Talking Points: Smokey gray unis, assumptions, and a bit of hot sauce

USA TODAY Sports

Talking Points makes its triumphant return for the 2013 season with a discussion of the Smokey gray uniforms, a QB battle ripe with low-hanging inferences, and just a little dash of hot sauce.

New Tennessee Uniforms. Did you hear that the Tennessee football program unveiled some new uniforms yesterday? (If you haven't, here's something just for you because you probably have some catching up to do.) Yeah, everybody's talking about the new "Smokey" (I prefer it with a capital "S") gray uniforms, which I have to say are pretty cool.

Coverage on these has been a little weird to me. Many outlets seem to be reporting that the opinions are mixed but I have yet to find any actual mixed opinions. GVX concludes that your view of them depends on your age and cites two 14-year-olds wandering around Market Square and a 28-year-old in support of the assertion. What I'm seeing is a bunch of folks who are (1) relaying evidence that a lot of folks absolutely love them, and (2) hedging that with assumptions  that there are some older, more traditional folks out there who don't. I haven't actually seen a negative reaction from anyone other than non-Vols fans, but hey, absence of proof is not proof of absence, I guess.

I am half-wondering, though, (but not seriously) if the Smokey uniforms aren't part of Butch Jones's master Expectations Management Plan. Pushing the envelope on the gray jerseys has certainly squelched discussion of the checkerboard numerals, which, if they had been released by themselves, would have (presumably) thrown the octogenarians into early graves.

Seriously, though, this was a brilliant move. Yes, every little bit helps with recruits, and recruits love them. One recruit -- defensive tackle Charles Mosley -- even said that they are more beautiful than his ex-girlfriend, which (we're presuming again!) is a favorable comparison.

And the players are feeling like they've been rewarded for their patience and hard work. Ja'Wuan James seems to capture the sentiment of most of the guys:

"It means a lot," James said. "It means that [coach Jones] really cares. Like I have said, he's a players coach like I have never seen before. He respects what we have to say. He's genuine when he asks what do you need or what do you want. He's not just asking to make us feel better. He's going and getting things done. To see this happen in like 8 months and we have been asking for it for three years, I'm kind of jealous because these freshmen get to have them for four years. And you never know what else is going to happen with coach Jones. It's exciting I can't wait to go out there and wear them.

"It was exciting (when we saw them). I was just happy. I was like is this real? Are they messing with us? Did they just make one to show us. But we are actually going to wear them and I can't wait."

For anyone who's concerned that there's too much emphasis on style over substance, consider this quote from Brian Randolph:

"I kind of like it. But more than anything, I just like how it gets our team up. I feel like it'll bring us closer together and just help us go out there and just ... have our own identity. That's how I feel."

"It pretty much is just a big confidence booster. It's like, you know, we've been working hard all offseason in training camp, and I feel like we just got rewarded for it."

So maybe it's about more than just recruiting. Maybe it's just One More Little Thing (a brick, perhaps?) to motivate the guys to get an extra ounce of effort out of them.

Yeah, it's just a uniform. But if we're being honest here, our energy level, focus, attention to detail, effort, and all of those things that go into success, don't always fire at 100%. The whole ball of hair ranges somewhere between 90-100% even on good gamedays, which is why folks have taken to using percentages greater than 100 to describe their motors. And if wearing just the right thousand dollar suit can make a CEO feel like a million dollars and that confidence helps him ink that billion-dollar deal, well then, wear the dang suit.

Butch Jones is not adverse to hot sauce. Did you know that Butch Jones once entered the practice room and immediately busted out some dance moves? Or that he beat safety Byron Moore in a rap contest? Well now you do. Kiffin called this "Crunk." Dooley called it "Hot Sauce." Jones calls it "Butch Jones." (Actually, he probably has a hashtag for it, but we'll need an archaeologist to unearth it, so please allow two weeks for delivery.)

A QB race that makes you go, "Hmm." Jones says that he'll name a starting quarterback "whenever I feel somebody has really asserted themselves as the starting quarterback," adding, "That could be on Friday prior to Austin Peay. It's just when we have that comfort level that, hey, this is going to be the guy for Game One to start the season." All of which tells me that (1) none of the four have really asserted themselves, including the guys with the advantage of having been on campus more than just this fall, and (2) whoever he names as starter for the first game doesn't necessarily have the gig beyond that.

Etceteras. Cornerback Riyahd Jones is out with a mysterious calf injury/condition, and his absence "could be lengthy." Freshman Cameron Sutton is the guy most likely to start in his place. . . . Other true freshmen most likely to play early this fall include cornerback Malik Foreman (Tri Cities represent!) and receivers Marquez North and Josh Smith. Coaches think they'll play 13-16 freshmen this season, primarily out of necessity. . . .

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