Butch Jones has conceded that some of his players will be lost on the first true practice day of his tenure.
His advice to any befuddled players: “When the horn blows, if you don’t know where you’re going, just run in place and follow your position groups.”
The energy and enthusiasm is important, Jones said Friday during a pre-spring news conference at Neyland Stadium. Comprehension will follow.
“You may see a lot of guys running in place tomorrow,” he said.
The Vols will take to the practice fields for the first time today at 9:30 a.m. All spring practices are closed to the public, but a portion of drills will be open to media.
Newcomers to Jones’ style can expect to see a fast-paced, high-energy practice centered around competition at every drill or session. The scoreboard will be lit up to reinforce the metaphor and for practical purposes — to keep track of who’s winning the practice.
“We’ll have a winner and a loser and play on both sides of the ball. Every rep counts. If we’re in a one-on-one battle, the winner gets a point for the offense or the defense, and we’ll tally them up,” Jones said.
Another quirk: The sound of a baby crying or glass breaking may unexpectedly blare over the loudspeaker.
“We’ll be in the middle of practice and then the noise comes on,” Jones said. “It may be annoying. It’s just trying to break their intensity and their focus, because great teams in this conference
have to go on the road in all the clutter and distraction. We have to focus on the task at hand and eliminate the clutter.”
The Vols will be limited today and Tuesday — two mandated pad-free days. After a third practice on Thursday morning, Jones could hold a “situational scrimmage” as early as next Saturday.
A handful of players will be adjusting to new positions before then.
Jones confirmed that senior Brent Brewer had moved to linebacker from safety and junior running back Devrin Young would now be a slot receiver. Additionally, Jones said that freshman Corey Vereen and redshirt freshman LaTroy Lewis, previously listed as linebackers, would get a shot at the “Leo” defensive end position, a sort of hybrid role.
No pre-spring depth chart was released, although Jones said he might be able to offer more details on some of the battles later in spring camp.
“We’ll end spring with a depth chart, but all that does is tell us who’s first when fall camp arrives,” Jones said.
Jones has said all positions — even those that appear largely settled, like the offensive line — are up for grabs.
“There is no depth chart,” said junior offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James. “I think it’s great because everybody can just start over. It’s a clean slate, and some of the young guys who weren’t able to do much last year, they get a chance to show themselves in spring practice. I feel that all the competition will bring the best out of all of us.”
For now Jones said he’s more worried about winning the first practice.
“The thing we have to do is focus on the process — and that’s winning tomorrow,” he said. “Too many people want to focus on the end results. I’m a big believer in the Navy SEALs and their idea of setting short-term goals and hitting those goals every hour, on the hour. That’s the approach that we’re taking.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.