KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, coming off a week’s vacation, hit the ground running Tuesday with what head coach Butch Jones said was their most physical spring practice so far.
"We spoke prior to spring break that I thought the maturity of our football team would show coming back," Jones said. "Overall I did like our mental approach but also it was very glaring that some individuals are more mature than others. Some individuals prepared more than individuals coming back but I thought it was a very productive practice and probably our most physical practice so far since we've been back."
Not impressed with the effort and intensity in some parts of the first five practices, Jones said he was pleased with what he saw at the Vols’ sixth practice. The second-year head coach of the Vols said that the mental aspect of the practice really stuck out to him as they installed more of their plays and schemes.
"I was not pleased with the first five practices especially the scrimmage in terms of our overall style of play in which we're going to play football here at Tennessee but every opportunity is a teaching moment," he said. "Today had many teaching moments. We concluded practice with a live team period and then we graded our position groups on the field if we had loafs and not playing our style."
For the most part, Jones found that his team retained a lot of what they learned prior to the break. Now their focus shifts to fine tuning the smaller details of the game, playing more physically and conditioning to compete for 60 minutes.
He also recognized that with such a young football team there will be a significant learning curve. Tennessee will replace major chunks of their offensive and defensive lines. The receiving corps remains young and no starting quarterback has yet to be decided - a battle that is expected to last throughout the summer.
With all the room to improve, Jones said practice will continue to demand more and more.
"Today I did like our approach," he said. "I thought our practice was demanding and we'll continue to demand and demand even more as spring ball progresses."
A NEW END IN SIGHT?
Curt Maggitt has become a leader on and off the football field, so when Jones and his assistants asked him to try playing at the defensive end position, Maggitt never questioned the idea.
The redshirt junior has been spending extra time watching film and meeting with coaches to better understand his new role as an end.
"It's definitely a challenge," Maggitt said. "You have some big guys in the SEC. You have to be able to hold your ground and do your job as well. It's definitely a challenge, but I'm up for it."
After missing the entire 2013 season because of injury, Maggitt stresses even more now how he wants to give his all for Tennessee and his teammates are noticing.
"Curt is definitely showing a lot on the line," said defensive lineman Jordan Williams. "He has been playing end a lot. He's doing really good. He has places where he needs to improve, but all you need is a motor. He has it."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)