Tennessee’s toughness has been a hot topic of conversation lately. The Vols’ overall toughness as a team has come into question after the plethora of injuries they sustained last season and with injuries beginning to rear their head a little again to start this fall camp. And the Internet was abuzz with talk of the Vols’ toughness after recent comments from anonymous NFL scouts about Tennessee’s seniors.
Butch Jones was asked about the Vols’ toughness after practice on Friday, and he had a few things to say about the term itself and his team’s toughness.
“Toughness is a broad term,” Jones said after practice on Friday. “There’s so much that encompasses toughness. It first starts with mental toughness. If you don’t have any mental toughness, you won’t be able to have physical toughness. That starts with being in great physical condition.”
Jones would go on to elaborate about what exactly the 2017 Vols need to do to be a tough team this season.
“Everything that you do, the ability to think strategically if you’re winded, if you’re going to be able to do the little things nobody wants to do, to push yourself through and go through the grind,” Jones stated. “And I think if you have that mental toughness, the physical toughness will come and the attributes that are really born in the strength and conditioning room with coach Gullickson as well.
“In order to play tough on Saturdays, you have to practice tough each and every day.”
Jones noted earlier in the interview that summer classes are now over for the players, and the team would move into a hotel together soon as part of training camp. Most teams across the country partake in this practice, and the Vols have done it in the fall in the past.
Now that summer classes are over, the Vols have a window of opportunity to just focus on football. And Jones wants to see clear focus and consistency from his players during that time to improve their toughness.
“There can be no bad days, no poor practices,” Jones said of the coming week of fall camp. “Great championship football teams come out here with that mentality. This is where your mental toughness is tested. We talk about being driven individuals and being a driven football team. This is where your leadership kicks in, and again, your maturity as a football team.
“But we have to step it up as a football team because everybody’s play affects everybody. Whether it’s on offense, defense, or special teams.”
The Vols still have a couple weeks left of actual fall camp before they begin full preparation for Georgia Tech a week before the season starts. In the coming two weeks, Tennessee will need all the bonding they can get if they want to come out and be a tougher team than they were last season.
Right now, Butch Jones has liked what he’s seen from his team. But he knows how important the next week will be for his team, and the Vols need to show him they have the consistency he desires in a football team.