Mike Strange: Competition every rep is Butch Jones' message to Vols

Mike Strange
Tennessee Volunteer head coach Butch Jones directs drills on their first day of practice in pads at their indoor practice field  Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013.  (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2013

Tennessee Volunteer head coach Butch Jones directs drills on their first day of practice in pads at their indoor practice field Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Butch Jones on practice five and the first scrimmage

Marlon Walls on the Vols' fifth practice of spring

To a street-clothes, sideline observer, the subtleties of a football practice are hard to fathom.

You don’t know enough to read between the lines. You won’t be around later when the coaches grade the videotape.

That’s not so much a problem at a Butch Jones practice.

As the team spread around Tennessee’s indoor practice field Tuesday morning for Period 11, the receivers and defensive backs lined up for a one-on-one drill.

There was nothing subtle about it.

“Orta versus Howard,’’ blared the microphone.

The ringmaster? Jones himself. Everyone in the building now knew that defensive back Gerald Orta was matched against receiver Alton “Pig” Howard.

The quarterback threw, Howard juked and caught the pass.

“Point offense, A. Howard,’’ blared the ringmaster.

Drae Bowles caught a deep ball. “Point offense.’’

Cornerback Justin Coleman won a battle. “Point Coleman.’’

“He’s just promoting competition,’’ said safety Byron Moore. “Every rep counts. That’s what he preaches to us.’’

Literally, every rep counts. Somebody’s keeping score. At the end of the day, either the offense or the defense will be a winner. Their prize is the right to wear orange jerseys at the next practice.

“You want to give the utmost every play,’’ said center James Stone, clad in white. “That’s what this football team needs.’’

Tuesday was the fifth of 15 spring practices to launch the Jones era. The defense wore orange, taking the prize away from the offense based on a narrow victory over the offense in Saturday’s situational scrimmage.

To say the 45-year-old Jones is a dynamo is an understatement. Assistant equipment manager Allen Sitzler kept the microphone handy so the new boss could amplify his message.

“It’s a mindset,’’ Jones said afterward. “You have to condition the mind to play the way we want to play and it all starts in practice.’’

When Bowles caught a pass he was electronically admonished for not running his route all the way to the end zone:

“In the end zone, thank you. Habits. Good habits, bad habits. Winning football.’’

When the defense swarmed to a tackle, Jones broke in:

“When you run to the ball the defense gets rewarded,’’ he announced. “The quarterback is live for the next three plays.’’

Later, senior defensive lineman Marlon Walls said that was unprecedented during his practice career.

“I think the quarterbacks got a little shocked,’’ said Walls, “(but) it energized practice a little bit.’’

Jones spreads the shock treatment equitably.

“He was sticking his finger in my ear hole today,’’ said kicker Michael

Palardy.

“He’s trying to distract me. He’ll slap my helmet, call me different names. It’s funny but it’s good. ’’

Someone asked Moore if he had ever experienced practices like this before. He had, in fact, at Southern Cal in 2009 when he was a freshman for then-coach Pete Carroll.

“That’s what we were used to,’’ Moore said. “Sidelines packed, lots of energy. ... It promotes competition because nobody wants to get embarrassed with people out there.’’

Competition on every rep.

“I told the offense to get their picture taken in the orange jersey Saturday,’’ Moore said with a laugh, “because it’s gonna be the last time they wear’ em for the spring.’’

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.

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Comments » 12

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Thank The Lord for seasoned, professional Journalists, who know how to write interesting copy...and keep the necessary distance between the reporter and the story and those about whom the reporter is writing.

I am grateful for Mr.Strange's reportage. His work should, in my opinion, make everyone reading it know that a real professional wrote and reported it.

Thanks for good sports journalism. I hope it continues; the paper has had too many good reporters to pull the plug on professionalism in 2013.

Thanks again!

SouthPaVol writes:

Quit giving Mike the big head; he already knows he's the best writer in Knoxville. Back on topic...

Moore is right in that no one wants to be embarrassed. Better to find a weakness in March, than be exposed in September.

Of the three phases of coaching: recruiting, coaching and motivating in practice, and game-time coaching, these guys are proven recruiters. Reeling in two pass-rushing DEs--one of which they took from Alabama--and two stud QBs was proof enough for me that these guys can recruit. Singularly, we did not lock in the stud RB we needed in 2013...CJG is gone. Now we have CRG and two RB verbals for 2014, one a 5-star RB.

Second, motivation seems high in practice. Glad he took those green jerseys off. With five stud QBs, these guys need the chance to prove themselves in a live situation. Third, my bet goes down that CBJ can also coach at game-time. Go Vols!

txvolsfan writes:

Glad we finally hired a football coach to coach the team and not a lawyer!!!
Love the intensity CBJ is creating, think he is taking the right steps to bring UT back!!!
GO VOLS
GO CBJ
TXVOLSFAN

DC82_Vol writes:

Listening to Marlon Walls interview, he sounds very humbled. I liked the fact he stated these coaches are teachers. We had bad coaching last year for sure.

