Butch Jones said after practice that today marked the end of training camp for Team 118 and that the focus will now shift towards academics and preparing for the opener against Utah State next Sunday. The team will have the next two days off from practice so they can prepare for the start of classes on Wednesday morning and begin to heal their bodies after a tough two weeks on the practice field.
“This is our last practice of training camp,” Jones said at the conclusion of practice. “We have a team function tonight, and then we will take two days off. We will get ourselves ready to go academically but also to relax ourselves from all of the nagging injuries. We will get our minds right.”
“With the student body coming back on campus, players have to start managing their time with class and study table. We need to be a mature football team. We aren’t there yet. I will know a little bit once we go through a week of school. I think that it’s beneficial to us that school is starting early, so they can get into a routine, and we aren’t starting school while moving into game week. That will be very beneficial for us.”
The Vols will practice again on Thursday and Friday before taking the weekend off.
TK gaining ground: Todd Kelly Jr. has been coming on strong over the last week and Butch Jones had some more praise for his freshman safety after Monday’s practice. The freshman safety had some minor injuries at the beginning of camp, but has since rebounded to become one of the most discussed newcomers on the team.
“Part of the maturation process is that the game has been playing fast for a lot of these kids and the ones that are maturing and growing and developing, the game is slowing down,” said Jones. We talk ‘see a little, see a lot. The eye discipline, and TK has been a sure tackler. He’s played physical. We’ve pointed out practicing etiquette, how you thud, how you tag off. We give illustrations of how you thud and it’s always TK.
When Kelly was asked after practice about his recent performance, the Knoxville native said that learning the playbook has allowed him to think less and play faster.
“I think just taking it day by day and learning the defense,” Kelly said. “The more you learn the defense, the more plays you’re able to make. As a young freshman when you first get in here you aren’t sure what to do or where to be, but when you learn the schemes and the techniques that you’re supposed to execute you’re there to make plays.
“I think that’s why it’s slowing down for me, because I’m starting to understand it more and more each day.”
Hurd ready to play fast: Jalen Hurd told media members after practice today that the focus of the offense over the summer and throughout training camp has been on tempo. He has seen a lot of improvement in his team over the summer and he fully expects this year’s offense to move at a much faster pace than last year’s.
“Our main thing that we pride ourselves on is our tempo in this offense,” Hurd said with a grin. “Every day we work on tempo, finishing our runs, finishing our play fakes, running down the field to get body on a body when a wide receiver catches a pass. We’re really working hard and our tempo is a big improvement.”
Hurd said that he feels well prepared for the fast pace thanks to the extra work that he and other teammates have been getting in with Strength and Conditioning Coach Dave Lawson. He said that while Lawson’s programs are extremely challenging and difficult, he knows that he and his teammates will be better prepared for the rigors of the season because of it.
All the way Jay: Freshman offensive guard Jashon (Jay) Robertson continues to put together an outstanding camp. After switching from defense to offense last week he has already worked his way onto the first team offensive line. Coach Jones said that there wasn’t some secret to Jashon’s success, but that his effort and mental makeup simply have him ahead of other players at the moment.
“Some individuals are ahead of other individuals in the learning curve and Jashon has done a great job and it’s been a big benefit having him on the offensive side of the ball,” Jones said of Robertson’s development.
“He hasn’t hit the freshman or training camp barrier. He’s come and brought it each and every day. It’s like your kids, every individual has a maturity level different than the others. Some develop at rapid paces and some over time. Jashon has done a great job overall.”
Today was Robertson’ first chance to speak to the media and the freshman right guard said that even in the midst of his recent success, his focus has been on taking things one day at a time.
“I came out and just focused on one thing a day,” Robertson said. “Whether it was my up-stance, or my second step, having tighter hands – whatever it is – I just focus on one thing every day and focus on that throughout practice in hopes of getting better every day.”
Robertson was also quick to share his recent success with his teammates along the offensive line. When asked if any one lineman had helped him more than the others up to this point, Jashon said that his improvement has been expedited due to a group effort.
“Kyler’s helped me, Marcus, Mack…Every one of them has helped me in some type of way at some time. I felt at home immediately just because of the guys in that room, all of my brothers in that room who have been there with me through the summer helping to push me. It’s been a comfortable switch.”