Vols start slow, finish strong in Friday's practice

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- The Vols were forced to rush inside after rain fell towards the end of practice. The impromptu location served as an obstacle for head coach Butch Jones' team to overcome.

"It's the first time we've had some adverse situations occur with the weather," said Jones. "Wish it'd get hotter - some individual straggling so that's the time where you have to push through."

And push through they did. Finishing practice better than the way they started according to Jones.

"I thought we picked it up and again we can't have any bad practices," he said. "Great teams, championship football teams, they understand they have to have a workman like approach every day they approach the football field. It's to win championships, it's to get better individually, to improve collectively and that where we're still not there yet with this football team."

Despite the unexpected move, a focus was still on consistency. Jones acknowledged that while still much to learn, he was happy with the teams spirit and willingness. "This group is comprised of very prideful individuals," said Jones. "They understand and the thing we have to do is take that emotional part out of them and build passion to consistency. I don't like emotional football teams because emotional people are up and down in the consistency factor.

"We have to be a team that just goes to work every day. We're building that process and I see us getting better each and every day."


Heading into the 2013 season, Justin Coleman is one of the most experienced Vols at the cornerback position.

Coleman played in all 12 games for the Vols in 2012, starting in nine of them, and has seen action in all 24 games for Tennessee since arriving on Rocky Top.

This is why he is being looked to by head coach Butch Jones as a leader in the secondary.

"[The cornerbacks] need to model their games after Justin Coleman, in terms of the way he prepares for practice day in and day out," said Jones. "He is the leader of that group. He takes coaching. He is a starter on every special teams."

"He has great endurance and he has the mindset of a great corner," continued Jones. "He is intense on every single rep and he is competing to get better each and every day. I can't say enough about Justin Coleman. He is probably one of our most consistent performers right now on defense."

High praise like that does not happen every day from Jones, who calls out players during practice for mistakes regularly.

Coleman takes it in stride and knows he has been through a lot to get to where he is right now, but also has a long way to go.

"I am a little experienced," said Coleman. "I have seen a lot of bad things happen, I have been through it. My key thing is doing everything right. Listening to the coach, watching film, getting in there and watching more film with the younger guys."

"The thing that changed the most is my mentality," said Coleman. "I am thinking about doing everything to the best of my ability. What I was really thinking about was trying to do things right so I can lead these boys down the right path."

Coleman knows that being deemed a leader by the head man is a great compliment and knows that though there may be pressure with the roll, he is ready to step up.

"There is always pressure, but I am trying to help the younger guys and even the older guys," said Coleman. "Try and show them how to do right and show them how to do it because I am one of the people who has been here for a while and I know how to do the drills right."

"Not everybody gets the privilege to play at Tennessee. It is just something that I take pride in. I love it here."


Entering his final of four campaigns on Rocky Top, senior offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James has never missed a start - a perfect 37-for-37. Twenty-two of those have come at the home of the Vols, Neyland Stadium.

With just seven home games remaining in his career, James relishes any chance to step on Shields-Watkins Field. Saturday night's scrimmage gives the Suwanee, Ga., native that opportunity in early August.

"I love it," James said. "I only have seven more times so as many practices as I can get in there, I'll be happy to do it. I only have seven more opportunities to play in there."

In addition to those seven Saturday's throughout the season, James is also looking forward to August 17.

"I'm really looking forward to the open practice where the fans can come," said James. "Anytime we can get in Neyland and play, it's a fun time."

As for what Coach Jones is looking to gain from tomorrow's 11-on-11, James believes it to be game-like experience.

"Just seeing the guys we can count on in a game time situation and getting a chance to see these young guys out there in Neyland," James said. "He wants to find our guys."


Freshman Cameron Sutton's helmet was a tad lighter on Friday as he became the first newcomer to have the black stripe removed from his helmet during training camp. His 'big brother' Brian Randolph removed the stripe Thursday morning in the team meeting.

A players new to the program wear a black stripe on their helmets until it is deemed by their older mentor that they are worthy of having the stripe removed.


If sophomore Pig Howard has learned one thing throughout the Tennessee Vols' preseason camp, it is that there is always competition among the wide receivers.

"It is a big competition," Howard said. "This is camp. This is where spots are taken and plays are made. This is going to show a lot, coach is going to evaluate us and some players are going to step up and overall this is going to be a big show of how we are going to do this season."

