Evan Woodbery on the Vols' seventh day of spring practice
The design is to play fast football. To gain an edge by wearing down defenses. Make ’em so tired they, well, barf right there on the field.
For now, however, in the beginning stages, going slow has its virtues.
Tennessee returns to the practice field Thursday morning and coach Butch Jones means business.
Tuesday was a re-acclimation day, the first session back on the field after spring break. Rust was evident after 11 days of sun, sand, cruise ships and other activities not requiring shoulder pads.
Rust means mistakes and mistakes get you beat. That was, in so many words, General Neyland’s first game maxim and Jones invoked it as Tuesday’s point of emphasis.
The Vols will have other issues that can get them beat in 2013. A bunch of mistakes, they can live without.
“Our offense is based on execution,’’ Jones said. “We have to operate with efficiency.’’
If the offense is based on execution, it follows that execution is based on repetition.
Thus, going slow is the right way for now, at least in terms of installation.
“We haven’t installed too much,’’ said quarterback Nathan Peterman. “It’s just kind of basic stuff. We’ve just got to get it perfect. They want us to get perfect on these things.’’
Get perfect on this thing and only then move on to the next thing.
By Aug. 31, the offense will look different from what Tennessee fans are used to seeing. The Vols have gone no-huddle at times in their history, including last fall, but it wasn’t really a hurry-up no huddle.
Jones’ offense will be very hurry-up.
“They showed us some film of back when they were at Central Michigan,’’ Peterman said. “It was just the first drive of the game and the defense was with their hands on their knees, bent over.
“I think on the fourth or fifth play one of the guys on the defense was throwing up.’’
Only seven spring practices into the Jones Era, the Vols are far removed from making any Gator linebackers throw up. The task ahead should not be underestimated.
Looking to 2013, nearly every opponent UT faces will have an experience edge at quarterback and most will enjoy a comfort level in their system.
Vanderbilt has to replace Jordan Rodgers, but every other SEC foe returns veteran quarterbacks. So does Oregon.
Several of them you’ve heard of: Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw, James Franklin.
Auburn and Kentucky are installing new offenses this spring. Oregon lost head coach Chip Kelly to
the NFL but promoted offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to replace him. With Marcus Mariota back at quarterback, the Ducks will be dynamite again.
In this looming arms race, the Vols counter with Justin Worley, a junior with some sprinkled seasoning, redshirt freshman Peterman and two incoming freshmen.
And, we repeat, they’re learning a go-go system that depends on crisp execution.
“There’s definitely more teaching going on,’’ Worley said Tuesday.
“I’m enjoying it so far. I’m glad they’re not throwing the whole offense at us in four days.’’
Predictably, Jones says neither quarterback has separated himself at this early stage in the race to succeed Tyler Bray.
Worley got first crack with the No. 1 offense Tuesday, but Peterman is very much a factor and benefitting from getting more reps than ever before.
“I have up and down days,’’ he said. “I don’t know about him, how he feels, but I think I can get better every single day.’’
Get better, then get perfect. Then go on to the next thing. And then the next.
Slow for now. Fast later.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44