Butch Jones didn't waste any time voicing his displeasure at his team's practice efforts on Tuesday coming off of an intense scrimmage Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The fourth-year Tennessee head coach felt the Vols lacked motivation and mental intensity in their seventh spring session of 2016.
Jones cited a lack of leadership among veteran players to set the tone of the practice and was candid about his desire to see more from his players moving forward.
"For the first time, I'm not pleased," Jones said after practice. "I thought we took a step back and our leadership needs to step up. We have older players in the program now and they understand the standards and the expectations. It was not up to our standard and it was not up to our expectations. That will never be tolerated."
It was the first time Jones has spoken out at his team's effort this spring, noting that his team regressed.
"I've really liked their approach all spring, the mental effort and the mental intensity, but I didn't like it (Tuesday)," he said. "I thought we took a step back as a football team. I didn't think we showed much leadership. We weren't very physical in practice today, even though it's practice seven."
The perceived lack of physicality and a veteran presence on the field combined to create a lackadaisical atmosphere at Haslam Field he didn't appreciate and hopes to correct before the Vols pick back up on Thursday.
"We have to understand that these 15 opportunities are very precious and you only get so many of them," he said. "Sometimes you become too casual in spring football, and it's all about when you walk in those doors at Anderson Training Center, it's all about mental effort, mental intensity and being at your best every day. There's a standard. There's an expectation. These players have done a good job and they'll bounce back and be ready for meetings and ready to go on Thursday."
Tennessee's bad injury luck continued on Tuesday with the loss of a quarterback. Rising sophomore Sheriron Jones was ruled out for the rest of spring practice with an undisclosed injury according to head coach Butch Jones.
"He kind of had an unusual injury on Saturday," Jones said. "We expect him to fully be back by June and by the start of training camp."
The 6-foot-2, 208-pound California native wore a boot on one of his legs as he watched Tuesday's practice. Jones briefly transferred to Colorado in January before coming back to Tennessee later in the month.
"He embodies what this football program stands for," Jones said. "Here's a young man who made a decision and then decided to come back to his family. He understands what it means to play here and he understands what's expected of our program, and all he does is work."
Smokey Grey Motivation
The offense showed off in smokey grey helmets and orange jerseys Tuesday for the first time at a Tennessee practice since the university switched from adidas to Nike in July. The alternate lids and home tops served as the unit's reward for winning Saturday's scrimmage inside Neyland Stadium.
"The offense won the day," Jones said after evaluating film. "When we scrimmage again in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, the defense will have that opportunity to win the orange jerseys back and wear the smokey grey helmets."
The situational scrimmage allows both units to rack up scores with a unique scoring system that gives points for various successes, including sacks, touchdowns and turnovers, with Jones making the final call on all scores. The offense locked up the win on the last play of the day, highlighting a point Jones has made numerous times this offseason about winning back "25 points." The Vols are 13-5 in their last 18 games, with those five losses coming by a combined 25 points.
"I thought it was very, very competitive," Jones said of the scrimmage. "It came down to the final play. We talk about when we're searching for their 25 points, you never know which points can make the difference."
Josh Dobbs missed Thursday's practice, but it was for a good reason. The rising senior quarterback and team captain spent the night in Atlanta accepting the Peach of an Athlete Role Model Award, which goes to someone who represents "good character" and "outstanding leadership" according to the award's website.
"You talk about a young man who gets to go back home to his home state of Georgia and receive a prestigious award like that, he embodies what a student-athlete is," Jones said. "I know (his parents) Stephanie and Robert have done such a tremendous job of raising him, and he embodies everything that we stand for."