When the Tennessee football team takes the field today, it's another step in the process.
Tennessee's first practice in pads will allow coaches and players to better know each other, much like UT's first team meeting under new coach Derek Dooley or its first conditioning drill with a new coaching staff.
"The real guys are going to show up when you're in pads," offensive lineman Cody Pope said.
Yet that's only one important date on the calendar. Dooley isn't trying to fool his players. He's been quite frank: this team won't be a team until it faces adversity, i.e. lose a game.
"These coaches don't try to win us over," tailback David Oku said. "The funniest thing Coach Dooley said yet was 'I don't want you all to trust me. I have to earn that from you guys.'
"I think most guys are on board, but I think it's also a process that will take a while. I don't think it's going to get done real quick because I think it's being done in the right way, not so much of an outloud way like it was done last year."
Forgive receiver Gerald Jones if he's a bit jaded. The senior has had three head coaches during his UT career. He's in no mood for a pep talk from his newest boss.
"Just be themselves," Jones said. "Actually be here for us and get us better. That's all I really care about. I've had so many coaches I'm not really looking forward to relationships outside of football.
"I just want him to coach the hell out of me and I'm going to play the best I can and do everything I can for him."
UT's last staff was lauded for its practice intensity. Through two practices this spring, intensity hasn't been an issue even if things still feel a bit different than they did in practice three months ago.
"You can tell a difference," defensive tackle Montori Hughes said. "Intensity, you've got to keep it up. That doesn't change with coaches. The players have to keep bringing it.
"It isn't the same as the last coaches. They've got different ways of doing things, different ways of getting to the players and different ways of pumping the players up. I think the intensity is high, the same. We all want to win. That's the thing we do have in common."
Unlike UT's last staff, Dooley isn't citing team leaders in the opening weeks of his tenure. He's more concerned with his players knowing their assignments than leading the pack.
"It's a little early for that for me," Dooley said. ". . . I certainly expect some of the seniors that have had production to do that. The first thing they have to do is know what to do and how to do it before they can start affecting others."
Dooley is looking for consistent leaders. He and one of his most vocal players agree: coaches and players don't really get to know each other through team meetings or off-season workouts. The bond develops on the field during practice, scrimmages and games.
"It's different in between the lines," Jones said. "You actually see the real person come out."
Dooley said much the same after two practices last week: "You start understanding the personalities a little bit better and how to coach them."
Players and coaches aren't the only ones trying to get a feel for each other. UT's coaches also have to jell.
That could be a chore considering many haven't coached together before.
Dooley isn't trying to force the issue. There will be plenty of time for bonding during the countless meetings UT's coaches will have this year.
"I'm not a big 'take the coaches on a canoe trip (guy)'," Dooley said. "I'm with those guys enough. I want to be with my family when I go on a canoe trip. We're together 15 hours a day in a room. Enough."
Patience runs aplenty in Dooley's approach to team building. He's not trying to rush anything. He plans on being around way beyond the first practice in full pads.
"I'm still not going to know them until we put the pads on," Dooley said. "And I'm still not going to know them until we go play a game. And they're not going to know us (immediately).
". . . Everything's good right now. We haven't lost. We haven't played anybody. Rah rah. We're feeling good. That's easy.
"We'll get to know each other but it's going to take a good year."