If you think wide receiver Gerald Jones is having a great preseason camp, just wait till he gets the cast off his left wrist.
Jones, a junior who led the Vols in catches (30) and touchdown catches (four) in 2008, has picked up right where he left off this preseason - despite the cast. He suffered the injury during spring practices and had surgery in June.
"As far as catching, it's incredibly hard (with the cast)," Jones said Sunday during UT's Media Day. "It actually helps me focus on my fundamentals and watching the ball in, so it should help me when I get the cast off."
Jones said he expects the cast to be off within two weeks.
"They keep telling me different things," he said. "They'll tell me a week, and then they'll switch it to two weeks. I don't really know when I'll get the cast off, but hopefully two weeks."
For sure, it will be off by the Sept. 5 season opener against Western Kentucky at Neyland Stadium.
UT is counting heavily on Jones to be a big-play threat. He was exactly that during Saturday's scrimmage at Neyland Stadium when he caught a 68-yard pass from Jonathan Crompton, setting up a 1-yard TD pass from Crompton to Brandon Warren.
"Coach (Lane) Kiffin is brilliant," Jones said. "He actually told me what was going to happen before it happened, and he called the play. Just like he said, the safety went over to the wide receiver, and I was in the slot and I was matched up with a linebacker. If I can't beat a linebacker one-on-one, then I don't think I should be lined up out there at all."
There apparently will be no more of the G-gun offense of 2008, when Jones lined up under center. That's fine with Jones.
"When I first met Coach Kiffin, he asked me if I was ready to tear up the field at one position," Jones said. "I think he made that very clear, that he just wanted me to focus on wide receiver. It's helped me a lot.
"I've gotten a lot better. I've been able to focus on just wide receiver and I've gotten a lot better with my routes and all that."
Jones, who also could return punts and kickoffs, was expected to be limited when preseason started due to the wrist/surgery/cast. Not a chance, he says. He missed seven-on-seven summer workouts with teammates, but wasn't about to miss any preseason practices.
"My intention coming into summer camp was I was going to play every practice with a cast or without a cast," Jones said. "I was going to play and I was going to play 100 percent, whether I could catch it or I couldn't. I was going to try. I'm not shocked that I'm doing everything. I actually expected it."
Frazier Praise: With starting weak-side linebacker Rico McCoy (knee) out for Saturday's scrimmage, junior Savion Frazier moved in with the first-string defense. He drew some praise from Kiffin.
"Frazier played great with Rico out," Kiffin said.
McCoy echoed the head coach.
"Despite the offense getting off and getting a bunch of yards, Savion Frazier did a heck of a job," McCoy said. "It was good and reassuring to see that. He's more than ready. He played a lot last year but (Saturday) he proved himself all over again for a new coaching staff. He's ready, game ready."
McCoy said he still has some soreness in his knee and expects to be out of practice "no more than another week or so."
"I'm just working out the soreness," McCoy said. "I can go out there when I hit the field and be 100 percent. That's all precautionary (being held from practice.)"
Nick Reveiz Moves Up: Kiffin said if the Vols were to play this week, former Farragut High School standout Nick Reveiz would be the starter at middle linebacker.
"He does all the intangibles," Kiffin said. "Nick's done a great job and we look for him to continue to develop."
Reveiz, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, was listed as a co-starter with freshman Herman Lathers on the first depth chart. Reveiz came to UT as a walk-on and earned a scholarship last fall.
"It's a great feeling," Reveiz said. "It feels like a lot of hard work is starting to show signs of paying off. It's one of those things you can't get complacent about. I've still got to be hungry and keep going and keep getting better."
Thanks, Coach: Senior center Josh McNeil, who has started 35 consecutive games, was a little puzzled at first when Kiffin stated in the spring that every starting spot was open except for Eric Berry's at safety.
"It was frustrating at first just because I'd played so much and earned the position, and it was all washed away," McNeil said.
McNeil has changed his stance. He said Kiffin's statement motivated him in the summer, so much that he met with Kiffin and offensive line coach James Cregg last week and thanked them for the motivation.
"I didn't have the best spring I could have had," McNeil said. "Ever since that point, I really took a look inside. Obviously (spring practice) didn't go the way I wanted it to, so I was like, there's always some things that need to change. I tried to evaluate all those things, and one of those things was I needed to get in the weight room."
As a result of the weight work, McNeil says he is bigger (290 pounds) and stronger.
"Josh set a great example," Kiffin said.
QB Battle: Crompton said the competition with Nick Stephens for the starting quarterback job will make both players better.
"It's fun. Going out there every day and competing, it's all you can ask for," Crompton said. "If you don't have competition, you get kind of slack, you know, some days you're like, 'Oh, I can do this,' so every second you compete is a good thing."