Last season, Butch Jones set aside one practice for Tennessee fans to attend. On a very rainy night last August, 39,000 fans poured into Neyland Stadium to get their first glimpse of Team 117. Tonight, approximately 40,000 attended the VFL Fan Appreciation Open Practice to get a look at Team 118…in much better weather.
“The challenge with every practice is to create a game mindset and game intensity…just that game energy which we speak about all the time. To be able to come in here tonight and perform in front of our great fans, we needed this for the overall development of our football team.” Butch Jones said.
Earlier this week, Senior Justin Worley was named the starting QB over Sophomore Joshua Dobbs and redshirt Sophomore Nathan Peterman. Worley also won the job last season, but had his season cut short due to injury. This year is Worley’s last chance to get the Vols to a bowl game and he plans on taking full advantage of the opportunity.
“I see great confidence right now, more command, and more taking ownership of being the quarterback at the University of Tennessee. I see him making progress each and every day.” Jones said about Worley.
Last season, Worley struggled at times to get the offense moving and into the endzone. He had limited and inexperienced weapons last season, but the offense should see a big improvement this season. Going into last year, the most experienced WR was Pig Howard, who had a career total of 13 catches for 54 yards.
This season, the Vols welcome back Howard, along with Marquez North, Jason Croom, and Josh Smith. All of whom gained valuable experience last season as freshmen. Match them with incoming JUCO WR Von Pearson, freshmen WR’s Josh Malone and Vic Wharton, and freshmen TE’s Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm, and Worley will have more than enough to work with on the offensive side of the ball.
“We’ve got a few extra guy now and the guys we had last year are more developed.” Worley said of his weapons this season. “Marquez, Josh Smith, and Pig Howard…all these guys are more developed. They’re more mature and they understand the offense better, so we can go faster now and we can do some different things with them.”
The WR corps is a very dynamic group and that is evident on a play-by-play basis. With the size, speed, and physicality there are several combinations Butch Jones can put out on the field and feel comfortable.
“The entire receiving group has a lot of confidence right now. Zach Azzani does a tremendous job with them. It’s starting to be a player led position now and that’s great to see.” Jones said.