KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The first annual Student Appreciation Day will be Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The Vols and coach Butch Jones, have invited students to the stadium for one of the final spring practices before their spring game on April 12.
This will be the student body's first look at the football team and the chance to mingle with the players. Jones will also speak to them following the practice about their importance to the team's success.
"It's a chance to say thank you to our great student body and everything they're able to do for us in creating a home field advantage for us last year in Neyland," Jones said. "We need them this year as well, this upcoming year, so a very, very busy day and a lot, a lot of work to do on Saturday."
Saturday's practice will be a mixture of scrimmage and positional work that will all be scored according to a special system developed by Jones and his staff.
"We have kept score, we basically use the same scoring system last practice in Neyland, we will do the same when we go 11-on-11 in our practice setting," he said. "We will do the same with keeping score, there are points for tackles for loss, three-and-outs, fourth down stops, turnovers, all of that."
Faculty and staff are invited as well. Jones anticipates close to 300 faculty and staff members will be in attendance.
All of this, of course, is in preparation for Tennessee's annual Orange and White game which will take place at 3 p.m. EST.
"Last year was a great environment and with the youthfulness of our football team playing in front of as many fans as we can have in Neyland Stadium for the Orange and White game is going to be critical," Jones said.
More than 60,000 fans showed up for the 2013 Orange and White game. Jones hopes to break that mark this year.
"I know our fans will come out and support us because they are the best fans in the country and we need them for the Orange & White Game."
The spring game is free and open to the public. ?
JONES WELCOMES FINEBAUM BACK TO ROCKY TOP
Prior to practice, Jones took part in an interview with Tennessee alum Paul Finebaum on his national radio show. Jones welcomed the radio and TV personality back to Rocky Top and spoke with him for about 12 minutes. Jones addressed various topics from recruiting, to Tennessee's passionate fan base, to Lane Kiffin. Here is the entire interview:
JONES ON PAUL FINEBAUM SHOW
CARR TO MOVE TO OFFENSE?
The sense of urgency is now for the Tennessee Volunteers. One way that Jones is implementing that standard this spring is by assessing his team individually, position by position.
Currently listed as a defensive lineman on the Tennessee roster, sophomore Jason Carr is being evaluated for the possibility of switching to the other side of the ball to offensive tackle.
"First of all, it's where every individual can help you and help the team," Jones said of Carr, who has played on the defensive line since coming to Tennessee in 2013. "We'll make that assessment."
Although cleared to play, Carr is limited at spring practice playing with one hand bandaged in a cast.
"He will be able to play and he's one of those individuals right now that the clock is ticking for him," Jones said. "The sense of urgency really has to pick up for Jason."?
PLAY-MAKING TIGHT ENDS
With spring practice #10 complete, Jones feels "a little more comfortable on offense," but knows that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Jones stated two individuals that he considers main playmakers on the offensive side of the ball: freshmen tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf.
"They are every bit as good as we thought they were in the recruiting process," said Jones. "Both of them are going to play as true freshmen."
Although Jones noted that these two could still be in high school, he is impressed with what he has seen thus far.
"They are extremely competitive," said Jones. "They're very intelligent. They're tough. They're tough- minded and they can catch the football. They're both our playmakers on offense for us, so I've been very excited about those two individuals."
MIXON MAKING STRIDES
Freshman defensive lineman Dimarya Mixon is getting back in stride after a year away from the football field. Mixon, who enrolled at Tennessee in January, graduated from West Mesquite High School in 2013 and signed to play at Nebraska.
But after not qualifying at Nebraska, it was off to the real world for Mixon. He worked at Whataburger while working out on his own.
Mixon has had to adapt to college life and a new position with the Vols.
"He's going through that developmental phase and with football," said Jones. "Not only did he take a year off, but we switched his positions from inside to defensive tackle, so there's a little bit different."
Jones added that Mixon is learning the mental side of the game as well.
"He's just learning the discipline that it takes but also the mentality that you have to have- snap in and snap out," said Jones. "He's done a very good job, but again, he is young and he is developing, but the thing is, we don't have time right now to take our time to just sit them and develop them."
Here are sound bites from Coach Jones after Thursday’s practice.
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
"I feel a little more comfortable on offense. Defensively - a long way to go. Emmanuel Moseley is the one individual at corner that continually impresses. He's extremely competitive, fights for the ball in the air, is like a sponge, he takes everything that coach [Willie] Martinez tells him, tries to apply it to his game. We just need to get him bigger and stronger to compete at a high level come August and into September and into football season. I really like what he is bringing to the table."
»(On Cameron Sutton's physicality improving)
"Work in progress, still nowhere near where he needs to be from a physicality standpoint, from his cover-two, with re-routing the receiver. He has had a quiet spring, which is probably a good thing. We have challenged him with one-on-ones and he is being challenged with our receiving corps, he is playing the differences, in terms of, he is going through the nuances too of going through a spring.
"These are all new learning experiences, these individuals are not used to the grind of spring football and the practices because they are different than in season. In training camp there is no school, where now you are balancing going through a training camp and school, the rigors of being a student-athlete really comes into play in the spring. I have been pleased with his spring."
»(On lettermen returning for the spring game)
"I have been in touch with a lot of them, a lot of them are coming back. That is the exciting thing, to be able to welcome our former players back. We have such tradition here and great players that we are exceptionally proud of. That is one of the great thrills for me, to be able to have them come back.
"I know Al Wilson was in town last week but to get these individuals back and to get them around our players where our players can feel their energy their passion. We had a number of individuals here at Pro Day that are former players and that are now scouts in the National Football League and they come down and you start talking Tennessee Football and their eyes tear up. That means everything to me. They are the program and the pride that we have in this football program is second to none."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)