Vols being tested before scrimmage

InsideTennessee has you covered this spring. Scroll down to read a notebook packed with all the latest news from Tennessee's 13th spring practice.

The stage at Neyland Stadium for Saturday's Orange & White game won't be the same as it will be when Tennessee kicks off the 2014 season, but coach Butch Jones is trying his hardest to make it close.

The second-year headman is calling for 60,000-plus orange-clad fans to fill the stands. And he'll likely get it.

Yes, fans and players alike eagerly await the day. But the glamour can be blinding — which is why Jones called Tennessee's Thursday and Friday practices "vital."

With the highly-anticipated event looming, Jones said he'll use the Vols' final two practices as a tool to asses his players' mental toughness and "inner drive."

"We challenged our players today. Every one is responsible for their own self determination in everything that they do — that drive to be the best," Jones said. "This is the time where you really find out about that inner drive. How great do you want to be? Because it's been a grind.

"A lot of times, when your mindset becomes you have the Orange & White game Saturday, you start to think down the road and forget about the process of becoming a great football player."

Some players have past the test, turning in a solid practice.

Others not so much.

Namely, the quarterbacks.

Jones said Thursday he was particularly displeased all four quarterbacks' effort and practice intensity levels.

"I was really disappointed today in the overall position. I didn't think one quarterback really stood out amongst them," Jones told InsideTennessee. "… Playing quarterback at Tennessee is not a sometime thing, it's an all the time thing. We just need better command."

Jones is still searching for that "alpha male" attitude among the four.

Up to this point, no one has demonstrated what he called controlled "swagger." Jones said he's looking for a quarterback who takes the practice field every day with the mindset of, "I'm the quarterback of this football team. Period."

"You have to earn that right," Jones said. "You have to bring it every single day. You have to command your teammates. You have to have tremendous juice and energy to play that position because people feed off of you."

Jones mentioned former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as an example of the attitude he's looking for, saying the Heisman winner demands respect from his teammates.

"Johnny Manziel brings it every single day," Jones said. "He elevates the talent of every one around him."

Jones did say, however, that redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson brought the most leadership to spring practice No. 13.

But even then he still wasn't overly pleased.

"It still wasn't too our standard we hold our quarterbacks to at Tennessee," Jones said of Ferguson's practice.

But it wasn't all bad news Thursday.

Other than the quarterbacks, Jones seem genuinely pleased with his squad's practice demeanor.

"I think we had a very productive day," Jones told IT. "…I like the way our players approached today."

Specifically, Jones named newcomers Josh Malone and Jalen Hurd as players who are "starting to get it."

A.J. wants the ball

Jones said the race to be named the starting punt returner is still "wide open."

Last Saturday's scrimmage featured an unlikely candidate trying his hand at the position.

Jones had linebacker A.J. Johnson field punts with hundreds of students circled around him.

"Oh, man. You know, I be talking to coach Jones saying, ‘Hey, I can go back there and get those and get one,'" Johnson told IT. ‘I can do it. I was telling him I'll be the best and ain't no one can tackle me. He told me it wasn't easy.

"So, he tried to psyche me up and put me in front of the student. So, of course I had to capitalize."

While not your stereotypical return man, Johnson is no stranger to having the ball in his hands. Johnson quarterbacked the "beast" package under Derek Dooley's staff, recording a few touchdowns and moving the chains in some vital third-and-short situations.

Johnson said he hasn't talked to Jones about bringing back the beast package, but added that he still has plenty of time to do so.

"Man, I haven't talked to him about that this spring," Johnson said. "But I'll get on him during the summer. We gotta bring that back."

Role models

Both the offensive and defensive lines are tasked with replacing all of its starters from last season, and both fronts feels they have the talent to be just as good as the existing group.

Often citing "togetherness" and work ethic as proof, some Vols also believe they can produce success this fall because of what they learned from past players.

Dylan Wiesman, who has been getting work at both guard and tackle, says his role model is Zach Fulton.

"I was just taking notes on everything he did during practice. I would just watch his feet and try to learn from him," Wiesman said. "I just want to play like Zach. He was so athletic but so strong. He was the perfect role model."

Jordan Williams, who has been splitting time at defensive end and tackle, said he looks up to former Vol and current Denver Bronco Malik Jackson.

"(Jackson) was a taller guy," Williams said. "But he wasn't a 300-pound power guy. Just watching him, his hands, he was a technician."

Butch Jones, per university


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