Post-Practice Notes: 10/21

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    Butch JOnes-1-33Some post-practice updates from Butch Jones and players after Tuesday’s practice:

    • Injury update: LG Marcus Jackson wasn’t in attendance during the open portion of practice, but Butch Jones said he got the work in that he needed and then went to rehab. Jones confirmed that LT Coleman Thomas didn’t practice at all on Tuesday. Jalen Hurd said his shoulder is “100%.”

    Billboard talk: Jones was asked about the billboards that were put up in Nashville on Monday and he reiterated the importance of recruiting in the mid-state, but also the entire state. It wasn’t exactly a “shots fired” type of situation, but he went on at length about the advantage of in-state players coming to Tennessee in terms of what that can do for them as players, personally and professionally after they graduate. He said he would wish any in-state players that choose to go elsewhere well, but added that “they would watch Tennessee win a lot of football games down the road.” Jones obviously didn’t mention any recruits by name, but that had to be directed at the likes of Drew Richmond and Kyle Phillips.

    • Gilliam speaks: We heard from Jacob Gilliam for the first time since he tore his ACL in the season opener and made his return against Ole Miss. He spoke about his decision to return and his rehab, saying that the doctors have laid out some of the risks for him, which include cartilage damage. He talked about how he and his church prayed for his injury soon after it happened and how that’s helped him in the process. He described himself as pain free and “100%” also saying he can play anywhere on the line and feels like he can play an entire game if he’s called to do it. “I didn’t work so hard for so long to quit now,” was his money quote.

    Terrific Tuesday: Asked if morale was down any, Jones said he thought it was the best Tuesday practice the team had had in a long time. The team did seem a little lethargic at the beginning, but Jones reminded the media that we only see two periods and one of those is when they work on punting and “the whole team doesn’t get excited for punt.”

    Rivalry game: When asked about whether or not he felt his players understood the magnitude of the rivalry against Alabama, Butch Jones said that it was Tennessee’s job to make the rivalry more relevant. He also stated that many of the in-state players grew up around the rivalry and are well aware of its importance. As for himself, “I think it’s one of the best rivalries in college football.” Jones said. “It didn’t take me long to figure that out once I got here.”

    Barnett’s success: Derek Barnett has been a freshman sensation for the Vols this season, and his coach had high praise for him when asked to explain the freshman’s success to this point. Jones told the media in attendance that it has been Barnett’s level of maturity to this point that has been most impressive. He was also extremely complimentary of Barnett’s demeanor, calling him, “…a very quiet individual, but one who has a great inner drive.” That “inner drive” has helped Barnett tie for the team lead in sacks (3) and lead the team in tackles for loss (9.5) this season.

    Depth concerns: Jones was very candid about the depth issues of his current team when asked, saying that they currently have “no depth” in their program. While this was clearly a hyperbolic statement, there is a touch of truth to it at various positions. The offensive and defensive lines are so thin that this team has struggled to field a proper scout team for those units at times this season. Jones mentioned that they have had to give linebacker Chris Weatherd some reps with the scout team to simulate some of the speed rushers that the Vols have faced or will face in the future because they don’t have enough speed on their defensive scout team to get the job done. Jones said that these won’t be issues in years three, four and five as they build this program, but that it is simply a reality of where they are right now.