Butch Jones didn't beat around the bush Friday at Tennessee's media day. The third-year Vols head coach cut the bush down in regards to how important fall camp has become to his team.
Jones has always been a proponent of the importance of training camps, and he didn't shy away from the significance of the home stretch of Tennessee's fall practices as the Vols get set for another two-a-day Saturday.
"This is where your toughness, this is where your team chemistry, this is where your your resiliency is born here," Jones said. 'We always talk about how you don't want to survive the day. You don't want to endure, you want to embrace it. You want to thrive in the day, thrive in the moment. That's how you get better each and every day."
With nearly 20 players held out recently, most with nicks and bruises that aren't serious injuries, Jones discussed how the grind of a fall camp truly tests the nature of a team that is finding its identity as it prepares for the 2015 season.
"That's when you start to find out about your football team right now, when you get into practice 11, 12, 14, 15, what type of resiliency you have and it challenges your leadership. We're also challenged because we start class next week, so the last few days are absolutely paramount to our football team."
Put me in coach
The cadre of hurt players who have missed time in fall camp are slowly starting to see the field again, and Jones said he expects as many as ten players who have been out to see the field Saturday for Tennessee's open practice.
Among those anticipated back is starting tight end Ethan Wolf.
"Getting him back tomorrow will be big for us," Jones said. "He's a weapon, so getting him back practicing will aid us."
Jones wouldn't specifically mention any other players expected to make their return Saturday, but it's clear Tennessee is healing from the inevitable scrapes and bumps that training camps bring.
Throwing it around
The Vols participated in some situational scrimmaging Thursday in the night cap of a two-a-day practice, and despite improvement, Jones knows there's still a long way to go in installing a passing game he's comfortable with heading into the regular season.
"We still have a long way to go in terms of the passing game and just the overall fundamentals and details that go behind it: the rhythym, the spacing, the timing. So much goes into the throw game. It's not just the quarterback," Jones said.
"When you throw the football, there's a lot that goes into it. It's not just one or two positions. We'll work the throw game exceptionally hard from here on out like we have been."
Sleep is the cousin of success
Falling asleep just became a part of Tennessee's work regimen. The Vols' head coach employs assistants to a handful of players who have trouble sleeping at night and has used his extensive interest in sports science to find an innovative way to monitor his players' sleep schedule to ensure they're getting the most rest possible each night.
"Each young man has a sleep coach and we have about 25 players right now that have a sleep coach and they actually have a system set up underneath their mattress and we can gauge how many hours of sleep they have. They have it on their cell phones and they actually have goals, so they're in competition. They're set up in groups and they compete," Jones said.
"It's changed our kids' mindsets. They wear glasses to block out the blue light when they go to bed at night. If anyone is having a hard time sleeping at night and you're on your phone, it's usually going to take an hour longer for you to go to sleep. They wear these orange goggles that block out the blue light. It makes them sleepy."
Who does No. 2 work for?
It might not be a huge revelation, but Jones announced Quinten Dormady as the official backup quarterback to incumbent starter Joshua Dobbs. Dormady's extensive work in spring practice and fast grasp of the offense has put him ahead of fellow freshman Sheriron Jones at the moment as Tennessee prepares for its season opener against Bowling Green Sept. 5.
Jones didn't rule out the possibility of Dormady seeing early playing time against the Falcons to get him both acclimated to the speed of FBS football and invaluable game repetitions.
"Both young quarterbacks have done a very good job, but Quinten Dormady is our No. 2 quarterback. He is the No. 2 quarterback. Sheriron [Jones] is progressing and he has to be ready. Sheriron is two snaps away from being in a game," Jones said.
"You have to pick your spots in order to get him reps but Quinten has gained some very valuable repetitions. It is amazing with him to see the progress that he made in spring ball and the confidence that he gained and really be able to continue to grow on that."
Tennessee has been cross-training virtually all of its offensive linemen as Jones and offensive line coach Don Mahoney search for their starting five. Brett Kendrick has played all five line positions in fall camp, but others, such as freshman Jack Jones, are staying at one position for good.
"Some individuals have gone from center to guard and some from guard to tackle. As we know, it's a very long season. We have some playing one position. Jack Jones is playing guard. That's all he is playing, so he is able to hone in on the skillset that is required and the footwork that is required from that position," Jones said.
"The rest of the guys we are moving around trying to find the best five for us and even the best six, seven or eight guys to continue to provide depth and stability. Jack is really the one who sticks out among the freshman. They have really honed in on one position. We have moved Brett Kendrick around to see where he can best fit the football team as well."