Bowl Notes: Vols Must Have “First-Game Mentality”

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    Butch Jones-2

    Having over a month off, in theory, should give bowl opponents every opportunity to study each other – to learn virtually every nuance of their offense, defense and special teams and to be ready for whatever is thrown their way.

    But Butch Jones pointed out that bowl games are more like a season opener because though you may know everything the team has done through 12 games, you really know nothing because of the extended time off.

    “Once the ball is kicked off, it’s being able to manage the clock, being able to tackle – the fundamentals,” Jones told reporters in Tampa on Sunday. “If you look at the theme of just about every year, it’s really just a constant theme of the bowl season: it’s all about tackling, playing in space, taking care of the football and special teams. You always know that as much video as you study on your opponents, they have time to create an inventory of plays that you haven’t seen – from trick plays to different formations – something to gain a tactical advantage. So you have to have a mindset like a first-game mentality of starting this season.”

    Tennessee dusted off a trick play against Iowa in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl – using a halfback pass from Marlin Lane to Vic Wharton for a touchdown against the Hawkeyes.

    Jones returns to Tampa: Coaching in a bowl game in Tampa is somewhat of a full-circle experience for Butch Jones, who began him career as an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1987-89.

    “This place has changed so much being at the University of Tampa,” Jones said. “When I was with the (Tampa Bay) Bucs in 1987, we held our training camp here. Same field, but obviously they’ve done a remarkable job with the facilities.”

    Larry Marfise is the athletics director at The University of Tampa, the host site for the Vols this week. Marfise was also the AD at Ferris State, which is Jones’ alma mater, and where he served as an offensive coordinator from 1996-97.

    Other notes: 

    • Jones said the split responsibilities of special teams on the staff should ease the transition when special teams coordinator Mark Elder departs following the game on Friday: “It does help in the transition in terms of every coach is responsible for a special teams. When you have that, the transition should be really smooth.”

    • Bowl practice can be a time for some experimental in terms of position changes, though Jones said injured receiver Jason Croom working at tight end was the only switch: “We’ll look more into that in spring football, but for the most part, the only one was Jason Croom and that’s a decision we made with him awhile back. But those are invaluable repititions in individual drills that he was able to gain in bowl preparation and here today.”

    A few photos from the Vols’ time in Tampa Bay so far: