Butch Jones entered Haslam Field on Friday afternoon for the first spring practice of the 2014 season sporting an all orange outfit and was his usual energetci self to begin his 2nd season at the helm of the Tennessee Vols football team. Several of the position coaches, such as receivers coach Zach Azzani, shared Butch’s passion as well, and the first day of spring practices was full of sunlight and good vibes.
While the players weren’t in pads and were not allowed to be very physical during the practice, the players looked full of energy and were extremely vocal during the part the media was allowed to watch. Here are some notes on the first practice of the 2014 season:
- Some of the early enrollees really stood out today, especially Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone, and Von Pearson. Malone’s build looks similar to Justin Hunter, while Hurd looked a little out of place with the RB’s due to his height. He was at least a head above most of the other RB’s. Pearson’s body looks NFL ready, and the JUCO transfer looks ripped and ready for SEC play already.
- As expected, none of the QBs separated themselves during the first practice, and none were able to really show off their athleticism or skills too in depth on the first day of practice. Dobbs and Ferguson do look more SEC ready, though, as they’ve added some weight to their frames. Both Ferguson and Dobbs have gained at least 15 pounds each, and both looked bulkier and more powerful.
- The specialists neither impressed nor disappointed, but none of their punts were horribly shanked or lacked air time, which is a promising start to a battle that will likely last up until the first game of the season and will heat up once freshman Aaron Medley arrives.
- Curt Maggitt lived up to his reputation as a vocal leader, and he displayed his charisma during the post practice interviews. He said he was able to “broaden [his] vision” while he sat out last season, and he claimed the linebackers this season “will be great” because of his and A. J. Johnson’s leadership.
- All the quarterbacks were available to the media after this practice because Ferguson and Dobbs are no longer freshmen, and all the QB’s stated Butch Jones stressed the same thing: consistency. All four quarterbacks said Jones has emphasized leadership and greater performance throughout these practices, and Worley noted that the QB’s and team are “lightyears” beyond where they were last season.
- Butch Jones looked very happy following the practice today, and he said he had “never seen this type of competitiveness from this team.” He says the influx of new bodies and a full season into this system has increased competition and garnered more confidence from the experienced players.
- Jones also stated that this team’s athleticism and competitiveness is “night and day” when compared to last season’s team. He also praised the leadership and development of RB Marlin Lane, offensive lineman Mack Crowder, and QB Riley Ferguson.
- Jones and his staff were enthusiastic throughout practice, and he praised the players for “self-coaching” each other and showing great leadership skills and for being very vocal.
All in all, it was a good first day of practice, and optimism is very high this spring. However, the next few practices will truly show the development of the team, and we will know more about the 2014 team once the pads are put on.