Tennessee will become the final SEC team to launch its spring practices Wednesday.

Many are touting the resurgent Vols as a potential SEC East favorite in coach Butch Jones’ third season after the team won just one conference game in 2012.

“We have not arrived. We are a long ways away from where we need to be from a competitive depth standpoint. To really be able to compete at a high level. An elite level,” Jones said Monday.

“Praise and blame, it’s all the same. I don’t listen to any of that. It’s a compliment when your program has those expectations placed upon them.”

If Tennessee is to continue to catch programs like Georgia this spring, it must contend with a massive amount of injuries that will limit what the team can accomplish during practice. Nine players will not practice this spring, while many others are limited. The team enters spring ball with just five healthy defensive linemen.

Jones spent much of his press conference discussing the idea that his players need to “earn the jersey” and mentioned “self-determination” several times as well. Those seem to be his buzz words for the ’15 spring practice.

“We are night-and-day entering Spring Three than where we were Spring One. Our work capacity. Our mentality. Our players doing the extra. They understand the culture. They understand the standard. They understand the expectations,” Jones said. “It’s not even a resemblance of the same football program when we walked in. I think that’s respect for what’s gone on here. The standard and expectation is always going to be high at Tennessee.”

Jones said the biggest reason he started spring practice so late is that he’s played so many true freshmen in the last two seasons. Tennessee led the SEC by far with 266 games played and 74 starts from its ’14 class. The result is that fewer players spent redshirt seasons working out and transforming their bodies from high school. Starting spring practice late helped the team invest more time into the strength and conditioning program.

“We needed to get bigger and we needed to get stronger,” Jones said. “That is a direct correlation to playing physical as well. Being better tacklers, being able to maintain blocks. We (think) we made great strides.”


  • Jones reported 115 personal-best squats during offseason conditioning. Defensive lineman Kendal Vickers squatted a team-best 710 pounds. Offensive lineman Jashon Robertson repped 225 pounds on the bench press a team-best 33 times. The average player increased their max squat by 50 pounds and their max bench by 25 pounds, Jones said.
  • Josh Dobbs needs to set the temperament in practice and become a more impactful leader, according to Jones: “We want a CEO quarterback. We want him to take accountability for everything with our football team and with our offense.”
  • Dobbs will spend the spring focused on two things: 1) Learning how to be smart as a runner by not abusing his talent and by protecting his shoulder and learning when to get down, and 2) Playing better with imperfect conditions, like if there’s a bad snap, the football is wet or a play breaks down.
  • Jones came up with several adjectives to describe running back Alvin Kamara: “light-footed,” “elusive,” “quick” and “explosive.” Jalen Hurd will wear a non-contact jersey during practice, so Kamara will get many of the reps. “We could have two very dynamic running backs,” Jones said.
  • Tennessee’s main focuses this spring are third downs on both sides of the football, creating more defensive disruptions (turnovers and especially deflected passes at the line of scrimmage) and creating more explosive plays on offense.
  • As the Vols look for a middle linebacker, much speculation has pointed to Dillon Bates. Jones said Bates, who already has added some weight, needs to gain about 10 more pounds and get to at least 240 if he’s going to be able to play middle linebacker in the SEC. Bates will practice at middle and outside linebacker this spring.
  • Jack Jones and Chance Hall will play mostly at offensive tackle. Coleman Thomas will play tackle and center.
  • One of the most intriguing competitions will be to determine the backup quarterback:

  • Quote of the day: “Playing offensive line is like a fistfight in a phone booth.”