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Rise To The Challenge


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Three days into training camp, it is apparent that Butch Jones is challenging the Vols to play at a higher level each day. On Sunday evening, the Volunteers donned the shells for the first time and Jones made sure to push them harder and ask more of them.
"I challenged them today," said Jones, who continues to work through a sore throat from all his coaching during practice. "I challenged our leadership; I put them in stressful situations. For the most part I thought they responded. Every day is one day closer.
"Day 3, I think we continued to progress, just really looking for a high level of consistency in our mental approach, our mental preparation, and then our intensity on the practice field. Being able to be able to go right from pre-practice, the stretch, and maintain that level of intensity all the way through whatever period we end. I think that has kind of been a work in progress. I thought today we took a step in the right direction.
Jones is known for putting his players into individual battles during practice. This is something the Vols are clamoring for just days into practice.
"Sometimes I watch our demeanor, the way we approach the practice field, the look in our eyes, if we need something to start off, something competitive," he said, "we do it or I will find an individual who really isn't dialed in and to shock them right there I put them into a competitive situation. The great thing is now they are all coming up to me and asking to be in those competitive situations, I like to see that."
With a new season comes a new tradition and this year, head coach Butch Jones has implemented the black stripe on newcomers' helmets. Freshman wide receiver Marquez North is proving to his coaches and teammates that he wants to earn that traditional orange stripe.
After just three days, North has the sidelines buzzing and his head coach talking.
"In three very short practices, and in a very small time, (Marquez) has proven he is going to be one of our play makers," said Jones. "He is dynamic, he is strong, he is physical, he can run, and we need him offensively. What you see is when your players bring him up, it is a level of respect right now that they have for him. He is extremely intelligent; he knows every single receiver position on the field already. We are very excited about him."
From the opposing side of the ball, North's performance has been noted.
"He's a big receiver with a lot of speed, so I'm pretty impressed with him," senior linebacker Brent Brewer said, "He's doing big things out there."
On the offense, his teammates are gushing after just three days of action.
"Marquez has done really, really well, especially his first," said tight end Alex Ellis. "We watched the one-on-ones with the wide receivers the last two days and he did really well. He kind of stuck out a lot."
With progression such as North and other freshmen have shown, it won't be long before orange is the new black.
There is one thing for certain on the defensive line this season. It is full of seniors.
Six defensive linemen are in their final go around on Rocky Top. And all six of them are listed on the two-deep heading into fall camp.
But every senior knows that their job is not safe.
"We are going to fight for that starting spot," said redshirt senior Marlon Walls. "The depth chart is nothing right now we just have to compete and do what you can to stay here. I have to watch the film because I know I have a great guy behind me in Corey Miller, he is pretty good guy and he is fighting."
The competition doesn't bring animosity to the defensive linemen of Team 117. Thought they are competing every day, they are still a family.
"We work hard each and every single day," said senior Jacques Smith. "It is not a competition, it is a brotherhood. We watch film together, we eat together, at night we are going over plays before we go to bed to make sure that all of us know it. You never know what happens and if one of us goes down, whether it be me, Marlon, Corey, the next guy has to step up. We all want to win, don't we?"
The linemen are raring to go. After taking more of a blocking role last season, the line is ready to get out there and attack. With that they have the scheme they are comfortable with (4-3) and a great leader in Steve Stripling.
"We believe in Coach Strip, his numbers prove themselves," said Walls. "He is allowing us to cut loose a little bit. As long as you are in the right spot he will let it go if that is what you are comfortable doing. We have the right personnel for the 4-3. Guys are a lot more comfortable. And for us it is effort. [Coach Strip] preaches effort. Pushing yourself at the end of the play. 63. Six seconds, three great strains. That is something you can control as a player, what you can do. We are excited."
Coach Stripling wants his players in the backfield attacking the quarterback. And for an edge rusher like Smith, that is music to his ears.
His pinned back ears.
