UT practice from Thursday night
At some point on Friday afternoon, starting center James Stone will sustain a serious injury, be helped off the field and backup Mack Crowder will be forced into action.
A dire prediction for the upcoming “mock game” at Neyland Stadium?
Nope. Just one element of an elaborate script that Tennessee football coach Butch Jones plans to inflict on players during a final test run at Neyland Stadium.
A lengthy practice Thursday night likely was the last real evaluation period for coaches. Now the team will shift to preparation mode for the Aug. 31 opener against Austin Peay.
And Jones wants the Vols to be prepared for anything.
“The mock game is anything and everything that can occur at a football game — even the season,” Jones said. “We’ll practice everything.”
The depth chart for the season opener probably won’t be released until Monday. That includes the much-followed quarterback decision. Jones said he wants to sit down with each quarterback individually before making the news public.
Junior Justin Worley appears to have led throughout the camp, and it would be a major surprise if any of the other three quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman, true freshman Riley Ferguson or true freshman Josh Dobbs — were able to unseat him.
Beyond quarterback, Jones acknowledged that many positions that have limited depth are already set by default.
“Some individuals will have to play, so you can see that we’re force-feeding them,” Jones said.
Some of that force-feeding will occur Friday, when Jones and his staff will go over game-day detail —even something as simple as where to run during halftime.
“We don’t assume anything,” he said.
Tennessee started classes on Wednesday, which is why the players were given a 48-hour break from the rigors of football. But that ended abruptly with Thursday’s practice, which went more than 20 periods and nearly three hours.
During the early stretch work, Jones had the players chant “AP” for Austin Peay, to signal the transition from training camp to game-week mode.
“We still got some prep work (on Thursday), but mentality-wise, guys are biting at the bit,” said Stone, who didn’t yet know that he would be injured as part of Friday’s plot line.
Although the position battles of camp are nearly decided, the mock game could present one last mental test. Jones loves situational drills, and he plans to add some new twists with only eight days until the Vols play for real.
“It will have every imaginable scenario,” he said. “We’ll practice pregame warm-ups. We’ll practice all the little game-management situations, all the small details. There’s a lot of mental repetitions involved.”
The Vols will also get some looks from the scout team giving some looks from Austin Peay.
“Every rep is a valuable rep,” Jones said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.