Are they ready? Final Tennessee camp updates
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Vols are ready.
Team 120 has been ready since their Outback Bowl victory over Northwestern – but they really have been ready since their four losses by a combined 17 points that Team 119 suffered.
Fall camp has solidified how ready Team 120 is in preparation for taking on their role as SEC East favorites.
“We are looking forward to playing,” Butch Jones has said days before kicking off the 2016 season. “It is getting closer, but again, these next couple of days are very critical for us.”
As it does often, fall camp has passed in no time, and game week is here. With it comes final questions surrounding the team.
The biggest question centers around how game-ready is the team?
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord discussed not only Team 120 being game one ready, but any team heading into the first game.
“I don’t know if you ever know that,” he said. “That’s what you’re always talking about as coaches – what do we need the next practice and what do we need two days from now?
“Butch talks about that all the time with us. Everybody always says, ‘How are you?’ I don’t know if you really know until you get in the game. Once you get into the game, you really see where we are. After Game 1, we’ll find out where we need to improve to get to Game 2. You see some things you know you have to get better at but until you get underneath those lights, things change.”
Assistant head coach and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez likes what he sees from a defensive perspective heading into the first game.
“The competition is good and competing every day has given us the opportunity to have some flexibility and move guys around,” he said.
“We feel very comfortable with the fact that there are guys – without naming names – who play multiple positions. That helps us if somebody does get hurt or goes down, where a lot of guys in the secondary play special teams and you’re able to give some rest where you need it. It helps us stay fresh in the fourth quarter. That’s going to be a major plus for us this year.”
A focal point in the offense this offseason is how the wide receivers will fare in DeBord’s second season.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni likes the fact that he now has veteran receivers to rely on in a season that will need the passing game, in critical moments, during crucial games.
“It makes things faster from every standpoint, not just from tempo but for install and with all of those things we can certainly go faster,” Azzanni said of his veteran receivers. “It always helps when you have older guys because they can also teach these younger guys and coach these younger guys, rather than us always doing it.
“So, you can put everything in faster. I told the receivers from the very first meeting this year, ‘We will go as far as you guys coach each other.’ If (Josh) Malone and (Josh) Smith can coach the younger players, the better we’ll be midseason and through the end of the season.”
From top-to-bottom, and from players such as captain Josh Dobbs to long snapper Riley Lovingood, Team 120 appears to be focused, unselfish and ready to go for their first opponent in Appalachian State.