While a number of Howard's competition comes from the freshmen class, he knows that in the end, it is a team effort.

They [the freshmen] are coming out every day and one thing I am proud of is they are learning fast and that is something I am looking very forward to in playing with them," Howard said. "Marquez [North], [Ryan] Jenkins, and Josh [Smith], all of them. We are looking forward to see them step up big."

After playing in 10 games last season and working hard in the offseason, Howard has realized that a big way to win such competition is by knowing and understanding your playbook, inside and out.

"I know the offense like the back of my head," said Howard. "The temple, that is something that you have to get used to mentally and physically, and overall I have seen experience and repetition throughout the spring and summer, going through routes, that got me better."

Howard, who is feeling way more comfortable with the playbook, is hoping that will pay off for him in the long run.

"The benefits are just being able to get the ball in the formations," Howard said. When you know it, Coach Bajakian draws up plays to get the ball in your hands, but I just think that isn't a hard thing for me. Being in your playbook is what is going to benefit you and better you in that situation."


With the recent injuries to defensive ends Corey Vereen and Jacques Smith, the defensive line has been forced to find alternate bodies to fill those roles.

One such body, junior Jordan Williams, is fresh off his first lettering year and will look to impress defensive line coach Steve Stripling into possible playing time. "It's hard losing players like Jacques and Vereen but I mean, they'll be back and we just have to keep moving on," said Williams.

"I definitely am stepping up with Jacques being gone, because I'm behind Jacques right now, but it definitely time for me to step up and I mean everybody as a D-Line."

A native of Gainesville, Fla., the 6-5, 260 pound defensive lineman recorded five starts and appeared in ten games last season. He was ranked second behind Smith in the Vols' preseason depth chart.

"I feel like I'm more conditioned," he said. "The game's slow it down a lot more, feel like I'm more of a veteran player, a little bit older."

Despite maybe being the favorite to assume the defensive end role opposite of Marlon Walls, Williams insists that it's still a team effort.

"Yes, I mean definitely there's more of an opportunity, but we just have to step up as a whole," he said. "It's not individual, you know, but us as a whole, we just have to pull it together."


The Vols had two players return to the squad on Friday as quarterback Tyler Page and defensive back Tyler Coombes were back on Haslam Field. Both players were expected to rejoin the team when class began at UT on Aug. 21, but with several departures, they are now part of the training camp roster of 105 players. Junior running back Austin Bolen has left the program.


The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to UTTix.com.

For more information about Tennessee football, visit UTSports.com/football, follow @Vol_Football on Twitter or like the Vols at Facebook.com/VolFootball.


Here are sound bites from the coaching staff on players after the fifth day of practice:


»(On experiencing low energy periods)

"I thought we picked it up but again we can't have any bad periods in practice. Great teams, great championship football teams, they understand and have a workmanlike approach every day they approach the football field. It is to win championships, it is to get better individually and to improve collectively and we are still not there yet with this football team."

»(On Alton Howard)

"I see a lot of confidence in Alton [Howard]. We are going to need him to be one of our playmakers. Now he is playing with confidence, he is retaining information. We have been afforded the luxury because of his football intelligence and him understanding the offense, we have been able to move him around positionally, now he is not just a slot receiver. That has been really great to see and I have been very encouraged by what I have seen with him."

»(On Marlin Lane)

"High level of consistency. Improving each and every day. He is very hungry. We spoke last night in my office. It is maintaining that high level of consistency. It is him maintaining that level of intensity. He is playing very good football for us right now."

»(On VFL Al Wilson)

"We welcomed back Al Wilson today, he spoke to our football team. As always, Al brings a great message, so it is always great to welcome back all of our former players and we are extremely proud of him and very proud that he came back and spent time with us today."


»(On a difference in Marlin Lane)

"Definitely... Marlin is committed. He's in his book every day. We have the running backs and offensive line together watching film now. Once a day they come in and watch with us. They're taking a lot of pride in their position. Marlin is one of those guys - I love him - he makes you right as an offensive lineman. He's got the shakes and everything, but he's good at setting up blocks for you. You can tell when he's behind you."

»(On a healthy Curt Maggitt making a difference)

"Curt brings a lot of passion to the defense. He's a voice out there - letting people know what to do - and he's an energy guy. He plays with great effort and will work well with this defense."

