With a new mantra but the same old haircut, head coach Butch Jones took the podium for his second annual appearance on Tuesday at SEC Media Days. Ever the salesman, Jones was full of optimism when talking about the state of Tennessee Football, the expectations for the upcoming season, and the overall direction the program is headed. On multiple occasions, Jones said, "It's only a matter of time" with regard to Tennessee getting back to its rightful place in the SEC hierarchy. However, amidst all of the optimism, Jones pointed out two very large concerns for the Vols this season. First, Tennessee is the only team in Division I that has to replace all of the starters from both the offensive and defensive lines. In addition, the Vols have to replace special teams ace Michael Palardy, who handled kicking and punting duties last year. Second, Tennessee will be one of the youngest teams in the nation with almost one half of the total roster turning over since the end of last season. Despite the many concerns, there are also many things to be encouraged about which are highlighted below.
Points of Interest
Last year, Jones structured his speech around the phrase "Brick by Brick" signifying the building of the program at the most basic, foundational level, one "brick" at a time. This year, Jones introduced another motto for Team118, "The power of one". Jones said,
"You'll hear me talk about the power of one. The one is very powerful with this football team because being so young we have to focus on the moment. We have to win one moment at a time, one play at the same time, one practice at the same time, one day at the same time, have one unity of purpose, one common commitment, and one mindset."
How soon 'til we see "The Power of One" tshirts? [EDITOR'S NOTE: I have no doubt Joel's minions are working overtime in the depths of his Tri-Cities Tennessee apparel laboratory.]
Return of the Pig
JONES: Alton Howard is back on our football team. He’s had one of the best off seasons of anyone.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) July 15, 2014
After spending most, if not all of the spring semester apart from the football team, Jones announced that Howard has completed his penance and is rejoining the team. With Howard's return, he joins Marquez North, Von Pearson, Jason Croom, Josh Malone, Josh Smith, Johnathan Johnson, Cody Blanc, Drae Bowles, and Ryan Jenkins in the Vols WR corps. One thing is for sure, there won't be a shortage of talented targets for quarterbacks Justin Worley and Josh Dobbs.
Jones also stated "Tennessee is the original WRU." And who can argue with that?
JONES: Tennessee is the original #WRU.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) July 15, 2014
Chris Weatherd Status Update
Coach Jones also addressed the academic clearance situation with incoming JUCO LB Chris Weatherd at Media Days. Jones said,
"We had 32 new signees, and it looks like we have a chance (to have) all 32 of them academically qualified. We’re just waiting on one in Chris Weatherd, and we’ll know that in the next couple of weeks."
After missing two previous enrollment dates at the start of the first and second summer sessions, coaches are now significantly more optimistic that Weatherd will be admitted for the fall semester than at the beginning of the month.
Manning (Not the One You're Thinking Of) Praises Worley
Butch Jones mentioned that Archie Manning texted him regarding Justin Worley's performance at the Manning Passing Academy.— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) July 15, 2014
Jones was asked many times about the QB situation for the Vols, and responded each time by talking about the competition and how well each quarterback has progressed. He even went so far as to say he thinks that quarterback will be a position of strength this season. While we won't know for sure who the starter is till sometime during fall camp, Worley still seems to have the inside track to start the season (although his absence from Media Days indicates that the battle has not yet been decided).
Randolph Returns Bigger and Better Than Ever
With Randolph back to full health, the Vols secondary returns all four starters from last year, and looks to be a position of team strength.
"We're lightyears ahead of where we were last year." - @UTCoachJones— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) July 16, 2014
Videos and Tweets
Here are the interview videos and some great tweets from Butch Jones, AJ Johnson, Curt Maggitt, and Mack Crowder. Also linked here are the individual transcripts from utsports.com.