It's football time in Tennessee once again.
The Vols take the practice field on Monday as spring football begins, ushering in the fourth year of the Butch Jones era as his team begins preparing for an SEC Eastern Division title in 2016.
"To me, this is the most exciting time of the year. It's all about reinventing yourself and establishing your identity as a football team," Butch Jones said at his opening press conference Monday. "It's the first time Team 120 takes the field. We are learning situational football and creating habits. We have spoken the whole offseason about how we are 13-5 in the last 18 games as a football program. Those five losses have come from a combined 25 points. We are searching for those 25 points in everything that we do. Those 25 points are everywhere, but they are the hardest to score."
As the Vols chase those 25 points, they'll do it with a couple of shakeups and without some of their key pieces. Eleven Tennessee players will miss spring practice with injuries, including five defensive linemen in Derek Barnett, Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle, Kyle Phillips and Kendal Vickers. Also missing the spring are offensive linemen Chance Hall and Jashon Robertson, wide receiver Josh Malone, safety/kick return man Evan Berry, running back Joseph Young and tight end Joe Stocstill.
"All three individuals have done a tremendous job this offseason with really embracing that, and I know we are looking forward to seeing them on the field with their respective positions," Jones said.
Jones no longer presides over the youngest team in the SEC and has tangible expectations to live up to as the Vols prepare for an SEC Eastern Division title run with 17 returning starters from a 9-4 team. How will they handle it? Jones is wanting his squad to realize the success of last year and media hype heading into this one doesn't mean anything until foot meets leather.
"Team 120 has not played one snap of football," Jones said. "When rankings come out and all the expectations (come out), they are based on last year's football team. So, we have to go and prove ourselves every day. That's where we get to focus on the process. We have to work to be better each and every day. We don't look for what tomorrow holds."