CAMP WRAPS UP, STILL NO QB
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --
After the final day of fall camp the Vols' still have their biggest
question mark still hovering in the air. Who will be under center when
the Tennessee offense takes the field against Austin Peay?
After an open competition for the spot for the past several weeks, a quarterback has still yet to be named.
all been very attentive, very astute," said offensive coordinator Mike
Bajakian when asked on if he was comfortable with all of their options.
"They have a firm grasp of what we're doing offensively so yes."
into camp, it was assumed that junior Justin Worley and redshirt
freshmen Nathan Peterman were the front runners to win the spot but
Bajakian has been impressed with the group as a whole, including
freshmen newcomers Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson.
"We always talk to
our guys about preparing as if you're the starter," he said. "It's not
a big deal from their mentality and their standpoint. The thing you
have to balance is the reps and how you break those up. But again we've
been able to distribute reps relatively evenly anyway and even in the
course of a game week prep we do get a lot of work for the first and
second unit so it's a decision again that Coach Jones will make in due
time, when he's ready to do so."
While there may still not
be a clear starter, Bajakian said that as a staff they've experienced
position battles like this one and that he feels he could trot any one
of the quarterback candidates out there on a Saturday.
in Jones and Co.'s last year at the University of Cincinnati they took
a quarterback competition all the way to the week leading up to the
first game, finally naming Munchie Legaux their week one starter
Bajakian stood firm that the choice will be made in due time.
the decision on the depth chart is Coach Jones'," said Bajakian. "I
think he's better suited to comment on that but we'll play the guy that
gives us the best chance of winning."
And the play caller
isn't at all surprised that the battle has been so close. He applauded
the blue collar effort from each of his quarterbacks.
I expected the guys to compete and they are," he said. "Every day they
come to work with their lunch pail in hand and their hard hat on. They
go about their business. They're not looking over their shoulder with
who's behind them, where they should be or about how the reps are
getting divided. They've been great in that regard. They just come to
work and try to take advantage of their opportunities."
FBI, NO NOT THAT FBI
One thing defensive line coach Steve Stripling preaches is FBI.
is not a huge fan of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Instead he
wants his players to have a lot of FootBall Intelligence.
a defensive lineman, he needs to go up there on first and 10 and know
if it is run or pass," explained Stripling. "We are just not to that
point yet. A good defensive lineman goes up there, he knows it is run
and he can prepare himself, if he knows it is pass or play action.
Right now it is a little bit of a mystery so we need to increase our
football intelligence and increase our reps to become better."
was referring to the team not accomplishing the goal they have set
forth for themselves this season in trying to hold the run to four
yards or less on first down at least 65 percent of the time.
It comes down to FBI.
Though the goal was not accomplished Saturday, Stripling has seen huge amount of improvement from the D-Line throughout camp.
entire camp what I continue to see and I have pointed it out to the
D-Line, that was the first time I saw [them recognize rush or pass on
first down]," said Stripling. It is something we have talked about and
something we have actually drilled, all of a sudden boom it shows up in
the scrimmage. That is the first time I have seen it."
every day there is one of those firsts," continued Stripling. "It might
be a pass rush technique. It might be identifying a back set. I will
say hey, guys that is the first time we have done that. It is a
journey, we are still going down that path with them as we go."
THE FIFTH DB
the toughest position in the secondary, the nickelback must be a player
capable of filling many roles. For the Vols, that man is Mr.
Consistency, JaRon Toney.
The former tailback made the
jump to the defensive side of the ball last season, appearing in 11
games while starting the final four.
Assistant head coach
and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez stressed the difficulty of
playing the position after Monday night's practice.
got to have a combination of a lot of things," said Martinez. "No. 1,
you have to be physical because you're closer to the ball and you're
involved in more of the run game than you would be if you were at
corner. You have to be able to cover, you have to be able to blitz, and
you have to be able to make checks.
