Coaches detail position battles

Stay on top of Tennessee football news with a subscription to Here's a look at what assistant coaches told the media about the Volunteers as they prepare for their season opener in less than 10 days.

Sometimes a move into the star role can change the character of a person. That’s not the case with Justin Worley.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian says the senior has taken on “more ownership” after being named the starting quarterback a week ago.

The second-year play-caller says Worley is different now from when this coaching staff first got him in that his “rhythm and anticipation” have both improved.

Here’s more from Bajakian on the staff overhauling the roster and more:

Mike Bajakian video interview

Waiting until mid-August to prepare for the season’s first opponent is not something any staff wants to do. Include the Tennessee coaches in that group.

Defensive coordinator John Jancek says the Big Orange have been implementing portions of the defense since the onset of training camp.

“We’ve been installing right from the very beginning for Utah State,” Jancek said.

A major question mark for Tennessee is its defensive front, most especially at tackle. Jancek responded directly when asked if he was concerned about the lack of size in the trenches.

“Yes I am,” said Jancek, who plans to depend on five defensive tackles. “We have to have a contingency plan in regards to that.”

In the InsideTennessee video below, the coordinator details what the Vols have in former Scout four-star Christopher Weatherd, how many defensive linemen he plans to rotate into the game and his thoughts on seeing Curt Maggitt back on the playing field for the first time since November 2012.

John Jancek video interview

If there’s anything the No. 4-ranked recruiting class offers Tennessee football from an immediate standpoint it’s competition at several spots.

“It’s really good, it’s really good for us,” defensive backs coach Willie Martinez said Thursday. “We feel really good as far as the competition and having that. We didn’t have that last year.”

Three Vols look to have sewn up starting jobs on the back end of the orange-clad defense: nickelback Justin Coleman, safety Brian Randolph and cornerback Cameron Sutton.

It’s a battle between Todd Kelly Jr., LaDarrell McNeil and Devaun Swafford for the second safety spot and Emmanuel Moseley is trying to beat out Michael Williams as the corner opposite Sutton.

Here’s more from Martinez about the rest of the secondary:

Willie Martinez video interview

The buzz around the offensive line has been around freshman Jashon Robertson. The Montgomery Bell Academy product positioned himself in an extremely short amount of time to start his first-ever college football game.

“(Robertson) has everything we’re looking for in an offensive lineman,” Bajakian said.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney says Robertson and former walk-on Jacob Gilliam (left tackle starter) are simply playing faster than other top candidates Dontavius Blair and Coleman Thomas.

“Jashon is just really further beyond than where I would have thought that he would have been,” Mahoney said, “being that he started late at the position and grasp it so fast like he did is a credit to him, the program he comes from and his overall football intelligence.”

Robertson compares favorably to Mahoney’s all-time list of incoming blockers.

“He’s one of the best that I’ve had a chance to really be around,” the assistant coach said. “Again, when he first started playing the position the first day we had the practice, I left the field and I said to coach Jones I said, ‘Coach, he’s asking questions that most guys would not ask in terms of the proper landmark and the actual step — not over-analyzing it but just the direct question. I was really impressed and said, ‘Man, this guy is special.’ From that standpoint, I’ve got to say he’s without a doubt one of the best I’ve had the chance to coach.”

Mahoney describes the qualities that may find a home for Dylan Weisman and how right tackle Kyler Kerbyson compares to former Vol and current Kansas City Chiefs lineman Zach Fulton in the IT video below:

Don Mahoney video interview

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