KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones has the Vols two-thirds of the way through the spring practice session, and Tennessee’s 5th year head coach isn’t kidding himself.
His football team is a work in progress.
“There is still a long ways to go with our football team,” Jones said Tuesday. “But our players have been very eager, and I like the way the players that aren’t going through spring are approaching it and coaching up the younger players and others out there.”
The Vols began the spring session missing a handful of projected starters, and a few more have been added to that list, including safety Todd Kelly Jr., defensive end Jonathan Kongbo and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.
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Jones said receiver Jeff George is also dealing with a hamstring injury, but overall, Tennessee has done a good job controlling the much-needed scrimmage repetitions.
“I wish we had a few more, but we’ve been very diligent in terms of rep counts and watching everyone and making sure we get quality reps,” Jones said. “It’s not just quality, it’s quality. The mental conditioning reps, the toughness, all of the things we’ve spoken about prior to the start of spring.
“It’s been a very productive spring, but now it’s how we finish, and we have to continue to gain momentum.”
Jones has made it clear he’s not satisfied with the 9-4 seasons the past two years, overhauling his staff and insisting on a more physical, blue-collar approach this offseason.
In each of his previous 10 seasons as a head coach, Jones has won as many or more games from one regular season to the next at each of the three schools he has coached at.
With three-year QB starter Josh Dobbs and all-time sacks leader Derek Barnett moved on, Jones could be challenged to continue that impressive streak.
Tennessee has four more practices leading up to the annual Orange and White game on Saturday, April 22.
Jones made it clear there has been no significant movement in the quarterback battle between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano.
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) April 11, 2017
Instead, he’s looking for team improvement across the board.
“Just consistency and continued improvement, we have to become a much better tackling football team, we have to continue to take the ball away on defense and play team defense, knowing where our run fits are,” Jones said. “Offensively, (grooming) our style of play and overall execution in the run game and throw game, and improving the overall ability to handle pressure and all the different blitz looks from our defense.”
Jones said Thursday’s practice will focus on fundamentals, and Saturday the team will hold a regular practice instead of scrimmaging.