"In our defense,
you're kind of like a safety/linebacker. The tight ends will do both
the run and the pass, and you have to communicate really well."
at 5-feet-10 and weighing in at 184-pounds, Toney proved he has the
physicality to handle the spot last season, and is leaving a lasting
impression on the new coaching staff so far this fall.
a very consistent kid; he's a very consistent player," Martinez said.
"He's on all of our special teams. The coaching staff is always
fighting to put him on their teams. You can't play defense unless
you're really wanted on special teams. He's a guy that has been very
Defensive coordinator John Jancek has also taken notice of the Alcoa product.
is going to help us win," said Jancek. "He is a guy that knows what to
do and is in a position that he just has to make plays when the time
presents itself. The last scrimmage he had a couple pass break ups and
a couple tackles, so we are happy with him and he's got to keep getting
WATCH OUT FOR WILLIAMS
The defensive coaches were singing the praises of Jordan Williams Monday night.
The 6-5, 260 pound defensive lineman finished 2012 as one of just three defensive linemen with multiple sacks on the season.
Williams entered 2013 fall camp, however with something to prove.
has had a great camp," said defensive coordinator John Jancek. "Out of
the D-Lineman, he has been the most impressive, he has shown the most
improvement. Again, we are looking for pass rush. You have to be able
to generate some form of pressure, have to be able to disrupt the
quarterback without blitz every single time. That is out challenge.
That is where Jordan has really improved and shown that he has made
great strides in that area."
His defensive line coach
Steve Stripling agrees. He believes there is something about Jordan
that has helped him to keep making strides throughout August.
is a young man that continues to progress," said Stripling. "He has
athletic ability. What he brings is a little more effort."
"He has that juice, the stamina and conditioning, maybe more so than a lot of the guys."
SMITH EARNS TIME, TRUST
the No. 1 running back will be dependent on the first running play
called in a game, Volunteers running back coach Robert Gillespie is
confident in all of his players and believes each of them are worthy of
Tom Smith is one of those running backs rising to the occasion, or as Team 117 likes to say, rising to the top.
actually probably one of the more vocal guys in the running back room,"
said Gillespie. "He's just really just trying to work on the fine
details of becoming a better pass protector, but from the effort
standpoint, from the leadership standpoint, he's been a vocal guy to
help me coach on the field. He's done a really good job. I think this
is the first time he's really getting meaningful reps, so he's shown a
lot of improvement."
After redshirting last season and
only playing in three games in the 2011 season, Smith is eager to get
out on the playing field and staying healthy is one of the biggest
factors in running back play.
"That's the main thing for a
running back," Gillespie said. "Just the longer you stay healthy,
you're going to get those opportunities and right now he's done a good
job. This spring he was a little banged up and he wasn't able to get
those reps, but so far this fall camp, he's been healthy. He's showing
us that we can give him the football."
won't name specifics because all running backs show him great
potential, the Big Orange is bound to see Smith contribute in Neyland
Stadium this fall.
"He's earned my trust as a position
coach," said Gillespie. "I think he's earned the trust from the
offensive coordinator and also the head coach."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has been pleased with Smith's emergence.
has been pretty consistent," said Bajakian. "He's worked hard, he's
been a leader in that meeting room. He's a high energy guy that demands
a lot of the people around him so he's done a good job of being durable
and being a consistent guy."
ONLY 12 MORE DAYS UNTIL...
The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to UTTix.com.
more information about Tennessee football, visit UTSports.com/football,
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DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN JANCEK
»(On the install)
have a lot in right now for our guys and where we are at. I feel
comfortable with the scheme. There will be a couple things we will
continue to look at and possibly add. We are at where we need to be. We
are on schedule. We are working down our checklist of things that we
need to get accomplished. We are on schedule and ready to hopefully
peak here in the first week."
