The biggest con? If a player were to go down with injury, there would be less time for him to recover before the start of fall camp. But Butch Jones saw one key pro that made him go ahead with the decision to go with this time frame.
“We made tremendous games in the strength and condition arena, which we needed to,” Jones said at his pre-spring practice press conference on Monday afternoon.”That was one of the sole purposes of really pushing back the start of spring football. Playing the inordinate amount of true freshmen and having the youth that we have in our football program, we felt their overall development in the strength area had suffered the consequences of playing early, not having the ability to redshirt players, put them through an offseason conditioning program during in season. We were able to bump that back and I think the results speak for themselves.”
Here are some of the results that Jones referenced during his 30-minute appearance with the media on Monday:
• 75% of the team set at least one PR (personal record) on a major lift
• 89 PRs on maximum weight on the bench and 76 PRs on number of 225-pound reps with the bench
• Average squat increase of a approximately 50 pounds per person
• Average bench increase of 25 pounds per person and three reps of 225 pounds
• Top squatter: defensive tackle Kendal Vickers (710 pounds); top bench: guard Jashon Robertson (33 reps)
For context, Robertson’s 33 reps on the 225-pound bench would’ve qualified for fourth among offensive linemen at the 2015 NFL combine. Not bad for a rising true sophomore. Vickers’ 710 pounds doesn’t need a ton of context, but that’s a lot of weight for a lift where 600 pounds is somewhat of a golden standard for heavy lifters.
“We’re really excited about that because that was an area that we felt as we continue to progress and move forward with this football team we needed to get bigger and we needed to get stronger and that is a direct correlation to getting physical as well,” Jones said. “Being better tacklers, being able to maintain blocks. We thought that we made great strides. Dave Lawson and Michael Szerszen everyone on our strength and conditioning staff did a tremendous job in preparing our players.
“It is also a tribute to the work capacity and commitment that our players have made as well.”
Strength is an area the Vols have made big strides in under Jones. The phrase “allergic to the weight room” has been thrown around about some players during the Derek Dooley era, but Jones has made it a point of emphasis to get those numbers up as he tries to change the culture around Tennessee football. It’s one example of what Jones sees as an overall development of the program since the time he took over in late 2012 and why the Vols are gaining some national attention and have seen rising expectations this offseason.
“They understand how far we’ve come from year one to year two to year three,” Jones said. “And really the people inside the program know how far we’ve come. We’ve come night and day. It’s not even a resemblance of the same football program when we walked in. And that’s not to take away from anyone on Team 117 or Team 118. I love those kids. But it’s night and day, and I think that’s respect for what’s gone on here.”
The Vols begin spring practice Tuesday afternoon at Haslam Field.