Butch Jones had an explanation when he took the podium.
“Everything is based on merit and today I’ll be the one speaking to the media,” a frustrated Jones said. “Our players are going to earn the right to talk to the media. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent this great football program.”
That privilege wasn’t earned by the players as the Vols went through their second day in shoulder pads and helmets on Monday. It really was a culmination of the lack of consistent effort over the past few days.
Jones restarted stretching several times on Sunday, threatened to send Devaun Swafford inside, sent his entire Player Staff to “The Hole” and was clearly on the lookout for any players not living up to his high expectations.
“I didn’t like the approach yesterday,” he added. “Everything’s a standard. From the moment we walk on the field, we don’t walk, we run. I just didn’t like our overall approach and consistency.”
Monday’s practice seemed to run a little smoother at first. There were no typical Jones meltdowns, no cases of an obvious lack of effort. Most of the eight periods open to the media went mostly according to the script.
But when they went into more team drills, Jones said the situation changed drastically.
“We had way too many balls on the ground,” he explained. “We talk about executing. We have to be a team that can’t beat ourselves. If it’s mental penalties – that’s a big thing this training camp – mental penalties: jumping offsides, lining up offsides, illegal procedure penalties – we had 17 of them last year. That’s inexcusable.
“It’s all the small details. We had trouble at times even snapping the football, we couldn’t make a field goal, we had too many balls on the ground. And you’re not going to win with that performance. Again, we will not tolerate that.”
There are several factors that played into the sluggish showing on Monday. It was hotter than normal, the newness of practice is beginning to wear off and one of the youngest rosters in college football isn’t used to some of the rigors this team is going through.
Jones isn’t going to let the youth part of it pass as an excuse, however. He’s known about the lack of experience that this roster will have since he took over at UT and he refuses to let the team feel sorry for itself because of its lack of experience. He certainly knows nobody else will.
“We have to stop using youth as a crutch – as an excuse. It is what it is – it’s where we’re at as a program. Nobody cares. Our opponents don’t care. Everything is about a culture, a standard and an expectation. I told you our patience is going to be tried and our patience is being tried.
“I think our players are competing, we’re just not there yet. I want all their focus on showering, getting up, eating dinner, working on their recovery and going right to meetings. We can’t waste one single opportunity to improve this football team.”
Jones also cited lack of leadership – a natural byproduct of the lack of veterans on the team – as another factor for some of the sluggish work so far this camp. He pointed out that some position groups have virtually no veterans with substantial experience in them.
“Leadership is at a premium right now and we don’t have very many leaders,” he said.
There’s no timetable on how long the player/media ban will last, but Jones needs to see more consistent effort before he allows his players to represent the program in that light. He sees them rebounding soon – he just had to do whatever it took to drive the point home.
“Our players understand. They’re willing They’re trying to do everything at once during practice with a tempo, but you just have to grind through. The biggest thing is just overall consistency.”