Normally, you send players to SEC Media Days who have been leaders within the program for years. However, one of the players Tennessee football sent was a transfer from the USC Trojans just last year.
Velus Jones Jr. met with the media, and as he spoke, two things are clear. One is that he has shockingly emerged as a great ambassador for the program despite being there for only a year. The other is that UT’s senior wide receivers is clearly thrilled about getting to play in Heupel’s new up-tempo system. The guy couldn’t praise it enough when asked about it.
Initially, Jones talked about how defenses will have trouble adjusting to everything Tennessee football does. That’s a bold thing to say at SEC Media Days, but he didn’t back down, calling the offense a “dream come true” for him given his style of play. This is a direct quote from him.
"“This offense is definitely uptempo, and I realized the defenses had a lot of busted coverages. Also, the defensive line being exhausted, having to like rush over and over and over, which opens up the run game. So it’s a lot that comes with this offense, and I know it’s like a difficult offense also to stop.”"
If spring ball is any indication, this is all true. However, that could be more about the struggles on defense than any success on offense. Only time will answer that, and we won’t know until SEC play begins on Rocky Top.
Heupel’s schemes aren’t the only thing that have Jones drawn in. His personality stands out as well. Jones said everybody that has stayed “trusted the process” and touted his team building exercises like playing dodgeball in the morning. Here’s a bit of what Jones said about his commitment to his new head coach.
"With Coach Heupel, he really interacts with the players a lot. He’s always around us, whether it’s like tossing the football or coming in the weight room, checking on us, asking us about our personal lives, like he’s just an amazing guy. He’s always involved, he’s always around, you’re always seeing his face, so he’s a really likable guy. I’m so proud to go to war for that man this fall.”"
Of course, one thing that could be helping Jones now is the fact that he has couple of former teammates joining him at USC now, as place kicker Chase McGrath and defensive lineman Caleb Tremblay are both on the roster now. Those two combined with Mississippi State Bulldogs transfer receiver JaVonta Payton, another upper-classmen, give Jones some camaraderie.
Still, this level of excitement is almost certainly 100 percent authentic given what Jones can do as a speedy back who can also be a deep threat. He is perfectly positioned to thrive in the Vols’ new offense, just as he did this past spring.
Although Jones didn’t commit to play for Heupel, he is clearly aware of the good situation he’s been put in. No matter what happens this year, Tennessee football will likely score some points, and Jones will almost certainly be a huge reason for that. Simply put, he has a reason to be excited at this year’s SEC Media Days.