"Being able to pin our ears back and go is something that this defense allows you to do. We lost confidence as a defense, being in the 3-4 on the D-Line. Going back to the 4-3 we knew we were a great defensive line. We know the scheme; we are all great football players. Being able to attack the offense like that in the spring and get at them it boosted our confidence. That is something that we try and get better at each and every day. Those little things boost our confidence going into this season."
"I just have to keep consistent with my play and go out each and every single day and continue to be the leader that I am for this team and give my all as a Vol."
Having bounced around the defensive backfield over his first three seasons, senior Brent Brewer is finally settling into the second line of defense.
Seeing time at both the Sam and Will linebacker positions, Brewer is making progress, but says he needs to work on the fundamentals.
"I'm getting better," said Brewer. "I'm still trying to adjust to the line, going against big guys every play and then just reading run or pass. I'm coming along pretty well. I'm just trying to get in there and do what I can."
Brewer has the luxury of having a man at his side that has gone through this change before. Classmate Dontavis Sapp made the jump from defensive back as a sophomore.
"He's come a long way and doing good things out there," Brewer said about his teammate. "I'll talk to him to see which things I can do better and how he went about the transition."
One major benefit of making this move for any player is speed. However, you can run fast, but have to know where to go.
"You can use it a little bit, but I have to learn to read the linemen first and then go," Brewer said. "I'm a little hesitant right now trying to read everything. It's coming along; I just need to get in there and go over some film with coach and I'll be on track."
Coming into his last camp, the 6-foot-1 senior stressed he wants to go out on a good note and be remembered for 2013.
"Just come out and do the right thing, be a leader for these young guys and show them how to do things around here," said Brewer. "Then to change this program around from how it's been the past few years. This year we can change things as seniors. When we come back, we want to be known as something for something, not losing and going 5-6."
The Vols will open the 2013 campaign against Austin Peay on Aug. 31. To purchase season tickets, go to UTTix.com.
For more information about Tennessee football, visit UTSports.com/football, follow @Vol_Football on Twitter or like the Vols at Facebook.com/VolFootball.
Here are a few of the most important quotes of the day:
»(On the cornerbacks)
"Work in progress. I am really encouraged by Cam Sutton. He is going to add another dimension for us in the return game. He has a high level of consistency but he wants to learn. He is like a sponge, he takes it in. Malik Foreman is progressing as well. They are understanding the level of intensity, the preparation it takes, from the meetings to the classroom. Coming out and playing corner you have to have a whole completely different mindset. Everyone remembers the corners when they are backs and someone is running away from them. They have to have that mindset, that competitive edge every single snap. When you throw a lot at young individuals, this is only their third practice in a college setting, but I am encouraged with what I have seen with both of them."
»(On Justin Meredith)
"Continues to progress. It is the same circumstances, same issues that he has had in the past, it is his hamstring. Right now he is going through the rehabilitation process. We have to make sure it is 100 percent before we put him back out on the field."
"It has been an unfortunate injury that he has basically had since he has come here. So we are trying to do everything we can to get him back."
»(On the tight end position)
"I think our tight end position is progressing. The addition of Woody Quinn has really helped that. He brings another level of competition. He is a gifted athlete. He is continuing to learn the physicality of playing football. He is extremely intelligent. Brendan Downs is an individual who continues to progress. I thought he had one of the better springs. Alex Ellis, I think there is a lot of competition, Joe Ayres. I still think it is a level of physicality and consistency on a down in and down out bases that we are looking for." "Each individual has a different skill set which lends itself very well to a position because we like to flex our tight end out. But then they are attached and they have to be a great blocker as well in the run game. All these individuals bring a different dynamic, but it is just a level of physicality and consistency that we need from that group."
»(On his weight loss)
"I was about 281 during the spring and now I am at about 267. I am moving around a lot better. My endurance is up and I am able to play a little harder and give more effort. I think it my natural weight. Whatever they want me to play at I am going to play at but I am glad that they allowed me to get back down to 260-something. I am feeling really good and able to help my teammates out a little more."
