KNOXVILLE — In addition to pride, finely prepared steaks will be on the line for the ‘Winner Dinner’ at Saturday’s DISH O&W Game. Butch Jones has set up the dinner where the winning team will have a top-notch supper served on fine china while the losing team will have franks and beans served on paper plates with sporks.
“We are calling it ‘Winner Dinner,’ everything in our football program is based off of competition,” said Jones. “In fitting fashion, the winning team in the Spring Game will have a nice sit down dinner with servers, steak, and fine china. The losers will have hot dogs and beans and plastic utensils and paper plates.”
Everything in the Tennessee football program is based on a competitive culture.
“We want something at stake,” said Jones. “Just like the last practice of last week was to see who would wear the orange jerseys (the defense) and who would wear the white jerseys. So much is about the competitive excellence and the competitive greatness that we are working for each and every day. You have to teach players how to compete on a day-to-day basis.
These are life lessons Jones is teaching the Vols.
“You compete in life every day,” he said. “You compete in academics. You compete on and off the field. That’s the basis for our football program. We want to reward excellence in our football family.”
Senior defensive back Justin Coleman will do all he can to make sure his orange team of the Vols’ defense gets to eat that steak.
“Coach Jones will joke about every time someone has to eat a hot dog,” said Coleman. “I’m trying to get that steak, it’s what we want.”
Young finds comfort
in Volunteers backfield
After spending a season at wide receiver, Devrin Young is returning to the backfield. The senior is slotted to see significant playing time along with senior Marlin Lane and freshmen Jalen Hurd.
It may seem like it can be easy to get confused flipping back and forth, from position to position, but Young says the staff has made it easy for him to pick back up where he left off.
“Obviously it’s slightly different lingo for every position but it’s the same language within that position so wants you learn the terminology it’s easy,” he said.
Young mainly worked out of the slot during his time on the perimeter. He said that he’ll still split out wide sometimes but he’s enjoying returning to his natural position.
“I guess the biggest thing is I get to touch the ball a little more,” Young said. “Every day you’ve got to develop trust with the coaches and I guess somewhat I can say we’re doing that.”
Young had 33 carries for 140 yards in 2012. Last season he tallied 6 receptions for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the transition,” Young said. “It’s not like I went to a different position I didn’t know this round. I felt pretty comfortable, the biggest thing was performing up the standards and expectations of that position that the coaches want me to.”
ready to contribute
One player who has garnered a lot of attention from Butch Jones since he signed with the Vols last February is sophomore lineman Dylan Wiesman. Jones has raved about his competitive nature and mental make-up.
After a season as a back-up to the Vols experienced offensive line, Wiesman has a chance to step up and be a starter in his second college season.
“Dylan Wiesman can help this football team win and he will,” said Jones, who has been on his radar since he coached in Wiesman’s hometown of Cincinnati. “He has great competitive character but he has to be a tough minded individual and he has to play tough.”
Wiesman has seen time at both center and guard in his “very productive spring” according to Jones.
The Queen City native is out to prove the Vols’ new offensive line can be effective with their demeanor.
“I think we’re pretty underrated at the offensive line,” said Wiesman. “Everyday Coach (Mahoney) says we come to work with a work and like mentality. It’s like a blue collar mentality, bring your lunch pail like we’re not leaving until it’s all done.”
Wiesman spent last season as a back-up to probable NFL Draft pick Zach Fulton, a player he learned a lot from.
“I just watched (Zach),” said Wiesman. “I was just taking notes on everything he did during practice. Just looking at his feet and everything he did. I just wanted to play like Zach. He was so athletic but at the same time he was so strong. So, I just wanted to have a perfect role model to base yourself off of.”
McNeil hungry for more
LaDarrell McNeil has seen an increase in activity this spring with the absence of Brian Randolph at the safety position.
The two-year letterman is also ready to take that next step in helping out Team 118 move forward.
“I was happy with my overall performance but I wanted to get better and keep moving forward from that,” McNeil said.
The junior said he also feels like they have a different mentality this year compared to last spring.
“We’re hungry,” he said. “We really want to improve from last year. Just keep moving forward.”
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said that he needs to see more out of the safety group and McNeil in particular.
“He still has a lot of room for growth and development,” said Jones. “Our entire safety position needs to step up, we had way too many missed tackles last year. The overall communication, they are responsible for getting the back end lined up but also the linebackers as well.”
The Volunteers will also welcome a group of newcomers in the summer making the competition that much steeper in the fall.