»(On what's left at defensive end)

"We've got a lot of depth on the defensive line. There are a lot of guys that are going to get a chance. Jacques (Smith) just got hurt and Cory Vereen, but I like going against the defensive line. It's a challenge every day going against our D-Line. Like I said, they have a lot of depth so they bring a lot of guys over there."

»(On if today was a `bad' practice)

"We talked about not having any bad days, and today was a close one, but we kind of closed it out at the end. A lot of leadership stepped up. I don't know what it was, but I feel like we've got to do better in practice."


»(On filling in for Jacques Smith)

"I feel like I have the speed for it and definitely the knowledge for it. So I feel like I fit well in that, but we have to play both sides, so you never know."

»(On the defensive linemen mindset)

"I mean it's always an opportunity for guys to step up. I mean, we can't look down on it. We have to move on."

»(On Corey Vereen)

"He's a hard worker. Never are you going to see Corey Vereen not give all of his effort. We definitely miss that, but he'll be back."

»(On Jacques Smith in a "coaching" role)

"He's really enthusiastic. He's really about just us not getting down on ourselves. If we mess up on a play, he's trying to get us to the practice"


»(On the weather)

"Fight through it. Everywhere we play in the SEC is hot right now. Every team is going through that. It's third-and-one and that's the down that we got to get off the field because field position is one of the key things in football. If you can control that - I think [Jones] showed us some stat that the team who leads in field position wins 75 percent of the games. If you've got a plus-10 advantage they win 90 percent of the games. If you can get off on third-and-one that changes the whole field position."

»(On the pace of practice)

"Sometimes I feel like we squeeze five into a two hour practice. It's good to go that way because when we play teams that huddle we'll be able to be out there jumping around. We're going to have more time to think, more time to see what's going on. It's going to give us more energy to play. When things get going fast and you've got to react fast it teaches you to think fast. When we play teams that huddle and they're moving the tight end, moving the back, things like that - that's going to be cake to us because we've already been through it 100 times."

»(On Danny O'Brien)

"His buy-in to what Coach Strip is saying is incredible and just every day you see him picking up on things that Coach Strip says -- hitting the little pressure points, flicking your hips, doing things like that and I've been super impressed with him. He's going to be a dang good football player and I'm happy to be able to watch him."


»(On Cameron Sutton)

"He is doing what he need to do. Cam has been balling out, making plays and catching interceptions. Doing the things that cornerbacks need to do."

"Cam has showed improvement every day. Everyone has been looking for improvement. We don't want anybody to decline. He is making plays out there. He is doing what cornerbacks can do. Catching picks, doing everything right, trying his best at everything."

»(On playing late in the game)

"We are going to be ready for the games late. Our mentality is going to take us through a lot. At the end of the game they are going to see a different UT. It is just our mindset. We have changed everything about ourselves and we will be ready this year."

»(On freshmen corners)

"They are shy like I used to be when I was a freshman. I have to go up to them and tell them everything that they need to do. Kind of show them what they need to do, just to get better and how to make it through the season."


»(On DB's goals for tomorrow's scrimmage)

"Well, I feel like it's always make plays. DBs in general, our position, that's what we try to do. In scrimmages, games, and everything, just make plays."

»(On importance of the Nickel back)

"Coach brings up that "NICKEL" is someone that need to be our third down man. We call it money down. On third down, we need to get off the field so we feel that is pretty important."

»(On becoming a scholarship player)

"It's not just being on scholarship, it's being able to help out the team. I feel like I can help out my brothers especially out on the field. It means a lot."

»(On proving yourself as a walk-on)

"To my team, I proved that I like to win. I don't like to lose stuff like team drills or one-on-ones. I feel like I have proved that a little bit. They see I am trying to fight for a win, nd that is what they look for."


»(On Thursday's day off)

"It feels good to have that day off but at the end of the day we have to keep grinding, gotta get this program back on top. This is camp. It is a grind, nothing is easy and in order to win you have to sacrifice."

»(On being prepared)

"I knew going into the summer, what to expect and I just think overall this tempo is something that you have to prepare for. It is a grind and usually as a receiver and football player, people aren't used to playing full speed for a bunch of plays in a row. It is something you have to repeat over and over and get your mind ready for it."

»(On Justin Coleman)

Justin Coleman, I salute him. He has been playing more physically each and every day he has gotten better over time. I see a lot of the younger guys following him. I think he has stepped up big time in this camp and this summer and in the spring he stayed consistent all throughout so he is doing good.

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