KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football gets back to practice Wednesday after a much-needed day off, with the coaches on the brink of settling starting spots and rotations.
Coach Butch Jones left Monday’s practice visibly concerned with the offense’s execution after nearly two hours of work at Neyland Stadium.
“We have to have the discipline to execute, football is too hard of a game as it is, from the technical aspect, to fundamentals, efforts, techniques, [and] winning your one-on-one matchups,” Jones said, “let alone a team that jumps offsides, a team that doesn’t take care of the football, a team that doesn’t snap the ball well.
“All those things, it comes down to the disciple to execute, having that ability.”
Tennessee’s offensive line took care of business in the weight room with new strength coach Rock Gullickson in the offseason, and now that conditioning is not a question, the level of skill and talent comes to the forefront.
It’s an offensive line unit that has been pushed around and has been often injured the last few years, trends that cannot continue if the UT program is to have success in 2017.
Execution will be paramount for the Vols in their 8 p.m. Sept. 4 opening game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets run a style of offense that is deliberately intended to keep the clock running and shrink the game — the better to place a priority on execution and ball security.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Larry Scott, who faced Georgia Tech regularly when he was an assistant at Miami from 2013-2015, said the Vols offense will adjust its play calls accordingly.
“You have to take care of the football, that becomes paramount, you cannot turn the football over,” Scott said of facing Georgia Tech. “You have to possess the football with that football team a little bit, so things you do really well that are core things, you have to have a high level of execution.
“You want to do that week-in and week-out, but especially with a team like that, that gets the football and can hold it for a long time.”
Hence, the sense of urgency Jones is trying to communicate to his upperclassmen.
“I like the way we came out [Monday],” Jones said, “but way too many mental mistakes with this football team.”
New offensive line coach Walt Wells has been very vocal in practices, but there hasn’t been much said about senior Jashon Robertson outside of talk about his versatility playing center and guard.
Robertson said in spring drills he was ready to be a leader, and his skills in that department will be put to the test in the next week as the head coach is demanding better execution from the offensive line unit.