Players, Coach Jones talk about importance of staff cohesion
Butch Jones speaks with media at preseason luncheon
Tennessee players gushed about the cohesiveness of their team, raved about the strength gains made in the summer and spoke confidently about the prospects for the 2013 season.
During a preseason press conference inside Neyland Stadium, where the Vols will open the new season in just 31 days, there was more optimism and excitement on display than at any time since ... August 2012.
That season ended with a 5-7 record, a fired coach and no trip to the postseason for the second consecutive year.
What makes players so certain that this summer’s progress will lead to something different?
Echoing first-year coach Butch Jones, they’re not promising a certain number of wins, but simply a more consistent and effective process. That input will ultimately lead to a better output, they say.
“That’s when you have to just focus on the process,” said offensive lineman James Stone. “Coach Jones and the staff, they’ve laid out a proven process on how you go about becoming a winning football team. You can’t really worry about last season. Just focus on the process of what develops winning teams. If you do it every day, you’re going to get better every day.”
The Vols will officially “report” for camp on Thursday, although in reality virtually every player on the roster has been on campus and working out this summer. Practice starts on Friday. The first game against Austin Peay is Aug. 31.
The excitement before camp? That’s easy right now, says Jones. Get back to him in a few weeks.
“Everyone is excited, but for me, I’m more interested in how this team is in week two or week three as we progress through training camp,” he said. “ It’s easy to be excited now, but what happens when you go through the long days of training camp, and every day seems the same and you’re hitting each other? That’s when your team is born, that’s where your toughness is born and that’s where your leadership is born.”
Jones said one of the reasons he scheduled an open practice at Neyland Stadium on Aug. 17 was to help combat the doldrums of training camp. After a spring practice in which he introduced music and other creative elements, Jones doesn’t plan to make August entirely serious.
“I kind of like the change of scenery. I like getting away,” Jones said. “You have to do a good job as a coach to stimulate your players and not become routine-oriented when you come into the second or third week of training camp.”
Jones has gone through two coaching transitions before, following Brian Kelly (now head coach at Notre Dame) both times. In his first year at Central Michigan, Jones and the Chippewas won the MAC title. In Jones’ first year at Cincinnati in 2010, the Bearcats scuffled to a 4-8 mark,
“(Tennessee) has bought in more quickly than either of the other two stops — and that’s taking nothing away from the individuals at the other two places,” Jones said. “This team has answered every challenge to date.”
The next challenge starts in one day. Defensive end Corey Miller said he and his teammates were “ready to play ball.”
“We don’t like to discuss what happened before,” he said. “We are focused on this season. This year, it’s on our shoulders.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.