Some post-practice notes after speaking to the players and coaches after Thursday’s bowl practice:
Midterm enrollees: There had been some questions and speculation that some of the midterm enrollees in the 2015 class could actually suit up for some bowl practices. Quarterback Quinten Dormady is listed as an active student in Tennessee’s online directory and has been an observer at practice for the last two sessions. Butch Jones, however, said that none of them will be able to actually practice before spring ball.
“They’ll all be joining the team once we get back and we start the semester,” Jones clarified.
Michael Sawyers: At least for the first time that we’ve seen him during open portion, freshman defensive tackle Michael Sawyers returned to practice for the first time in several weeks after being held out with
Michael’s been back, but we’ve moved him around a little bit just because of scout teams for the offensive and defensive lines. We’ll continue to evaluate him and he knows what he has to do. It’s been good to have him back.
Jones talks about record-setting GPA: With exams complete, Butch Jones had an update on Tennessee’s academic standing.
“Our academics came out,” Jones said. “We had 46 individuals on our football team with a 3.0 or above, 55 Vol Scholars and our overall team GPA was a 2.75, which is the highest in the history of Tennessee football. Very, very proud of our players.”
Justus Pickett gone: Reserve running back Justus Pickett’s career at Tennessee has come to an end. Pickett, a redshirt junior who transferred from Maryland following the 2012 season, sat out 2013 and had 22 carries for 64 yards for the Vols in 2014.
He hadn’t been seen at bowl practices and Jones said that he’s leaving the program permanently.
“Justus was a walk-on for us and some academic things have occurred, and when you’re paying for school, you have to make some decisions, so he will not accompany us,” Jones said. “He couldn’t anyways because of some transfer rules, but he’s no longer part of the football teams.”
Jones welcomes Kamara: Butch Jones began Thursday’s post-practice media session by welcoming the newest Vol, JUCO running back Alvin Kamara, to the family. “Starting off, we’d again like to welcome Alvin Kamara to our football family,” Jones said. “We are very excited about that.
“He has the ability to make you miss at the second level, but also has the toughness to run between the tackles. We talk about being a complete running back, and we feel like he is a complete running back. To be able to get him at the midyear is going to be a great boost to our entire offense.”
Kamara officially signed with Tennessee yesterday and will be enrolling in school for the spring semester.
Coleman Thomas works at center: Butch Jones was asked about Coleman Thomas getting some recent reps at the center position during bowl practice and the head coach was very complimentary of his freshman offensive lineman.
“We’re just trying to put our players where they can help the team,” Jones said about Coleman’s switch from tackle to center. “What we’ve learned is that you can never have enough centers. He’s a little bit of a natural there because that’s what he played in high school. But that’s why these bowl practices are invaluable, because you can take a Coleman Thomas – where we’ve played him at tackle – and can now move him to center. I’ve been really happy with him.”
Peyton Manning sends a message: Butch Jones mentioned after practice that his team had a little extra bounce in their step today thanks to some recent messages by former players; the most notable message coming from Peyton Manning.
“We have some messages from some of our former players that are in the National Football League,” Jones told the media after practice. “I think Peyton Manning set the temperament for this team this morning when we watched his message to the football team. They (the players) understand what’s at stake. They understand the magnitude. And if you’re a competitor, this is what you work for – to play in games like this.”
Hurd’s punishment handled internally: There has been a lot of talk over the last 24 hours about Jalen Hurd’s “arrest by citation” on December 3rd. Butch Jones was asked about the citation and whether or not Hurd’s punishment would be handled internally.
“Yea, we’ve handled that internally and we’ll continue to handle it,” Jones said. “That’s a few weeks old, and it’s just like raising your children. It’s all about decisions. We’ll continue to educate and talk to them (the players). It’s all about choices, and they understand that. We have good-character kids in this program.”