KNOXVILLE -- Butch Jones took the podium in the interview room inside Neyland Stadium on Friday morning and answered questions about his Tennessee football team.
The coach will find out plenty himself over the next month.
The Volunteers begin spring practice on Saturday morning under a new coaching staff, and Jones is looking to set the foundation of the program he took over just three months ago.
"I think the big thing is just developing our overall standard, our standard of play," he said during his pre-practice news conference. "You can't take anything for granted. Today we went out and walked around the practice fields, so when our players hit the ground running tomorrow, they know where we're at, the individual periods, transitions, the standard and expectation by which we're going to first and foremost begin to develop this football team, and that's on the practice field.
"We're looking for individuals who consistently perform at a championship level, and I think that a big word is consistency in everything we do, from the way we meet, by the way we lift to the way we practice and the way we play the game."
The next 15 practices will go a long way in determining what players can do on the field and how many of them handle the new systems, schemes and standards Jones and his staff want to implement. Jones dubs his practice style "controlled chaos," which includes a fast pace and mid-practice curveballs that simultaneously will test his team's conditioning and mental toughness. The Vols will learn to walk before they learn to run, and the installation of schemes on offense, defense and special teams will come gradually as opposed to all at once as Tennessee's new staff adapts to its new team.
"Before we can throw a lot at them, we're going to teach them how to practice, we're going to teach them the way we want to play and then the schemes will come," Jones said. "I believe in execution. Anybody and everyone in their offense [and] every defense has great schemes. Special teams have great schemes, but do your players execute it and do they know it? What do they own?
"By the end of practice 15, I want to know what we own in all three phases and the development in the mental toughness that it takes to play the football style that we're going to play here at Tennessee."
Some other notes…
A handful of players will be in new spots this spring.
Devrin Young will work at slot receiver after playing tailback his first two seasons with the Vols, though Jones would not rule out a backfield role for the Knoxville native. As he did at the start of last spring, Brent Brewer will work at linebacker after playing safety. Ooltewah native Jacques Smith and freshman Corey Vereen, signed as a linebacker, will play the Leo position, which is a defensive end-linebacker hybrid.
On the injury front, linebacker Curt Maggitt (recovering from torn ACL in November) and athlete and early enrollee Jalen Reeves-Maybin (January labrum surgery) won't participate in spring drills, and left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson will "pick his spots," Jones said, after offseason knee and shoulder surgeries.
As Tennessee moves to a faster-paced power spread on offense, Jones asked some of the Vols' offensive linemen to lose some weight to play in his system.
Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian were asked plenty of questions about the spring quarterback battle between rising junior Justin Worley, one of three players made available on Friday, and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman. Neither coach revealed much about the competition, since the limited on-field interaction between the Vols' staff and players has been without a football per NCAA rules. Worley appeared confident and comfortable when he answered questions from the media.
More coverage from Friday's news conference in Saturday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...