»(On seeing his name on the depth chart)
"It obviously felt good, seeing the results of my hard work in the off-season. But nothing is written in stone. I'm just filling in and doing my job."
»(On what the spring's Iron Vol award meant to him)
"It meant a lot. I think most people remember the interception from the Spring Game. It just meant a lot more to me because it was voted on by my teammates and we have so many hard workers on this team. No one knows what we do. No one works out as hard as we do. So for them to vote me as the Iron Vol, it meant a lot."
»(On when he realized he belonged at Tennessee)
"Well first of all, I wouldn't come up here if I didn't think I could do it. If I didn't think I could, I would've gone to a smaller school. But I would say it was probably making plays on kickoff. Whenever I started realizing that I could run with these guys, they started having me as the fastest guy on the 'Look Team' (scout team) whoever we played that week. That really helped build my confidence up. I felt like I was needed. As a walk-on, that's really what you want to feel. You want to feel needed or wanted on the team. Once you get that feeling and you feel appreciated, it just makes you hungrier."
»(On the depth chart)
"There is no depth chart right now. One thing about this sport you play, it is going to be somewhat businesslike when it comes to who is starting and who's coming off the bench and we just make sure that we help each other and still stay teammates throughout the whole process."
"We just keep working on footwork technique, speed, physicality, it's everything. It's the same stuff, just keep working on it over and over again."
»(On competitiveness)
"Coach Jones has definitely emphasized being a family as one unit, especially on the o-line, we have OLP and everybody's family. We treat them like they are our brothers."
"Competitive, it's always been competitive. I feel like with Coach Jones, you always have a competitive environment with the young guys, just wanting to see for the first time what they can do in pads. Everybody was impressed with what everybody was doing today."
»(On offensive line experience)
"The o-line is very important. We do feel like we need to have that leadership role to progress in the young guys. We have to make sure that when we're on the team, we have to make sure we set the tempo and we make sure everything is done correctly. We accept nothing but excellence from everybody."
»(On competition at tight end)
"I mean that's all it is, competition. We're just trying to get better. Without competition you're never going to get better. I'm trying to be number one, B-downs [Brendan Downs] is trying to be number one you know and Joe [Ayers] and Woody [Quinn] and [A.J.] Branisel - we're all trying to be number one. We've got a good group too so we all bond together pretty good. We're all really good friends. It's kind of a little different in there. It's competition but we're all friends at the same time."
»(On the staff's ability to produce good tight ends)
"Oh my, they're awesome. We watched a ton of film on them in the spring and even now we do. Especially with [Travis] Kelce and them, they were so physical but awesome athletes and that's what we're trying, with that offense I mean this is the first time we're trying to learn that offense since the spring, we're trying to get to their level almost. It's a perfect example."
»(On someone who has stood out to him)
"I would say Jaylen Miller. He is explosive, he reminds me of myself. He is explosive, has a quick twitch and can dip off the edge. I didn't even know but he said that he had twenty-something sacks as a senior and that is crazy. I only have 13. I can't wait to see him on the field and do his thing."
»(On Tiny Richardson)
"Tiny has gotten a lot stronger. He is a lot leaner and more cut and can go those extra plays. That is something we need him to do in this high-tempo offense. I think defensive ends are going to have a difficult time defending him."
»(On the linebacker position)
"I'm doing both Sam and Will. They're pretty similar in some parts, but different in that one plays on the line and one plays back a bit more. I like Will better."
»(On the experience at linebacker)
"We have a lot of experience and have seen a lot over the past two or three years. Anything the offense comes out and shows us, we pretty much know what to do and how to react to it."
»(On Coach Thigpen)
"He's laid back. If you mess up, he'll get on you, but I really like him a lot and respect him as a coach. He has a lot of experience. I know why he's a good recruiter. It's just the way he comes at you, respects you and comes at like and talks to you like a man. I can respect that."



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