The first practice is in the books and left Butch Jones feeling good about team's level of intensity and energy which has carried over from the bowl victory and offseason workouts. The team did not wear pads on Tuesday, instead working exclusively on installation and fundamentals. Butch stressed the importance of the mental makeup of the players and their willingness to buy in to his '63' effort that's he's drilled into their heads. Coach Jones will now challenge his team to continue that effort and carry it onward all the way through until the 15th and final practice of the spring period.
The Vols will hold their annual pro day on Wednesday before hitting the practice field again on Thursday for practice number two. Before the second practice gets under way, here's some of the most interesting takeaways from the first day of practice.
Joshua Dobbs interviewed Mike DeBord
I was taken back when I first heard this, as I've never heard of even NFL players interviewing potential coordinators. Rewind less than a year ago, Dobbs was listed as the fourth quarterback on the depth chart. Heading into 2015 he's helping Butch make a decision on their next play caller. Quite the remarkable turn of events.
So why did Butch do this? Here's what he had to say, "That is the first time I have done that. I thought Josh, first of all had earned the right to sit in that interview. I wanted that feedback, as we all know Josh is very cerebral, I wanted his input on some of the things and I also wanted to see kind of the chemistry, the mesh that those two individuals, Coach DeBord and Josh Dobbs, would have. You could see in an instant that there was a chemistry there. That showed me something that Josh kept coming back into the building, even though that part of the interview process was over with."
Needless to say, the relationship between the Vols offensive staff looks to be very close this season. I don't expect any communication or comfort problems after hearing this.
Dillon Bates working at middle linebacker
After tearing his labrum early on last season, Bates returns as a freshman after receiving a medical redshirt. There was much speculation that Bates may be given a look at Mike this season and the first practice of the season proved just that. Bates had worked exclusively at the Will spot last season, but with Jalen Reeves-Maybin firmly in control at that position, it makes sense to get Bates reps in the middle.
Bates suggested that the physicality of the position should not be a problem, as all linebackers are expected to be physical at the SEC level, but the toughest challenge for him would be the mental aspect of playing Mike. Having to completely understand not only your position, but the defense as a whole and every player around you. That's the challenge each player battling for the Mike will ultimately have to overcome. Bates also said he needed to gain 5-10 pounds of muscle by the end of spring, which he intends to do naturally by sticking closely to his diet, conditioning and weight training.
Butch's take on Bates inside: "Dillon is an intelligent football player but having him miss most of the year, having him out there he is going through a learning curve just like all of our young players right now. I think the speed of the game was fast initially but Dillon did some great things. He is athletic, he is very instinctual and he is smart. Again, I said it in my press conference, it is also the style of offenses that you are playing and what you ask for out of a MIKE linebacker."
Charles Mosley playing defense, for now
My personal favorite player from the 2014 class, in case you've forgotten:
Here it is, full pic of @BigCharless and his hair, story here: http://t.co/BqToBFVhrR pic.twitter.com/bRPV9BVQKC— Paul Fortenberry (@Volquest_Paul) December 9, 2013
Mosley sat out last season after injuring his leg in a car wreck. Big Charles - currently listed at 6'5" 370lbs in case you were wondering why they call him that. Butch said it's possible Mosley could switch to the offensive line at some point, but it's the team's philosophy that linemen that can play both ways always get a look at the defensive line first. Last summer, Jashon Robertson followed the same path before ended up as an All-SEC Freshman Guard. Butch also conveyed that Mosley is not yet 100% recovered from his accident and will need at least a full year to completely heal - his accident occurred in July of 2014. If healthy, it's hard not to imagine Big Charles making an impact in some way this season.
Coleman Thomas practicing at center
Thomas played all over the offensive line last season and appeared overwhelmed at times, most notably against Oklahoma playing right tackle. His natural position is center, according to Butch, and with Jack Jones now on the roster and Drew Richmond on the way this summer, a move back inside makes sense for Thomas. Expect him to compete with Mac Crowder for the starting role this fall. Even if he doesn't crack the starting lineup, it's never too early to groom offensive linemen for the future.
Jashon Robertson talks strength and conditioning
This time a year ago, Robertson was a high school senior. He was not an early enrollee, making this his first collegiate offseason experience. Jashon talked about his body being much more physically ready to handle the game now and with continued development before the fall, getting to an even better place physically.
One reporter asked him if he took pride in playing better than Coleman Thomas last season, or ever bragged about it to Thomas. Pretty stupid question in my opinion, but Jashon handled it the best way possible saying the offensive line is a unit, and what everyone sees as a mistake by one individual could potentially be on any of the five up front. The number of factors in a mis block could be any of the following including communication, signals, play call, assignments and audibles.
Robertson also claimed the chemistry between the line was at fault last season. Nothing could be done about that then, as it takes time to develop that between the unit. According to Robertson, spending time on and off the field has continued to grow that chemistry and the results should be evident on the field this season.
Cam Sutton will continue to return punts
The Vols may be playing with fire here, putting back whom I consider to be their best player on the enter team in harms way, but Sutton enjoys returning kicks and has earned the right to contribute on special teams if he so choses. Sutton also talked about taking up even a larger leadership role with the team this season, saying there are no one or two leaders on the team, but that several players have taken up the responsibility to lead Team 119.