KNOXVILLE – Butch Jones vowed on Monday that it would be a spirited, tough week of practice after the Vols were physically outmatched the last couple of weeks.
If the open portion of practice on Tuesday was a good indicator, he’s living up to his word.
Normally a vocal coach during practice, Jones took it to a new level on Tuesday as the Vols began preparation for No. 7 Auburn. Few players were spared from Jones’ motivational barbs.
He told running back Marlin Lane that he was working on a trade with Bethune-Cookman, an FCS program in Lane’s home state of Florida, to get rid of him. He named the offensive line “Club 90” since the Vols couldn’t reach 100 yards rushing at Missouri. He called guard Zach Fulton the “softest of the soft” and offensive lineman Austin Sanders became “Cleveland’s (Tenn.) softest” and Brett Kendrick was labeled “Knoxville’s softest.”
Those were just a few of the verbal jabs heard at open practice. And those were the ones he was willing to say over the microphone, clearly within earshot of reporters and anybody passing by outside the walls of Haslam Practice Field as well.
He told the players to have their heads up when punter Matt Darr is punting, indicating that there's no way to tell where his punts will land. Some players weren't even mentioned by name, instead they were referred to to as the "soft guy from Knoxville" or sometimes Jones didn't even call a name at all, saying that he forgot the player's name altogether.
The practice had a different feel as well. The Vols spent nearly 10 minutes taking part in one-on-one “bull in the ring” matchups where the two combatants would try to knock the other out while the rest of the team stood around and cheered. The offensive line pushed a five-man sled across the practice field multiple times, all the while Jones continued his verbal assault on the team.
Of course, Jones' comments aren't always meant literally. He picks and chooses his spots to go after certain players in a more public setting as a way to motivate individuals and the team overall.
"There are some individuals - you treat everyone in your football program fairly – but every individual reacts to different things so one way you motivate one man may not be the same for the other so you have to find ways to get them to perform at their optimum levels so you're right – there are some individuals that I can get after, I can challenge them and they'll respond," Jones said.
"There are other individuals there is a different way of challenging. Especially with the guys up front I challenge them because I have high expectations for them and like I said, the offensive and defensive lines of any program are really the poster child for your toughness and your program."
• Out: QB Justin Worley, TE Alex Ellis, TE Joseph Ayres, WR Ryan Jenkins
• Non-contact jersey: TE A.J. Branisel, S Brian Randolph
Backup quarterback Riley Ferguson didn’t have a wrap on his lower leg anymore after practicing with one all last week. Quarterback Nathan Peterman had a light wrap on his right thumb, but it didn’t appear to be hindering his ability to throw the ball.
• Peterman and Ferguson split second-team reps at a quarterback behind Dobbs. Jason Croom, Marquez North and Pig Howard were the first-team receivers with Johnathon Johnson, Cody Blanc and Josh Smith working as the second group. Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal were splitting reps with the first team at running back.
• A representative of the Indianapolis Colts was at practice.
• Curt Maggitt was wearing a No. 30 jersey to simulate Auburn defensive end Dee Ford. Defensive back Michael F. Williams was wearing a No. 14 jersey to simulate Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who is a former defensive back himself that has been converted to quarterback at Auburn.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga