Vol Report: Keeping It Moving
KNOXVILLE - Special teams are a key element to Butch Jones' practices.
117 practices every aspect of special teams on a daily basis, from
surprise game-winning field goals in the middle of drills, to coverage
to punt returns and on and on.
With a key factor to the
Vols' special teams game on the sidelines with a broken hand, other
members of the team will have to step up in Devrin Young's place.
of those players is Jacob Carter, who went out twice to return punts on
Saturday against Austin Peay, once returning to the sidelines when it
looked as though the Governors were going to go for it on fourth and
short, instead the quarterback sent a pooch punt. And on his first
opportunity at a punt return, he ended up with a fair catch.
a reliable guy," said special teams coach Mark Elder. "We know he's
going to be able to field the ball. He's a great decision maker, so as
far as that's concerned we know we're going to have the ball back at
the end of the play and he does some nice things with the ball in his
hands as well but he's a reliable guy."
There are many
Vols in addition to Carter that have practiced their return game and
Elder is excited for them to get an opportunity to do so Saturday.
had a number of guys who have done really well with it, that we trust
out there," said Elder. It was a close competition all through camp so
there are a number of guys that we feel good about. I don't think it's
really going to be an issue. We're excited for the next guy's
You better believe that the first thing the returner does, whoever it might be, is secure the ball.
the return game, the very first criteria is that we secure the
football," said Elder. "That's kickoff returns, we're fielding the
football. If they're going for an onside, we're fielding the football.
Whatever it is, we have got to field the football first."
after we've fielded the ball are bonus," continued Elder. "Obviously we
want to increase our field position but we don't want to do it at the
expense of taking a chance of not having the football, so that's our
number one priority is to have the football at the end of the play."
GETTING BACK TO FULL SPEED
tearing his ACL last season against Missouri, Curt Maggitt has returned
stronger than ever this season for the Vols, and in just about eight
Though he didn't take part in spring football, he
was out there every day taking reps alongside other injured players and
making sure he knew the playbook so once he was cleared, he could get
back to what he does best.
Through fall camp, Maggitt was practicing at about half speed, but has returned to normal this week in practice.
His team couldn't be any happier.
brings a different type of energy," said linebackers coach Tommy
Thigpen. "He went in yesterday and got his first real contact and
actually kind of surprised everybody, taking on some linemen. The kids
on our team really respect Curt; they have a love and passion for each
other when he is out there."
Maggitt's impact is not just in his energy. The 6'3", 239 pound linebacker is also a physical presence on the gridiron.
is big and strong," said Thigpen. "He has a refined look. He has that
SEC body look, probably one of the best bodies I have seen. He is a
great looking kid. He can run and he is strong. He is also a smart kid.
The sky is the limit for Curt. It all depends on how fast he comes back
from the surgery he had last season."
Thigpen and the coaching staff are in no hurry to rush Maggitt back, and are letting him return to full speed at his own pace.
For Maggitt that pace is fast.
more confident he can get the better he will feel about it," said
Thigpen. "He is a kid that has a great attitude and everyone loves him
being back out on the football field. I know he is anxious but we have
to be smart in the small process and not rush him out there."
goes out there when he feels like he can go out there and make an
impact," continued Thigpen. "I tell him, `whenever you feel like going
just tap the guy out, you know exactly where you are supposed to be, go
out there and get reps. When you feel like you can go then go.' He is
the one that knows, he is the one that has to get his confidence in his
WIDE RECEIVERS ABOUND
Leading up to
last week's game against Austin Peay, everyone had one question for
wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. How many wide receivers are you
going to play?
Tentative answer -- nine. Result - 11. Seven of which caught passes.
was nice to come out and get up early, be able to coach through the
game a little bit-- kind of like practice, we were coaching through the
game, and that was good," Azzanni said. "We needed that."
Azzanni is pleased with each player's performance, he knows there is
room to improvement and implement the new `63'motto--six seconds [in a
play], three great efforts.
"We're not at all as physical
as I would like to be," said Azzanni. "We're not there yet-- from what
I'm used to, my standard, Coach Jones' standard, so we have a lot of
work to do that way. That comes with young guys being confident in what
they're going to. The more reps, the more games, the more experiences,
the more they can just kind of let it go a little bit more."
With that, Azzanni has challenged all wide receivers to reach the standard that he expects physically.
route running, violent releases, violent on perimeter blocking, and
that's going to be a staple of our blocking," said Azzanni. "Usually
the way you block is probably the way you release, it's probably the
way you run routes, it's probably the way you attack the ball. That's
why I'm such a stickler on blocking. If you don't block, you probably
don't do those other things very physical."
This week, physicality defines "Wide Receiver U."
Here are sound bites from the assistant coaches after Wednesday's practice:
DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH WILLIE MARTINEZ
»(On the young defenders against Petrino)
do that every day. It doesn't matter who we play. We talk about our eye
discipline and not having eye violations every single day. So, it's
regardless of who we play. Whether we're facing an option football team
or a passing offense, it's something we're constantly working on. We
try and improve every day."
»(On how to calm down the secondary this week)
going to get attacked every day, so it doesn't really matter who we're
playing. No, we just really focus on what we can control and preparing.
There's really no magic to it, you keep working. We've been working
since camp, spring, and fall camp. You work at the things that offenses
do: different formations, different plays. The things that they do on
offense, we've practiced them. We've done that since spring ball.
That's what's so great about our offense, it's so multiple. We have a
tempo offense. We run very similar plays. So, that's going to help us."
TIGHT ENDS/SPECIAL TEAMS COACH MARK ELDER
»(On the tight ends' progress)
getting there. We're seeing it at times but then you see some regress.
You see the old 'fatigue makes cowards of us all' at the end of a
drive. Sometimes you're not seeing quite the effort and physicality
that you want. As far as that's concerned, that's what we're trying to
get to. We're trying to get to the 63 effort every single play. On a 10
or 12 play drive, we want to see the same effort on play 12 that we are
on one and two."
»(On the possibility of using three-tight end sets)
we can go out there with three tight ends and run some plays and that
can be a positive thing for us, sure. It's good to have multiple
different personnel groups because that's a lot of different things for
a defense to prepare for. If you have one personnel group then they're
only preparing for that, but if you can throw a three-tight end set, a
two-back set, whatever it is, multiple personnel groups at a defense.
That's more that they have to be able to cover, and more that they have
to be able to defend."
»(On Woody Quinn)
coming along. He's not where we need him to be. He's not as physical as
we need him to be at this point in time. He knows that and we're
working that on an every-play basis in practice."
RUNNING BACKS COACH ROBERT GILLESPIE
»(On RB's Improvement)
always room for improvement, we did a few things, but we did whatever
we were supposed to do. We ran the ball, we took care of it for the
most part, and we just got to get the weak better so we don't have the
chance to...need to pat ourselves on the back, we've got to go out and
»(On Rajion Neal)
talked about what Western Kentucky gave up, we know what Western
Kentucky does from an X-and-O stand-point but we just try to go on
toward it and just try to get better at what we do, you know? The
opponents change, but our expectations of us as a team and us as a
backfield doesn't change. We just have to continue to get better at the
little things, week in and week out we have a checklist of things we
have to improve on and that's our main focus now.
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH ZACH AZZANNI
»(On Johnathon Johnson)
had a really good second half. He played a lot in the second half. He's
a very conscientious kid, trying to play physical. Thank God we have
him from a depth standpoint. He just kind of fell in our lap and we
need him. We needed him at that spot. We only had two guys. He played
"Yes. I think any time you come from junior college
it takes a second to adjust--just the speed of the game, the intensity
levels are not even in the same planet. All those things combine
together make it hard on a kid to go right away. He's done a pretty
»(On players catching the ball well)
wasn't pleased. We dropped two balls and we want to be perfect out
there, we do. I don't want to, Marquez [North] had a drop there on the
vertical and we had another drop, I can't remember exactly where, but
we had two that we should have had and we're going to be perfectionists
out there. It's never going to be okay to drop a pass."
LINEBACKERS COACH TOMMY THIGPEN
»(On Bobby Petrino style football)
very sound. Probably the best word is he just exploits what you do, he
takes advantage of coverages, he takes advantage of your weakness, if
there is a weak player on the football field. Then schematically he is
probably one of the best football minds when it comes to X's and O's.
He does a great job. I studied him every year when I was at Auburn. It
was like he would get better and better every season."
»(On other LBs making an impact against Austin Peay)
played a bunch in that game and I am going to keep pushing Christian
because he has all the attributes that we look for in a linebacker. He
is 6 foot 2 1/2, he is 235 and he can run and he is physical. The game
for him is you have to keep playing with his head and watch what the
older guys do. Watch AJ does, watch what Brent Brewer does. For him it
is a maturity deal but he has a lot of pride and a lot of confidence in
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH DON MAHONEY
»(On mentality of the line knowing they ran for 300+ yards)
the position itself the most important thing is winning, the second one
is as a unit that you would like to put up some numbers that you can be
proud of and keep the quarterback clean. One win, we did it, two
rushing we accomplished some good things and the last one keeping the
quarterback clean, we did that. As a unit goal were off to a good
start. A thing that's neat is now it's on their mind."
»(On where the offensive line is heading into week two)
on the sidelines between plays, we were strong in that area. Where we
weren't strong was we didn't finish nearly as well as we needed to,
technically we weren't anywhere we need to be in terms of hand
placement and footwork to the liking we demand on our guys on a basis
where it's over and over again. We demand excellence from that and we
weren't there and it's game one. As Coach Jones said, and he is exactly
right, the biggest strides made are from game one to game two and were
going to find that out. This week of practice the whole sense of
urgency is a lot higher than it was last week and that's a real
positive. It's something to gauge off of from game one to game two, and
were still not pleased and probably won't be till game fourteen."