One of the testiest practices of training camp started with a bit of whimsy.
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones, a pretty good basketball player growing up in Saugatuck, Mich., introduced a weaving passing drill Monday that is staple of basketball practices but is rarely seen on grass.
Jones cued “Sweet Georgia Brown” — the Harlem Globetrotters’ theme — and then set in a motion a drill in which three players flipped the ball back and forth as they wove down the field, calling each other’s first name before making the pass.
While some players found it funny, Jones kept a serious demeanor throughout.
“Not bad for the first time,” he said afterward.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said it was another injection of the unexpected into camp.
“It’s training camp and we want to change up the rhythm of things. You never want guys to get comfortable or get used to the routine,” he said.
Getting Psychological:“Psychological disposition” was Jones’ buzzword on Monday, and he didn’t like what he saw of it from his players.
One special teams drill in particular drew his ire, and he criticized players both collectively and individually, comparing them unfavorably with the Big East.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said at one point.
Kickers Impress:Michael Palardy, the senior starter at kicker, and redshirt freshman George Bullock connected on back-to-back field goals from about 51 yards out.
Bynum Aware:Linebacker Kenny Bynum intercepted a tipped pass during a team period, but Jones was even more impressed by Bynum’s situational awareness.
There were 10 seconds left in the game in this scenario and the offense was driving for a score. Bynum didn’t attempt to risk fumbling on a return and simply went to the turf. “Good job! Take a knee. The game’s over,” Jones said.
Justus Paying Off: Running backs coach Robert Gillespie said Maryland transfer Justus Pickett has been an incredibly mature presence in the backfield and an asset in the meeting room.
Pickett’s long shot NCAA waiver request to play immediately in 2013 is still pending. Otherwise, the Maryland transfer will sit out this year and be eligible in 2014.
Pickett had the black stripe torn off his helmet on Sunday. There are now five stripe-less newcomers — Pickett, cornerback Cameron Sutton, receiver Marquez North, offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman and defensive end Corey Vereen.
The stripes are torn off by a player’s “big brother” and symbolizes the player being accepted into the team family, Jones said.
Arm Fatigue Bothering Peterman: Tennessee has given regular rest to quarterbacks Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman, who are competing for the starting job.
Peterman in particular has grimaced in apparent discomfort during some drills.
Bajakian said managing arm fatigue during camp is an issue that every college and NFL team contends with.
“Everywhere I’ve been, quarterbacks are always dealing with arm weariness through the course of training camp,” he said. “You’ve just got to make sure you take the right measures — ice and pre-hab and preventive measures.”