»(On Curt Maggitt)
am not counting on Curt in the first game. He is getting more and more
reps but nowhere near full speed. I am not planning on him." We rotated
him in there in the nickel package. What we do is we drill him, give
him reps, and then get feedback from Jason [McVeigh] our trainer. He
responded well, there was no swelling, things like that. That is how we
will progressively go."
»(On Jacques Smith)
is not going to do anything until he gets the pin out in his thumb
which I am not sure when that is. The x-ray came back and it looked
good. They were very positive and didn't give us a time when the pin is
coming out. I am not counting on him either in the opener. I am going
in it with guys out. Right now he is out and we have to get it done
with the players that are out there practicing."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE BAJAKIAN
guys that, you used the key word: consistent, it's always interesting -
the open practice we had the other night is a great opportunity for us
to evaluate which guys will step up when the lights are on, when there
is a crowd in front of them, when there is a little extra pressure so
it's something that will constantly be evaluated through the course of
the season, something that guys can and do improve on over the course
of the season. We have some target playmakers that we'll obviously
focus on for the Austin Peay game plan but as the season goes on there
are guys that obviously mature and develop and that could change."
»(On Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal)
both been very productive. I feel good that both could go into a game
setting and again I think they're similar backs so they could both
execute our offense - everything in our offense, you know I've been in
systems where we had specialty backs who were only third down backs or
who weren't good at pass protection. Those guys have similar skill sets
and can do everything we ask them."
»(On challenging freshmen quarterbacks)
has multiple purposes. Again, number one is again to add a little more
pressure to them, to put them more in a game like situation. Frankly
another part is for the benefit of our defense. We want our defensive
front and our defensive blitzing secondary members and linebackers to
get a feel for finishing the pressure and finishing the blitz so I
think it's not just to add the pressure to our quarterback but to help
our defensive guys."
ASST. HEAD COACH/DBs COACH WILLIE MARTINEZ
»(On the biggest challenge of starting freshmen)
going to be challenged right off the get-go, but if you're a player,
you'll thrive in the moment. Some of the young guys that have been
playing for us through camp have done a nice job. This past Saturday in
front of our fans was really good with how they handled it. I thought
they did a pretty good job."
»(On if Byron Moore and LaDarrell McNeil are interchangeable)
are strengths and weaknesses to both of them. They both do the same
things. Especially when you play so many offenses that are uptempo; not
to pigeon hole the guy as a run guy or a pass guy. There are so many
motions and shifts so they basically know both. I like doing that
because it helps you prepare. It helps you be able to make the
adjustments as the game comes. You're not just one dimensional. It's
worked in the past."
ASSOC. HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE COACH STEVE STRIPLING
»(On Dan McCullers)
can be successful, he can be an impact player. He can hold the point on
a double team. On pass rushing, getting his big old hand up he can
interfere with pass rush lanes. He is in a position where he can have a
big impact on the defense. Our offense is up tempo so we are training
him to play that many so when we don't it will be a break."
»(On Corey Miller)
has always been a great kid and a great leader. What Corey brings to
the table is versatility. He can play different spots; he is involved
in special teams. He is always energetic, high energy. That is what he
is bringing to the table on top of being a good player. We are fighting
through these dog days and we are talking about playing tempo offenses
where it is extended reps and extended drives, he is one of the few
that can continue to show some spark, energy and outward focus."
TIGHT ENDS COACH/SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR MARK ELDER
»(On Michael Palardy starting at all three spots)
still competing. Coach Jones will deal with the depth chart stuff with
who's going to be our starters and who's not going to be. Mike is doing
a solid job. It comes down to consistency. Unfortunately at that
position if you miss one field goal at the wrong time and you're a goat.
other day he goes out and has a great day, and then gets called out to
make the winner and doesn't. It's a consistency thing. Making the right
kick at the right time can make all the difference in the world."
