Butch Jones’ Post-Spring Game Comments

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    Photo Credit: Mason Bergin/RTI

    Here’s what Tennessee head coach Butch Jones had to say after Tennessee’s spring game on Saturday afternoon (via UT sports and information):

    (Opening Statement)

    “First of all, our in-game operations did a good job of keeping us posted throughout the day and the spring game to let us know what was going on. I would like to thank our fans. You all are amazing. We had 35,000 people despite the weather conditions. We had families waiting in line since 5:30 this morning for the autograph sessions. I’d like to say thank you to them.

    “We came out, and I liked the way we competed for a spring game. You always want a clean game. You don’t want to have turnovers or penalties, so that part was great. The thing that is invaluable that you can’t coach until you are in an in-game situation is the game management, such as substitutions. It was great for our players and coaches as well. Those are things that our players did a good job of handling. I think it was a very clean spring game.

    “This team has taken major steps [this spring], but we still have a lot of work to do. It starts with getting back to the weight room and getting bigger and stronger and continuing to build team chemistry. We held 20 players out today. Some were precautionary reasons. Some were post-surgical reasons.

    “It was great to have all our Vols For Life back. All eras were represented, and it was great to have our former players show up like they had been. I thought it was a great day. Unfortunately, it was cut short, but I liked the way our players competed.”

    (On the quarterback’s progress this spring)

    “They made tremendous progress. We talked all spring long about don’t compare just compete. I think a lot of times younger players have the tendency to look over their shoulders and focus on what the other individuals are doing instead of themselves. I thought they competed all spring, and I thought that was evident today. The quarterback challenge is a great measuring stick for us when they go out there. We can see how they respond when all eyes are on them. There aren’t 10 other players on the field. I’ve been pleased with the quarterback position all spring. Going into the summer months, the evolution of Team 121 will be doing a good job of continuing to grow and build on momentum. Most progress occurs during the summer months in terms of leadership and getting the details, accountability and toughness.”

    (On the timeframe of naming a starter)

    “There is no timeframe. I want them to compete. Competition is extremely healthy, and they’ve all elevated their games because of it. I want them to compete. We have no timetable. I was really pleased with the way they competed today. I thought the receivers caught the ball well. But again, there is no timetable.”

    (On naming the award winners)

    “It was probably the most difficult spring we’ve had. We let the players decide on most of them. I think it starts with your unsung heroes, your walk-ons, who bring it every day. We had a number of individuals that made it through all 15 practices. If you look at Quay Picou, his momentum started right from the time Coach Rock got here in the weight room. That process started in January, and he’s now pound-for-pound one of the strongest players we have on our football team. We wanted to see if that would translate to the football field. We saw that start to occur. When you look at the leadership awards, John Kelly is one of those individuals who brings it every day. Darrell Taylor is another individual who is growing into a leadership role. It gets back to helping others get better with no agenda. For the 63 Award, Marquez Callaway has done a great job. Jakob Johnson and Justin Martin were the Most Improved. Justin was consistent in his performance all spring. He is going to be very driven every single day. It’s been great to see his maturation at the defensive back position.”

    (On if anyone has an edge in the quarterback competition)

    “No, the great thing is that every day you get the opportunity to better yourself. I feel comfortable with all of our quarterbacks. I thought they progressed exceptionally well. They just need to continue to do that and compete on a daily basis and not worry about anything else. They don’t need to let clutter or distractions get in the way. They’ll be just fine.”

    (On who won the quarterback challenge)

    “Quinten Dormady won it. He’s had live-game repetitions, and that is hard to simulate. Jarrett [Guarantano] has done a great job of being a student of the game, and I think all the quarterbacks have benefited from Joshua Dobbs and his approach every single day. I am really pleased with the position group.”

     (On the QB battle and how the team can get better during the summer)

    “Well, It’s on them. That’s where the ownership kicks in. They will run all of our throwing sessions. To me, that’s when you really find out. And a lot of times the players will decide who the quarterback is by the way they rally around them. It’s a great opportunity for them from a leadership standpoint. We will put a lot on their shoulders. It’s player-led workouts. So again, to me, that’s the exciting thing, and I think they have a great base for that. That will be a part of the evaluation tool. In terms of the roster, the great thing is the players understand the standard and the expectations. One of the great things I’ve been pleased with this spring is the way they have coached each other. Even the individuals that were held out of spring, the way they coached the young players. We welcomed five high school seniors in here mid-year, and they have done a really good job of mentoring them and guiding them. So again, I’ve been pleased with the older players. We’re going to have to rely on some younger players in particular position groups, but again I’ve liked the way that they approach every single day. That’s what we talk about, consistency and approach. Being the best version of you every single day. I think our players have been able to do that.”

     (On this team’s narrative of how much they have lost from last season)

    “Well I think, however you want to describe it, the word would be opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of players that maybe haven’t had the opportunity in the past. That’s the great thing about college football, a third of your roster turns over every single year. So within that turnover, it’s new leadership opportunities, new roles; some individuals were role players on special teams, (now their) roles have expanded. That’s what makes college football very special. We’re going to have to rely on some true freshmen as well. This is a football team that works. They don’t consider outside noises and what people think, they just come to work every single day. And again, we’re going to need that mentality and we’re going to need that focus. Obviously we lost a lot of production, but I’m proud of these seniors who have left the program, and their lives are about to change in another week. You look how far we’ve come and you know, draft weekend is going to be very special here at Tennessee.”

     (On the wide receivers and the offensive line this spring)

    “Well you mentioned Jauan at the wide receiver position. I think he had a great and consistent spring. I think he did some really good things. I think he improved his craft. There is going to be a number of individuals who are all youngsters, so every rep they get is going to be valuable. I think Marquez Callaway had as good of a spring as anyone on our football team. He was consistent. He practiced (in practices) 1-15, and he continued to grind and get better. We asked a lot of him in terms of reps. He had the highest rep count on the team. Latrell Williams is growing up right now, so for him to get the valuable reps during (practices) 1-15 was very critical. In moving forward, it will be great to get Brandon Johnson back in June. I think he adds another dynamic to the receiving core. Getting Josh Smith back will help us as well. I think that entire group continued to grow and get better, but we will be extremely young there.”

     (On the progress of this spring)

    “Yeah, you know, when you look back, we just went through the exit interview process and every position coach met with their players. First of all, we talked about details, accountability and toughness. Everyone was graded in those three areas. I think the first thing that we accomplished is we had some individuals gain repetitions that were critical. Alexis Johnson, every rep he gains is critical. Darrell Taylor, a more expanded role. Before holding Jonathan Kongbo out, moving him back to defensive end. Paul Bain, inside. Quay Picou, we talked about him. These are all individuals that played sparingly, so for them to get the volume of repetitions that they did was critical. I think in the linebacker position, getting Austin Smith back out there, getting Daniel Bituli valuable reps, and having Justin Martin continue to improve like he has, was very critical. Nigel Warrior in the back end of our defense is critical. Marquez Callaway, the two quarterbacks in Quinton and Jarrett. Also the offensive line, that’s going to be a position that is going to be extremely competitive when you add Trey Smith and how far he has come. Jashon Robertson is a model of stability, and he can play a number of positions for us. Marcus Tatum, you can see his body looks different. He’s 280+ pounds, and we will have him at 295 by the start of training camp. We spoke about Drew Richmond, and he continues to gain reps. To me, when we started out, it was getting those game-live reps and getting these individuals through practices 1-15, and I think that was an accomplishment. We still have to get stronger and more physical. We need to start taking the ball away a little more defensively and get ball disruptions whether it’s tipped balls or anything.”