KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones made his way up through the ranks as an offensive coordinator and receivers coach, so if anyone knows what Tennessee has at the skill positions, it’s the head coach.
Jones spoke earlier this week about the players the Vols look to lean on most, emerging team leader John Kelly as well as go-to receiver Jauan Jennings.
“John is more vocal than he’s ever been, and he’s coaching the younger players,” Jones said. “He’s demanding. It gets backs to details, accountability and toughness, and John has done a good job with accountability and his voice is well respected. He brings a lot of energy. … He brings it from everyone around him, including Jauan Jennings.”
No one has been able to cover Jennings this spring, according to several sources within the team.
That was to be expected after Jennings re-committed himself to the team after a well-documented offseason incident that has NFL scouts keeping a close ear to the ground on him.
Tennessee has yet to allow Jennings to speak to the media, an indication its optimism is still guarded, but there are signs he has turned the corner.
Receivers coach Kevin Beard spoke highly of Jennings on Thursday, and Jones has had nothing but good things to say about the dynamic receiver from Murfreesboro.
“On film I could see he’s a championship player,” Beard said. “He’s been giving us everything he has and ultimately, he’s going to help make us a championship-caliber team.”
Jones realizes Tennessee needs more than just Jennings in the receiver corps, and he has been impressed with the growth of some of the younger players.
“The reps that Latrell Williams is gaining, he’s still learning the nuances of the wide receiver position. And Tyler Byrd, I see him continuing to get better,” Jones said. “Marquez Callaway has been one of those individuals improving.
“You know, we talk about Trey Smith’s maturity, and I would put Marquez Callaway in that same category, very mature and brings it every day. Jauan continues to get better and gain more and more confidence on the perimeter. Jeff George has been slowed a little bit with a hamstring, but he tried to get out there and get some valuable [reps].
“I like that group. Just like the secondary, I think they come to meetings every day with the approach that you want.”
Ultimately, they will need the performances Jones wants if the Vols are to challenge for the SEC East title.
— Emily Proud (@emprosports) April 11, 2017