Vols have competitive, high-energy 2nd day
I’ve come to expect a first image when I get to practice that seems to set the tone for the day. When I walked onto Haslam Field today, the first thing I saw was Coach Butch Jones chest-bumping a visitor. After stretches, Jones singled out 3 match-ups between receivers and defensive backs to set the tone for the day’s work.
“Oh, it’s just being competitive, going hard on every snap,” said receiver Marquez North. “There’s going to be a winner and a loser each play so you just got to always bring it and then snap and clear.”
Competition was the theme of much of the off-season talk about this team, and it has been the theme of much of what has been said about the first two days of practice. Cam Sutton is a veteran now as a sophomore. He was beaten by Von Pearson in those one-on-one drills this morning, and as the video from Friday’s practice showing in the football facility shows, he was badly beaten by Pearson yesterday. He grinned and answered in the affirmative when asked if Pearson had good moves, but Sutton clearly plans to use it to his advantage one day.
“Always,” said Sutton. “Just going against that competitiveness in practice makes it easier in the games.”
“Very competitive and that’s what’s going to push us very far in the end,” Sutton added about several newcomers. “We’re always about competing, we preach that a lot in our meetings, coaching staff preaches that and for ourselves. We have to compete against each other and make the game easier for ourselves.”
The competition among the four quarterbacks will draw the most attention until a starter is named. Don’t expect to get a hint by asking their teammates. Marquez North showed he was just as elusive off the field as on when asked if he could see a difference in them.
“Not really,” North said. “It’s all the same to me. I just catch the ball and run.”
“All of them are real competitive and all of them have great ability,” added North. “I’m just excited to continue to watch the competition.”
Running back Marlin Lane stiff-armed the question as well.
“All four of them are doing it, honestly,” said Lane. “It’s like, we line up and it’s the same voice, no matter who’s in. They give commands and we do it. They’re making great throws this spring.”
While it’s not as glamorous, the work going on to find five new offensive linemen is every bit as important to Team 118. With all of last year’s starters gone, it means returning players with experience are trying to help coach the newcomers.
“I come every day knowing I have people looking up to me now, so I have to be a great example for them,” said center Mack Crowder. “If I come in and have a good day, it could affect the guys underneath me. I just have to prepare myself every day mentally to come in and have the best day I can possibly have.”
Crowder knows a thing or two about offensive line coaching. He’s had three of them in his time on the Hill.
“The one good thing about having three different coaches so far is they all bring something new to the table. You take a little bit from each one of those. Having three different coaches, it’s a downfall because you have to change offenses, but on the upside, you do get three different ways of teaching things and you figure out what’s working best for you and how you can play better.”
With a raw but promising talent in Dontavious Blair and a talented freshman in Coleman Thomas, there is a lot of work to be done before August 30. Crowder said they are not the physical specimens of last year’s O-line, but he believes they’ll get the job done.
“We’re going to pride ourselves on being physical and finishing through the whistle,” Crowder said. “We’re going to have to be strong mentally as well, because those guys were so big and athletic and we’re going to have to make up for that in other ways.”