Notes: Jones Talks Investigation, Injuries and Onside Kicks

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    AJ Johnson-1-5It’s been a week since news first broke of the investigation and suspension of Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson and cornerback Michael Williams for an alleged rape.

    Tennessee coach Butch Jones had little update on the situation Monday after the Vols played Missouri without either of the players on Saturday.

    “I have not had any dialogue (with Johnson and Williams) at all,” Jones said. “Again, we’re letting the investigation take care of itself. That’s all I’ll say.”

    The Tennessean brought some more details to light Monday, reporting that police searched Johnson’s off-campus apartment on the evening of Nov. 16 and seized several items including a marijuana grinder, a condom and a bed comforter, among other items.

    Johnson and Wiliams were then reportedly ordered to submit to DNA swabs last Tuesday. Click here for the full report and a copy of the search warrant via The Tennessean.

    Injury updates: Jones confirmed that receiver Marquez North will have surgery to repair a torn labrum (same injury as Justin Worley and Dillon Bates) and they hope to have him back for spring practice. North has been battling a bad shoulder since high school, Jones said, but has played through it. An MRI last week showed the structural damage and the need to get it repaired.

    “To his credit, you talk about the resiliency that our kids have shown in this program,” Jones said. “He’s tried to fight through it. He’s tried to push through it just like (Jacob) Gilliam does every week. These players have given so much to this football program, and I’m indebted to them. That’s why I respect them, that’s why I love them, because this is a very close knit group and they want to keep playing.”

    Jones called Marcus Jackson “fine” after he limped off the field Saturday night. Center Mack Crowder is still in the questionable range, but Jones said he will try to practice some on Monday.

    Charles Mosley, who broke his leg in the preseason in an automobile accident, is continuing to progress and has been able to do some running. He’s also down to 350 pounds, which Jones said might be the lightest he’s been in 10 years. The Vols hope to get him down to 345 pounds and they plan to try him on the offensive line when he returns in the spring, though “he gives us flexibility in our interior lines,” Jones added.

    Sophomore Cam Sutton briefly left the game against Missouri, and he explained his absence on Monday.

    “I just blacked out,” he said. “It happens from time to time. This is the first time it’s ever happened in a game. They ran a couple of things on the sideline to make sure I was okay … From time to time it just happens through the course of the day. I might just black out and then just keep walking like nothing ever happened.”

    Field talk: Jones was asked about the condition of Tennessee’s field, which has been noticeably worn down throughout the course of the season. Tennessee’s used heat lamps in an effort to rehabilitate the field at multiple points this season, but it clearly needs more attention.

    “Yeah, and we’re talking about that,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it had to do with the different climate. It’s been an unusual year in terms of climate, from heat to cold and the extreme temperatures. They’ve really made a great effort in trying to get the field ready. Our field maintenance crew does a great job.

    “As we continue to evaluate everything in our program, from A to Z, obviously that’s one of the topics of discussions that we will have, in terms of continuing to improve and having the best surface in country.”

    Offsides on the onside?: One of the huge questions after the Missouri game was the offsides call against Tennessee on the first onside kick the Vols recovered. That call erased the recovery and forced the Vols to kick it again.

    “Well, first of all, I thought Aaron Medley did a very good job of executing the onside kick,” Jones said. “It is something that we work on each and every day. We got the bounce that we needed to. We have submitted it to the SEC and we have not received a ruling back because today is the day that you submit all that. We haven’t heard anything back.

    “It was close. It was a bang-bang, play. You just hate, it is very unfortunate, that a game like that comes down to that. it is what it is. We put ourselves in that situation. But I thought our players for the most part did a very good job of executing it.”

    He also commented on the decision to challenge the second onside kick, which Tennessee also recovered, but had the ball taken away because it was touched before it went 10 yards.

    “Well here is where we are at in the situation of the game: We had a couple timeouts left, we have a clock management chart on the sideline and up in the box,” he said. “If we would have played it, we probably would have got the ball back with three or four seconds left. We thought it was a very, very close call.

    “We were going to challenge the first one as well, I went to challenge it because I saw them hit it and right when I went to challenge it they got the buzz down. Why keep your timeouts in your back pocket? You are trying to win a football game. We are going to exhaust all our effort and energy into winning a football game. Nothing is by chance.”