KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- What did Butch Jones have to say about Tennessee’s 2014 football team on the eve of the Vols' first practice?
Find out in this transcript of Thursday’s press conference:
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
"It's great to see everyone, and I hope everyone had a great summer. We will hold an open practice on Saturday Aug.
16. The gates will open at 6 p.m. with practice starting at 7 p.m. As big as anything else, there will be free parking. We need to create a game-like atmosphere for our football team, and we are going to try and put them in some pressure situations, some live game repetitions and see how they perform in front of our great fan base.
In terms of the summer, I think it was very productive in all aspects and regards to our football program. It started in the classroom with summer school. It's the first time we are finishing up with our second-session of summer school and nobody is in any eligibility concerns or issues. Everyone is qualified and ready to go. That's a great thing, and it's going to be a great challenge starting training camp Friday night in terms of we have another week of school left. It's going to be a balancing act of classes, finishing strong and getting ready for Utah State coming up very shortly.
It was also a productive summer in terms of the community. We talk about being champions, productivity in the strength and conditioning area and the former players. If you look at the former players that were back on campus, I can't name all of them because there were so many, but as we all know, we had Peyton Manning, Jason Witten, Eric Berry and Chad Clifton was back for the first time since the indoor field was 60 yards. It was great to see him and his family and his children. Albert Haynesworth and Jon Gruden were here for a number of days. My good friend Charles Davis was also here.
The key in being the best team we can possibly be is learning how to manage the natural adversities of a very long football season brings about in training camp. How do we adversities, setbacks or time demands? So much goes into being a student athlete that a lot of individuals don't realize. They have a full academic workload; you have study hours, study table, community service, three and a half or four hours of football, rest, nutrition or getting up at 6 a.m. to get treatments. There is so much that goes into it. In your mature teams, or the teams that can manage those, are usually the ones winning championships come November and December. It's focusing on the process one day at a time, and again, it's great to see everyone."
(On teaching the younger players how to handle adversity)
"They say adversity is the greatest teacher of life lessons but as they say, `if it is so great why does nobody want to experience it.' I think we have to manufacture different situations in practice. That is why the open practice is critical. We have to create game speed repetitions, we have to create game like situations. So we will continue to do that, we have to rely on our older players. I think our team chemistry has greatly evolved. We had our first, what we call, orange code night, last team where our players put together their code on how we are going to win. Not in terms of the plan to win but off the field, and to hold each other accountable. I thought we took a major step that way but I think it is persistence and I think it is consistency in everything that we do."
(On why fans have invested in him)
"Well I don't think it's investing in me. I think it's investing in this football program and in this football team. I've said it, and I'll continue to say it; we have the best and most passionate fan base in the country. We live together, we die together, we do everything together. That's Vol Nation. And so making Neyland Stadium a home field advantage, starting off against Utah State, will be absolutely critical."
(On his quiet concerns going into the season)
"I think just the overall development. My concern, initially, isn't quiet; it's our offensive and defensive line. Quite simply, we'll be as good as those two positions develop. They know it and our players understand it. Our coaches know it. It's a great team game and we have done a great job as coaches to try and provide some relief but there has to be a sense of urgency with everyone in this football program. Not just in the offensive and defensive lines but across the board. You know, I hear talk about Marquez North and he'll be here for three years. I'm worried about Marquez North getting a break. I think sometimes we're too quick to anoint and crown individuals when they have a long way to go. This football team has worked exceptionally hard but again, we just have to continue to get better. Also, overall physicality as a football team. I think about the leadership, when you only have 12 seniors and we put three walk-ons on scholarship that bring that number to 15.”
(On when to name the starting quarterback)
"As soon as one person steps up and takes control of the offense and takes command of the program. I just spoke with our quarterbacks a little while ago again about the brand of being the quarterback at the University of Tennessee. It's a global position and there are not very many brands across the country when it comes to quarterback play that is more vivid and more out there than being the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee."
(On using the new wide receivers and tight ends)
"I think it's going to help our quarterback play tremendously. We talk about it this past year and I think we forced our quarterbacks to have to play perfectly at times. In no way, shape or form is our receiving corp to the point where we want it to be. We want to be exceptional. We want to be the best in the country. The additions at the tight end position with Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf; they bring a different level of competitiveness and athleticism. So now you're going into camp and everything is about competition. Competition either brings out the best or the worst in individuals and we need to get to a point where every position on this roster is competing. Some individuals need to take monumental strides in moving forward but we have some players on this football team that can catch and advance now. That's going to be critical as we move forward."