I like what I am seeing. But, I am so gun shy right now, I am afraid to get my hopes up.

Heck, even Walt is quiet these days. I guess if he doesn't have something negative to say he says nothing at all.

SCVFL writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

Listening to Marlon Walls interview, he sounds very humbled. I liked the fact he stated these coaches are teachers. We had bad coaching last year for sure.

I like what I am seeing. But, I am so gun shy right now, I am afraid to get my hopes up.

Heck, even Walt is quiet these days. I guess if he doesn't have something negative to say he says nothing at all.

Agree with DC82. It sounds like CBJ knows how to get the most out of the players. My hope is that there is "enough" talent that can be coached up to start winning some games. Still, it is only natural to be gun shy after the last 5 years. If CBJ and staff can continue to recruit, better things are in store for the VOL Nation and all of us poor win starved fans.
I for one, HAVE HIGH HOPES.
GO BIG RNG...VFL(VOL FAN for LIFE)

volnbig11land writes:

I agree with DC82_Vol and SCVFL. It sure feels good to have some hope again that things get turned around!

Go Vols

p.s. heading to the motherland this weekend, and have to swing by the stadium!

Supersayin1 writes:

I love the spirit of competition Jones has brought to UT!! These guys will translate that onto the field in the fall x 100!! I can't wait to see the fire within them on the first game,and as the compeition grows tougher!! I think we win more games that people expect! No Low level Bowl games this year for team 117!! GO VOLS!

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

Quit giving Mike the big head; he already knows he's the best writer in Knoxville. Back on topic...

Moore is right in that no one wants to be embarrassed. Better to find a weakness in March, than be exposed in September.

Of the three phases of coaching: recruiting, coaching and motivating in practice, and game-time coaching, these guys are proven recruiters. Reeling in two pass-rushing DEs--one of which they took from Alabama--and two stud QBs was proof enough for me that these guys can recruit. Singularly, we did not lock in the stud RB we needed in 2013...CJG is gone. Now we have CRG and two RB verbals for 2014, one a 5-star RB.

Second, motivation seems high in practice. Glad he took those green jerseys off. With five stud QBs, these guys need the chance to prove themselves in a live situation. Third, my bet goes down that CBJ can also coach at game-time. Go Vols!

Bama offers several top prospects at positions, so you can be sure they got a very good one, perhaps the one they wanted the most. The results speak for themselves. However, no doubt Jones will improve TN recruiting as it had gotten pretty bad. I'm sure he will bring the program along.

laraccoon writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Bama offers several top prospects at positions, so you can be sure they got a very good one, perhaps the one they wanted the most. The results speak for themselves. However, no doubt Jones will improve TN recruiting as it had gotten pretty bad. I'm sure he will bring the program along.

i d say your right , sounds like in this interview we would have missed out on this dude if not for Jones
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zerwRo...

dragon18 writes:

in response to laraccoon:

i d say your right , sounds like in this interview we would have missed out on this dude if not for Jones
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zerwRo...

Good Grief he didn't even mention UT until the reporter asked him about a visit to a game. Now he's committed to the program. I think you about summed it up, he would not have done that without the new coaches.

volfanlostnbama writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

Listening to Marlon Walls interview, he sounds very humbled. I liked the fact he stated these coaches are teachers. We had bad coaching last year for sure.

I like what I am seeing. But, I am so gun shy right now, I am afraid to get my hopes up.

Heck, even Walt is quiet these days. I guess if he doesn't have something negative to say he says nothing at all.

I am finding the player interviews very telling about the deficiencies of the past three years. This interview really helped me to see what happened last year. Its with Jaques Smith. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/20...

mith believes it's an easier transition back to the defensive line for him since he played there his first two seasons, and he said Stripling is doing more teaching than scolding. "He's a technician," Smith said, "and he's going to get us right."
After so much went wrong during a 2012 season that couldn't have been fun for any Tennessee player, Smith is embracing one final season with the Vols and working with a sense of urgency during his final spring practice.
"It's my last one," he said. "I'm giving it my all. I'm going to be a true Vol this year and represent my state well.

"We just lost the spirit [last season], and that's why I'm excited about this year. This Team 117, I love everything Coach Jones has been embracing this year. This is a new start for the Vols, and we're going to nail it this year."

IMO...The right coaching relationships & methods bring out the best skills in these young men...better yet it strengthens their spirits, and that makes all the difference. And I see that being developed by this much improve coaching staff!

PennVol writes:

I remember watching some of those practice videos from Dooley's staff and they were sad. There was also an ESPNU All Access show. Players were going through the motions and coaches either yelling at them or patting them on the back. I never saw any coach actually show a player anything regarding technique. Glad to see these coaches are providing some instruction!

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