KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In addition to pride, finely prepared steaks will be on the line for the 'Winner Dinner' at Saturday's DISH O&W Game. Butch Jones has set up the dinner where the winning team will have a top-notch supper served on fine china while the losing team will have franks and beans served on paper plates with plastic forks.
"We are calling it 'Winner Dinner,' everything in our football program is based off of competition," said Jones.
"In fitting fashion, the winning team in the spring game will have a nice sit down dinner with servers, steak, and fine china. The losers will have hot dogs and beans and plastic utensils and paper plates."
Everything in the Tennessee football program is based on a competitive culture.
"We want something at stake," said Jones. "Just like the last practice of last week was to see who would wear the orange jerseys (the defense) and who would wear the white jerseys. So much is about the competitive excellence and the competitive greatness that we are working for each and every day. You have to teach players how to compete on a day-to-day basis.
These are life lessons Jones is teaching the Vols.
"You compete in life every day," he said. "You compete in academics. You compete on and off the field. That's the basis for our football program. We want to reward excellence in our football family."
Senior defensive back Justin Coleman will do all he can to make sure his orange team of the Vols' defense gets to eat that steak.
"Coach Jones will joke about every time someone has to eat a hot dog," said Coleman. "I'm trying to get that steak, it's what we want."
YOUNG FINDS COMFORT IN BACKFIELD
After spending a season at wide receiver, Devrin Young is returning to the backfield. The senior is slotted to see significant playing time along with senior Marlin Lane and freshmen Jalen Hurd.
It may seem like it can be easy to get confused flipping back and forth, from position to position, but Young says the staff has made it easy for him to pick back up where he left off.
"Obviously it's slightly different lingo for every position but it's the same language within that position so wants you learn the terminology it's easy," he said.
Young mainly worked out of the slot during his time on the perimeter. He said that he'll still split out wide sometimes but he's enjoying returning to his natural position.
"I guess the biggest thing is I get to touch the ball a little more," Young said. "Every day you've got to develop trust with the coaches and I guess somewhat I can say we're doing that."
Young had 33 carries for 140 yards in 2012. Last season he tallied 6 receptions for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"I've been pretty happy with the transition," Young said. "It's not like I went to a different position I didn't know this round. I felt pretty comfortable, the biggest thing was performing up the standards and expectations of that position that the coaches want me to."?
VERSATILE WIESMAN READY TO CONTRIBUTE
One player who has garnered a lot of attention from Butch Jones since he signed with the Vols last February is sophomore lineman Dylan Wiesman. Jones has raved about his competitive nature and mental make-up.
After a season as a back-up to the Vols experienced offensive line, Wiesman has a chance to step up and be a starter in his second college season.
"Dylan Wiesman can help this football team win and he will," said Jones, who has been on his radar since he coached in Wiesman's hometown of Cincinnati. "He has great competitive character but he has to be a tough minded individual and he has to play tough."
Wiesman has seen time at both center and guard in his "very productive spring" according to Jones.
The Queen City native is out to prove the Vols' new offensive line can be effective with their demeanor.
"I think we're pretty underrated at the offensive line," said Wiesman. "Everyday Coach (Mahoney) says we come to work with a work and like mentality. It's like a blue collar mentality, bring your lunch pail like we're not leaving until it's all done."
Wiesman spent last season as a back-up to probable NFL Draft pick Zach Fulton, a player he learned a lot from.
"I just watched (Zach)," said Wiesman. "I was just taking notes on everything he did during practice. Just looking at his feet and everything he did. I just wanted to play like Zach. He was so athletic but at the same time he was so strong. So, I just wanted to have a perfect role model to base yourself off of."
McNEIL HUNGRY FOR MORE
LaDarrell McNeil has seen an increase in activity this spring with the absence of Brian Randolph at the safety position.
The two-year letterman is also ready to take that next step in helping Tennessee move forward.
"I was happy with my overall performance but I wanted to get better and keep moving forward from that," McNeil said.
The junior said he also feels like they have a different mentality this year compared to last spring.
"We're hungry," he said. "We really want to improve from last year. Just keep moving forward."
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said that he needs to see more out of the safety group and McNeil in particular.
"He still has a lot of room for growth and development," said Jones. "Our entire safety position needs to step up, we had way too many missed tackles last year. The overall communication, they are responsible for getting the back end lined up but also the linebackers as well."
The Volunteers will also welcome a group of newcomers in the summer making the competition that much steeper in the fall.?
Here are sound bites from the assistant coaches after Thursday’s practice.
