarantano and Quinten Dormady won’t be competing in front of cameras for another four months.
In reality, the media has seen very little of the quarterback battle this spring, but Tennessee’s coaches have had an up-close look at the heated competition and first-year offensive coordinator Larry Scott expects the battle to remain heightened this summer.
Scott had a simple but direct message for Guarantano and Dormady heading into the offseason: “Lead.” Scott continued, saying, “Be consistent in everything that you do. Lead the guys. Be prepared. Continue to learn. Continue to ask questions, continue to come in and watch film and evaluate yourself. Be critical of yourself going from spring ball and the things that you need to do to take the next step over the summer.
“Just continue to lead and just lead by example. If they’ll do that they’ll put themselves right where we need them to be going into fall camp."