(On the offensive line and tackle positions)
"They've progressed. Again, they've had a very productive offseason with strength and conditioning. There's only so much you can do in strength and conditioning and now it's time to play football. I'm excited to see the growth of this football team from the Orange and White Game, to practice one, to practice two and all the way to game time and see how we continue to progress and develop. The big thing is now, can we transfer that strength that we've gained in the strength and conditioning arena now onto the football field."
(On the newcomers staying on-pace to start the season)
"Well, again, it's critical because everything is about installation. Every day is a new install. Once they learn something new, you're moving on and if you don't keep up it's just like academics. There is no difference. You know, you're always moving on so if you don't get part one, you're going to struggle with part two and part three and part four. So that's where you rely on your older players and we'll do a lot of walk-throughs and different things. We've had a company come in and access how our players learn, their ability to learn, how we teach them and each individual learns differently. Some learn by seeing it done on the video, some learn by drawing it, some learn by doing it, some are audio, some are visual and some are hands on.
We have to extract every ounce of value of everyone in our football program and everyone has a role. They must understand their role. It may be four snaps on special teams. If that's your role, you need to excel in your role and you need to understand your role and you need to embrace your role. That's going to be critical."
(On the addition of the two hour rule)
"Especially with a young football team, I think it is going to benefit us greatly, that is why I am excited to see it practice one and practice two. It was a balancing act for us. I know that has been the number one question across the country, how was the new two hour rule? For us it was challenging because not only are you trying to develop the mentally but you are trying to develop them physically. Especially offensive and defensive lineman so the more time you spend in the classroom the more time you are taking away from their personal development in the strength and conditioning area. We had a plan and I believe we executed the plan very, very well and it has been a big benefit for our players."
(On Dontavius Blair)
"Dontavius Blair is extremely motivated and he has had a great off season. He has done exceptionally well in the classroom. He has really changed his body in his strength levels, just his overall body makeup. We check the bodpod, we do that test all the time and he has made tremendous strides. Now it is that confidence in his ability, now it is how he applies his offseason to on the field. We are going to need him to step up. We have who we have, that is not going to change. I like the direction he is going right now."
(On developing the players who enrolled in June)
"Yeah we have and we say they may not be ready game one or game two but kind of the measuring stick may point to game three or game four. Or we may say we just need to continue to progress and our goal is to have him ready by SEC play. So again, every individual is different and every individual is different in how they develop and mature. But as we know, this league is very unforgiving especially if you play a lot of true freshman. If you look at a lot of good players that have played in the SEC and you look at their play from their freshman year to their junior year to their senior year, it is remarkably different. It will all be based on how they develop but we have a plan for everyone."
(On replacing the offensive and defensive lines)
"I think when you look at it, we are the only team in the country that has to replace both starting offensive and defensive lines. So that is very unusual. Quite frankly that is the reality when you are building a program. It is something we all knew coming here. I think of it has a tremendous opportunity. It is a tremendous opportunity for Mack Crowder. Mack Crowder has worked exceptionally hard. Now is your opportunity, go grab it, go take hold of it. Marcus Jackson, we redshirted him because we knew this was going to happen. Now is your opportunity, you have waited for this, you didn't play last year. Go take advantage of it. We talked about Dontavius Blair, you have paid your dues in junior college, now take advantage of your opportunity. There are opportunities all over the place for individuals. Jordan Williams is probably the greatest illustration on our defensive front. He has played sparingly, he has worked exceptionally hard, he has had a better off season than any player in our program. He is a great spokesperson, he is leading, he has put the weight on that we have asked him to put on. He has had a very productive offseason, now go take advantage of that, reward yourself. Reward yourself for the many sacrifices that you have made in the off season so that you can excel during the season. There are a lot of good story lines of individuals that have worked exceptionally hard. Corey Vereen, is another individual. Danny O'Brien, now is your time, go get it. Take advantage of it."
(On Marquez North's improvements from last summer)
"He is a completely different individual. He was a high school running back. He really didn't understand the nuisances of playing receiver. It's like a toolbox. Every player has a toolbox. When you open your toolbox, what type of release techniques do you have? What type of breaking points, ball skills do you have and are you able to play freely? A lot of the times, his instincts took over. Now he has had a full year to transition from that. The big thing about this football team is that they are working together. When you watch our practice Friday night, you are going to watch a group of guys who are coaching each other. We always talk about it's better to be a player-led team or player-coached team than a coach-coached team in terms of them being around each other. They have taken great ownership in that. You will see a team that coaches each other on every single snap. Marquez is one of those individuals."
