KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones is understandably being careful with his football team, in terms of the amount of contact Tennessee has had this fall and the days off he has given to star players with minor ailments.
But Jones doesn’t want to coddle the Vols too much with physical Virginia Tech on deck for the Sept. 10 Battle at Bristol after UT’s Sept. 1 warm-up opener with Appalachian State.
Jones made it clear on Monday he needs to see more of a sense of urgency in his football team at the midway point of fall drills.
“We need a lot more — we still have a lot of positions that are up for playing time,” Jones said. “I do think this football team is a work in progress.
“It’s like I told our football team, you get into this part of training camp, practice 13 or practice 14, this is where you really find out about yourself, and your true leaders,” he said. “There are some positions we have to get settled, and we have to get some people working continuity in those position groups, so that’s why the sense of urgency.
“We need more people in our football program playing winning football.”
What We Know
• There has been no change in the non-rostered status of junior college defensive tackle transfer Alexis Johnson, though Jones said he has talked with the player and his family.
“I thought we had great dialogue, but as of right now, with his status, nothing has changed,” Jones said of the indefinitely suspended player. “No timetable has been set.”
Johnson was accused of assaulting a woman and holding her hostage in February, but the felony charges he faced were dropped in April.
Last week, a UT student judicial panel ruled student conduct violations against Johnson “unfounded,” according to attorney Greg Isaacs.
Johnson’s probation, which is associated with the charges being dropped, runs through Oct. 10, when he’s due back in the court room.
• Freshman safety Nigel Warrior continues to impress, Jones said.
“He’s added to the competitive component in our secondary. We’re going to need him on special teams as well,” Jones said. “We though Nigel was one of those individuals who stood out Saturday.”
• The starting offensive line in Monday’s drills showed Drew Richmond at left tackle, Jason Robertson at left guard, Coleman Thomas at center, Dylan Wiesman at right guard and Brett Kendrick at right tackle. Chance Hall was rotating in with Kendrick at the right tackle spot.
Jones said that receivers Brandon Johnson, Latrell Williams and Evan Berry would be back practice by the end of the week.
Tailback Jalen Hurd was not at the start of Monday’s practice, but Jones didn’t mention anything about him being injured.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin remained in a green jersey, as did Jauan Jennings, Austin Smith and MaLeik Gatewood.
Defensive lineman Shy Tuttle was in an orange jersey, as was safety Todd Kelly Jr., who had missed practices last week for what Jones said were “precautionary” reasons.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.