LINEBACKERS COACH TOMMY THIGPEN
»(On Brent Brewer)
it takes a little bit of time to get backed up off the ball ten or
twelve yards. Everything happens a little bit slower in the run part of
it; then all of a sudden you're five yards off the ball and sometimes
going off the ball depending on what front you're in. The world acts a
lot faster and your eyes have to be disciplined. So he's still learning
the game with his hands and his eyes, but I tell you he comes to work
every day with a great attitude and asks all the right questions."
»(On veteran leadership)
got a great room as far as maturity. Even with AJ and Curt being
younger guys, they're juniors. Then guys like (John) Propst, Greg
(Grieco), and Christian (Harris); they're young guys but then you got
older guys in the room. I got six or seven seniors, three or four
juniors, then I got two redshirt freshman so it makes it to a point
where young guys make sure they try to follow the older guys. Like I
said it's a really mature group that's really into football; they know
when to play and when to turn it off and start to get serious."
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH DON MAHONEY
»(On seniors embracing the freshmen)
helmet stripes] have put the seniors in the position of, `hey, we have
to look after these guys.' It is still a work in progress; there are
guys who are doing a better job of leading but we can't assume it and
we have to keep continuing to encourage it and they are the guys that
need to do it. They are the ones that see a guy in a helmet with a
stripe on and say, `I have to help him.' Whether it is getting after
this guy in our group, his foot work, his pad level, his toughness, or
if a guy just got beat up on a play, pick him up and all that. It is
healthy; It is good. We started it years ago and we will keep it as
long as we are together. I think it is special."
»(On the O-Line improvement with the pace)
last two days we have really picked up on that, really the emphasis
from Coach Jones in the team meetings to the positional offensive
meetings. We refer to the center as being the gas pedal as far as
getting things lined. The last two days we have been the fastest we
have ever been. It has been an emphasis that we are stressing a lot
from finishing the physical, covering down to pick our teammate up. It
is all those things that we are really starting to focus in on now, the
play is done, we are finished - let's get lined up faster. I hate to
use the term buy in but the players are bought in, the players are
working their tails off. It is just adapting to what we want and just
coming through more and more with what we want. That has been good.
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH ZACH AZZANNI
»(On if anyone has locked down a WR spot yet)
still in the air. We're going to make a decision here close to game
week next week. With young receivers it will be an ongoing process. I
think Pig Howard's asserted himself as a guy that you'll see out there
quite a bit. Devrin Young's had a great camp, so you'll see him in
there quite a bit. You know, we've had some injuries here and there, so
some guys haven't got as many reps as they wanted to and some freshmen,
I had to throw them in there and see what they've got. So, they'll
figure into the mix."
»(On where Jason Croom will make the biggest impact)
a great question. I don't know, I don't know. I'm playing Jason both
inside and outside right now. He's kind of a hybrid for us with
Jonathon Johnson out practicing and just Pig (Howard) and Devrin
(Young) really being in the slot. I've put him back in the slot a
little bit and I bounced him around a lot to see what he can do, where
he can help us, which has actually helped his game because it's made
him learn the concepts more. It's actually helped him. It's helped us
that he can be a little versatile."
RUNNING BACKS COACH ROBERT GILLESPIE
»(On explosive players)
those guys are showing different things they do well. Obviously, Rajion
(Neal) is probably the guy that has the most explosive ability--a guy
that can catch. We've seen in some scrimmages him break off some long
runs, so they're definitely there. We just have to make sure we're in
great shape, that when those opportunities come, he's able to see those
creases and create those big plays. I think there are a few guys."
»(On how many RBs he has used in a game)
I always want to try to get about three guys ready. I do. Obviously, I
loved for Coach Jake (Mike Bajakian) to figure out an offense where all
of those guys can play at one time, but it's not going to happen. We're
going to get three guys ready. The one and two are going to be the guys
that get the most reps, but that three has to be ready to be that two
at any moment. In my opinion, probably about three guys and hopefully
we play well enough where we get some guys in some games, in some make