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
»(On what he wants to see Saturday)
"The habits that we have really been trying to form our identity throughout the course of spring, great effort, being a physical football team and making plays and being a team that plays disciplined football. Not any untimely penalties and just a clean game. The big thing is a clean game. A lot of times you just want to get through the spring game but for us being as young as we are and the growth and development that needs to occur, Saturday is a big, big day for us. It is very, very important in the continuing evolution of this football team and our football program and our entire group identity. I think it also provides momentum, now finishing school strong and then starting the next phase of our football program which is our summer strength and conditioning program."
»(On the DISH Orange and White Game)
"I am looking forward to this setting, a great evaluation tool, I have never been anywhere where you have 14 newcomer scholarship players. So really this is their first time competing in Neyland Stadium and competing in a large arena of this type that we are going to have for the Orange and White game. So I am looking forward to it and I am looking forward to see how they respond."
»(On the format of the DISH Orange and White Game)
"It will be offensively and defensively, just like it was last year. It will be orange and it will be white. We will play a game the first half, 12 minute quarters, clock stoppage in between our series. I think it is going to be great for our fans, they are going to be able to see individual one-on-one matchups. So you may see Josh Malone and Cam Sutton, wide receiver versus defensive back in the red zone. We will call their name out and they can go compete in front of our great fans. Another segment after we play football, what we call circle of life, just two individuals on the 50-yard line on the Power T going at it. You may see some offensive and defensive line one-on-one pass rush. Then the second half will be a 10 minute running clocks and a little bit of the same as well. We need to get quality reps, play football, but also it is going to be a great opportunity for me to see which players want to get up, compete in the environment that we are going to have here for Big Orange Weekend."
SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JORDAN WILLIAMS
»(On spring practice overall)
"I think spring went pretty good, especially for the defensive linemen just speaking from a defensive line standpoint. I mean we had a great week, we had a great game Saturday, we had lot of fun, we had a great day Tuesday, and we finished it right today."
»(On what drove the defensive line's improvement)
"We started off strong and then it just kind of slowly weaned off and then once we caught onto that it was everybody dragging a little bit, but we just brought it together. We brought the energy back."
»(On having good technique)
"Definitely, the one I always think about when I was here my freshmen year was Malik Jackson. Watching him - he was a taller guy but he wasn't one of those 300 pound power guys in there. He was about my size and just watching him on film, his hands were a technician."
SOPHOMORE DEFENSIVE LINEMAN DANNY O'BRIEN
»(On the importance of technique)
"Yeah, technique is going to be huge for us. With me and Owen [Williams], that really isn't the same thing as [Daniel] Hood and [Daniel] McCullers, so it is a little bit different. Owen moves really well and as long as we can make up for what we lack in size with technique we are going to be fine. I think we have been pushing along all spring doing great work with double teams and just pushing techniques like that that are going to help us throughout the season next year."
»(On what he looks to improve on)
"I just have to work on my pass rush. That is something I have to work on all summer. Obviously in the spring game, get a lot of looks. Also, I think that it is good to have a guy who can play the run real consistent and I think I have been doing an okay job at that. I just have to be more consistent in my pass game and being able to get off blocks, not just draw those double teams and get locked up."
»(On adding variety to the defensive line)
"I think it is a great thing. You see Jordan [Williams] rotating in, me, him, Owen, kind of three-waying inside, I playing a little three, a little nose, Jordan plays straight three and Owen plays straight one. I think it is great for us. It gives offenses a different look, more speed with Jordan and me but moving around and better pass rush. Just switching up the look."
SENIOR LINEBACKER A.J. JOHNSON
»(On today's practice)
"Pretty much went out there and competed as a team. Today was individual day, so it was self-motivation, pushing yourself to do what you need to do on the field and like you said, it was the last practice. It was my last spring practice as a Vol, so I had to go out there and have fun and make the best of it. It was a good day. We had nice weather and everything, so we had fun out there."
»(On defense's comfort level)
"Like you said, it's been our second year, so all this stuff is like repeat and some of the young guys- just trying to help them get a little more comfortable in the system. If the offense is going slow, we're going to be able to read what they're about to throw at us, because we know our assignments. From our assignments, we know what the offense is trying to look at and get our weak links, so that was a big thing we learned."
»(On 2014 Orange and White game)
"We're real excited. It's probably going to be a great turnout because we have great fans. It's probably going to be way more than it was last year. We had a good time last year in the spring game. We're going to make it an even better time this year."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)