KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A strong offseason might not be enough to lead to championship expectations among national analysts and Tennessee fans, but don’t tell that to the Vols.
Senior tight end Ethan Wolf said Tennessee players have national championship aspirations — even if most don’t believe the team has much hope of winning the SEC championship, or the East Division, for that matter.
“We just realized that winning nine games isn’t what we want to do,” Wolf said. “We want to win them all, we want to win a national championship and we’re not going to do that if we’re not as close as a group as we possibly can be, and that flipped the switch and everyone kind of realized that’s what you’ve got to do to do that.
“We have the mentality everyone wants to go in there and play as hard as they can.”
Tennessee has finished in the Top 25 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 10 years on the strength of winning three straight bowl games for the first time in 20 years.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had made it clear he came to play for the Vols to win titles, and he has had no problem saying as much.
Guarantano, in the first media session of his young career, said Tennessee is “soon to be the SEC champions.”
Coach Butch Jones has no problem with the players’ optimism, and he has evolved this spring to the point of allowing his assistants to handle the basics during practice while he focuses on details.
Less Jones on the bullhorn has meant more from each assistant working with the position groups in drill work.
The Vols’ spring football session is 20 percent complete, with three of the 15 practices allowed in the books.
Tennessee held its first practice in full equipment on Saturday, and it featured several one-on-one battles and scrimmages.
Jones has declared competition open at each of the positions.