Quotes from players during the pre-camp press conference
WIDE RECEIVER MARQUEZ NORTH
»On how comfortable he feels going into fall camp)
I feel a lot more comfortable because I have been in the system for a year. Fall camp is really schedule-orientated. I am ready to get started."
» (On the young talent that has come in)
"I'm really excited about the young talent. I am still really young myself, but we are coming together a lot. They have a lot of potential, they're ready to work."
» (On when he started feeling comfortable playing receiver)
""I started to get a lot more confidence during the Georgia game. I didn't really get to play a lot of wide receiver in high school. It's like what Coach Jones said about the toolbox for receivers. You have to know your breaking points, your blocking and your `63' mentality. I am just trying to put that all together right now and build on that confidence."
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN MACK CROWDER
»(On waiting for this opportunity)
"It feels like forever. I love to play football, but I haven't gotten to play as much as I would have liked in the past while I was waiting on my chance. Now that it's finally here, I am ready to step up and get rolling."
»(On how the offensive linemen are looking at replacing last years line)
"We see it as a big opportunity and challenge as well. We have to step up and meet that challenge head to head. We are excited to just be able to get on the field and start playing again. It is kind of odd to replace a whole offensive line, but we are ready to step up and take the role over."
»(On replacing both sides of the line)
On both sides of the ball, we have been working on a whole different level. We know we are going to have a lot of young guys. We have to work extra hard up front and help each other work. The offensive lone is going to have to push the defensive line and vice versa."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN CURT MAGGITT
»(On adjusting to the line)
"I don't think it will be a hard transition. I have a lot of things that I have to work on in order to get better. The coaches and other lineman have been helping me whenever I need it. I am ready to affect the quarterback so the defensive backs can play well."
»(On preparing the newcomers)
"We have to take it one day at a time. I heard one of the younger guys say, `I am just looking at it like we have 20 practices until whatever,' but that is the way you have to look at it. You have to look at it one day at a time. You have to perfect your craft. It's like a business or a job. You have to try and get better everyday and not look at the end result."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JORDAN WILLIAMS
» (On improvements this summer)
"I started off in this spring at 260 pounds, but now I am around 285 pounds. I feel good, and I feel solid. It's tough to put on that kind of weight that fast, but I managed to do it."
» (On seizing the opportunity to be a leader)
""This camp is really important to me. I have to submit to my role and bring the defensive line with me too. We have to replace four starters. I feel like it is a big opportunity for us. We have a lot of young guys, but they're eager and willing to learn."
QUARTERBACK JUSTIN WORLEY
» (On this newcomers contributing at wide receiver this season)
I think you can see some of these guys contribute. I think depth at wide receiver is going to be huge for us this year, being able to rotate guys, not having Marquez North, some of these guys playing 70 or 80 snaps, maybe give them 40 snaps that way they are going 100 percent for the 40 snaps. Depth and having these young guys develop and mature pretty fast this camp is going to be huge for us."
» (On Marquez North)
"Everyone has made great strides, a lot of these guys from year one to year two. Marquez has been one of those guys, he has been more vocal this year, taking more of a leadership role, taking some of these new guys like Josh Malone, Vic Wharton, Von Pearson, some of these guys under his wing. You can see his confidence growing each and every day."
» (On his success during the spring)
"I feel like throughout the spring I was able to grow a lot, of course it was my first spring here. A lot was thrown at us over the spring. I felt like I was able to end the spring on a very high note leading up to fall camp. So my goal is to take my success from the spring game and continue to build on it as I have throughout the summer and into fall camp."
» (On Coach Whitfield versus Coach Bajakian's teaching style)
"It is along the same lines, Coach Bajakian and Coach Whitfield have a really good relationship, they kind of echo each other. Coach Whitfield he focuses a lot on mechanics, starting from the ground up, working on your footwork, moving in the pocket. From there he works on different types of throws, touch balls, on the run. He works your overall game as a quarterback.
QUARTERBACK NATHAN PETERMAN
» (On the wide receiving corps improving)
"I think all of our receivers have improved so much, whether they have been here since the spring or been here two or three years. I think what you are seeing is a lot of older guys getting just so much better and the new guys coming here with talent. They have really improved over the summer, working their craft, listening to everything the coaches tell them and really just trying to get better and being the best themselves."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)