On Thursday, summer break was officially over for the Volunteer football program.
The Vols reported to training camp on Thursday, and second year head coach Butch Jones met with the media in preparation of the first practice on Friday.
While the Vols look to continue to build off the momentum of last season, Jones and his staff know they have several challenges this season – especially at the offensive/defensive line as well as quarterback.
“I think just the overall development,” Jones said. “My concern, initially, isn’t quiet; it’s our offensive and defensive line. Quite simply, we’ll be as good as those two positions develop. They know it and our players understand it. Our coaches know it. It’s a great team game and we have done a great job as coaches to try and provide some relief but there has to be a sense of urgency with everyone in this football program.”
Despite the challenges, Jones knows that his squad will have to always keep learning.
“I think you are always learning and the minute you stop learning you need to quite what you are doing and move on,” Jones said. “So you are always constantly learning. I think it is more solidifying what I believed in this conference.”
Tennessee will look to see younger players step up to fill vacant roles, including former Tennessee High Viking Mack Crowder. Crowder looks to be a vital part of the offensive line this season.
“It feels like forever,” Crowder said. “I love to play football, but I haven’t gotten to play as much as I would have liked in the past while I was waiting on my chance. Now that it’s finally here, I am ready to step up and get rolling.”
In addition to the question of the offensive line, Jones and his staff also have another question to answer – who is going to be the starting quarterback.
“As soon as one person steps up and takes control of the offense and takes command of the program,” Jones said. “I just spoke with our quarterbacks a little while ago again about the brand of being the quarterback at the University of Tennessee. It’s a global position and there are not very many brands across the country when it comes to quarterback play that are more vivid and more out there than being the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee.”
However, don’t expect a quick announcement this fall.
“We’ll know maybe for you guys so you can write about it that week,” Jones said. “For us, it doesn’t matter when we name him. All three of them are going to be ready and all three must be ready. We found that out last year with what happened. So whoever it is, when the time is appropriate.”
Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman are competing to earn the starting position. All three attended camps across the country this summer, and Jones noted it was worth their effort.
“It helped them a lot. Anytime you can get around other individuals and compete, it’s a great measuring stick of where you are at and compare yourself,” Jones said. “It’s like working your craft or trade. All three of the individuals made that commitment. When they had the time off, they weren’t going home and relaxing. They were going to better their skill sets and better themselves as a football player but also mentally. The experiences that those individuals had made them better.”