Butch Jones demands details, accountability and toughness from Team 121
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones kicked off spring practice in his fifth year at Tennessee by saying “it is a very exciting time” on Rocky Top.
The exciting time centers around a time of transition on and off the field for Jones’ program with a retooled coaching staff and a quarterback race.
“I think it has been a very productive offseason,” Jones said in a press conference welcoming in Team 121. “A lot of new faces that have lent themselves, in turn, to a lot of new energy and a lot of excitement and fresh perspectives from the five new coaches.
Kevin Beard, Mike Canales, Brady Hoke, Charlton Warren and Walt Wells will get a fresh start within the coaching staff alongside new strength and conditioning director Rock Gullickson. Strength and conditioning is the top priority following a 2016 season full of injuries under then first-year strength and conditioning coach Michael Szerszen.
“It all starts in the weight room and Rock Gullickson and the entire strength and conditioning staff have really done a remarkable job,” Jones said. “They have set the temperament for our football team. Coach Rock has a unique way of challenging our players in a very positive way and we are getting the results that are necessary to compete at a high level.
“We have been very excited for our players and seeing all of the gains. I think when you are out there during practice you are going to see a much stronger, a much bigger and a much more explosive football team.”
As far as the program heading into Year 5 – it’s time to turn everything up a notch. Jones understands that with all of the hard work he has put into laying the groundwork and it is now time to get more out of his players.
“In terms of our team we have challenged our players in three areas: details, accountability and toughness,” he said. “It is really about zeroing in on the details and turning it up a notch.
“Turning it up in terms of details with everything that we do from a fundamental standpoint, from a communication standpoint and its all about the details. Accountability and accountability to each other, accountability in terms of the way we communicate and all that is responsible and accountability off the field with going to class and accountability to what it means to play at The University of Tennessee. And overall toughness, not just from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint too.”
Replacing graduated quarterback Josh Dobbs will be another focal point during spring practices, which started Tuesday. Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano and Sheriron Jones all will take part in a race to see who will guide Team 121’s offense this fall.
Guarantano wasn’t shy Tuesday about embracing expectations and expressing his goals.
“Yeah, every single step is watched,” Guarantano said. “I go to class; I’m being watched. I’m on Twitter; I’m being watched. I’m on Instagram. But that’s what comes with the job and being the quarterback at a big university — a university that’s soon to be the SEC Champions, and it’s going to be even crazier in the future.”
Jones wants to see consistency from the quarterbacks and for them to battle daily in a competitive nature – making each better.
He said he’s looking for several attributes from his starter:
“Individuals who can manage our offense and get us in the appropriate plays, leadership that is associated with playing the quarterback position,” he said. “I would say the big thing is going to be consistency day in and day out and competing. I think when you compete on a daily basis you are going improve each and every day. We want to see constant growth and improvement.”