KNOXVILLE — Team 118 enjoyed a week of vacation last week but hit the ground running Tuesday with what head coach Butch Jones said was their most physical practice so far.
“We spoke prior to spring break that I thought the maturity of our football team would show coming back,” said Jones. “Overall I did like our mental approach but also it was very glaring that some individuals are more mature than others. Some individuals prepared more than individuals coming back but I thought it was a very productive practice and probably our most physical practice so far since we’ve been back.”
Not impressed with the effort and intensity in some parts of the first five practices, Jones said he was pleased with what he saw at practice six. The second year head coach of the Vols said that the mental aspect of the practice really stuck out to him as they installed more of their plays and schemes.
“I was not pleased with the first five practices especially the scrimmage in terms of our overall style of play in which we’re going to play football here at Tennessee but every opportunity is a teaching moment,” he said. “Today had many teaching moments. We concluded practice with a live team period and then we graded our position groups on the field if we had loafs and not playing our style.”
For the most part, Jones found that his team retained a lot of what they learned prior to the break. Now their focus shifts to fine tuning the smaller details of the game, playing more physically and conditioning themselves to compete for 60 minutes.
He also recognized that with such a young football team there will be a significant learning curve. Tennessee will replace major chunks of their offensive and defensive lines. The receiving corps remains young and no starting quarterback has yet to be decided - a battle that is expected to last throughout the summer.
With all the room to improve, Jones said practice will continue to demand more and more.
“Today I did like our approach,” he said. “I thought our practice was demanding and we’ll continue to demand and demand even more as spring ball progresses.”
A new end in sight?
Curt Maggitt has become a leader on and off the football field, so when Butch Jones and his assistants asked him to try playing at the defensive end position, Maggitt never questioned the idea.
The redshirt junior has been spending extra time watching film and meeting with coaches to better understand his new role as an end.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Maggitt. “You have some big guys in the SEC. You have to be able to hold your ground and do your job as well. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m up for it.”
After missing the entire 2013 season because of injury, Maggitt stresses even more now how he wants to give his all for Tennessee and his teammates are noticing.
“Curt is definitely showing a lot on the line,” said defensive lineman Jordan Williams. “He has been playing end a lot. He’s doing really good. He has places where he needs to improve, but all you need is a motor. He has it.”
Bullock ready for
While most of the focus has been on the turnover in the trenches or with the quarterback battle, the kicking position is also up for grabs after the graduation of long-time placekicker Michael Palardy. One candidate to take over that role is George Bullock.
The redshirt sophomore from West High School in Knoxville hasn’t recorded a regular season kick but could find his way into the starting role on Team 118.
“I’m just trying to work as hard as I can every day no matter who is here,” Bullock said. “I’m just trying to work as hard as I can each and every day. Having [Palardy] here was great. He’d help me out, coach me a little bit. Having him gone doesn’t make a difference what I do.”
Bullock said he’s been working to improve his mechanics in order to be more consistent, something he has struggled with.
“I’m trying to get a lot of work with my snapper and holder,” he said. “I’m trying to my timing down. I actually had a problem going too fast and that didn’t give me quite as much time to see the ball before I hit it so just trying to get consistency.”
In the past, Bullock has been able to lean on the more experienced Palardy for pointers. Now only redshirt Derrick Brodus has seen active game time.
“[Palardy] was pretty good about being consistent as we watched film,” Bullock said. “He would help me with my plant foot. I’ve had some issues with my plant foot being the wrong distance away from the ball and things like that so he was good at pointing that out and helping me in any way he can.”