Tennessee coach Butch Jones was well aware of the NFL’s decision to completely eradicate chop blocks on Tuesday.
Jones has a soft spot in his heart for blocks below the waist. It was that sort of takedown that ended freshman defensive tackle Shy Tuttle’s season just as it was beginning to take off. The block came against Georgia as Tuttle was chasing a ball carrier down the line of scrimmage.
Jones said after the game that he sent video to the SEC for the play to be reviewed. Tuttle suffered a broken ankle and torn ligaments, which ended his season and still has him sidelined.
Jones isn’t totally against blocks below the waist. He just wants them to only be allowed in front of the player. It was a cut block from the side that ended Tuttle’s season.
“I think the big thing is just making sure it’s a head up chop block,” Jones said. “No side angles and all that. We worked today hard on cut blocking from an offensive standpoint and getting off cut blocking from a defensive standpoint.”
Jones said recent rule changes have limited the amount of cut and chop blocking in college football.
“They’ve done a good job of really kind of curbing it,” Jones said. “You don’t see as much cut blocking as you used to because of some of the rule changes in the last couple of years.”
Back to school
Tennessee returned to spring practice on Tuesday after spring break last week. Jones seemed pleased with his team’s conditioning.
“For the most part, I thought they did a good job,” he said. “It was very rewarding for me, being away from them for spring break and getting the amount of text messages and videos of them working out on their own. A number of individuals ventured off in different places to work out over the spring. To me, that’s the maturity of a football team.”
Jones said Tennessee’s coaches and support staff were well aware what their players were doing during the break.
“We know where they’re going,” Jones said. “They get numerous reminders and text messages and all that.”
Jones joked that the Vols were considering traveling and holding spring practices in other venues as Michigan did during their spring break this year. The Wolverines held spring practices at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“We’re working on trying to go somewhere for spring practice,” Jones said with a smile.
So where would the Vols go?
“A state of Tennessee tour,” Jones said, “throughout the state.”
A handful of wounded warriors who served in the Iraq war attended practice on Tuesday.
“It’s very important to have them around,” Jones said. “They protect our freedom. That’s what it’s all about. They put their lives on the line and it’s all about respect.”
During his post-practice media availability, Jones was wearing a jacket honoring the veterans.
“I’m proud to wear this jacket,” he said. “I’m proud they gave me this jacket.”
Jones said hosting the veterans was all about giving back.
“You have individuals that have laid it on the line for our country and they say this is the greatest day they’ve had, watching Tennessee football practice,” Jones said. “I think our players need to understand what they represent on a daily basis.”
Defensive back Micah Abernathy will be excused from team activities this week after his father, Ralph David Abernathy, passed away last Thursday from cancer.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Abernathy family with the passing of his father,” Jones said. “The players have done a great job of being there for him.”
Abernathy was back at class this week, but did not practice on Tuesday. He’ll return to Atlanta later this week for his father’s funeral. Abernathy has received rave reviews about his play during spring practice.
“Micah has been a rock of stability,” Jones said. “He’s continued to improve and grow. Micah is a sponge. He’s as great of character person as I’ve been around. He’s very, very competitive. He’s worked very hard this offseason.”