KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee coach Butch Jones promised a few random — and annoying — practice distractions during his pre-spring press conference.
On Tuesday morning, he delivered.
A baby crying. A siren screeching. An airplane taking off. A car alarm wailing incessantly.
With the offense approaching the end zone, Jones signaled for the noise. It wasn’t crowd noise or heavy metal, as some teams use. It was ear-splitting, annoying and, yes, quite distracting.
Jones seemed to enjoy watching his team contend with the unexpected.
“I like annoying noises,” he said after practice.
Given it was 9 a.m., the fraternity house across the street might not have found it so amusing.
Be prepared. Jones said it was just a warmup.
“We’ll turn it up on Thursday,” he said.
* The very first play of the scrimmage was an unexpected scenario — a two-point play to win the game. The first-team failed to convent, while the second team scored a two-point touchdown.
* During a punt return drill, Jones basically put out an open casting call: “We’re seeing who can catch punts. That’s all we want.”
* General Robert Neyland’s first maxim was once again the theme during one session of practice. After a botched play, an exasperated offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian blew his whistle several times to stop practice: “The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win!” he shouted through a hoarse voice. Someone should put that on a poster.
* Bajakian was really getting into it today, running around during the drills and holding a pad to do some blocks. Like a lot of the coaches, he looks like a guy who still wants to get out on the field and play every now and then. I assume he was a quarterback in college, as he has a nice arm.
* Receiver Vincent Dallas, defensive back Geraldo Orta and receiver Jacob Carter were among the notable players sitting out due to injury.
* Jones said Carter had a sprained ankle and would be back soon. Dallas, who was held out for precautionary reasons, should also be back Thursday.
* More notably, Jones identified Carter as a top candidate to be Tennessee’s punt returner (see quote above about finding guys who can catch the punt).
Overall, however, Jones said he was “very concerned” about the state of the Vols’ punt return game.
* Jones stressed to his running backs that it’s not always about big plays. “Sometimes a 1-yard gain may be the best run of the scrimmage,” he said. “We can’t have TFLs (tackles for loss).” (Not to be confused with VFLs).
“Thank God we don’t have to play tomorrow,”
* You hear the phrase “snap clear” all the time at practice.
“It means focus on the next play and the next down,” said defensive end Jacques Smith.
* Receiver Alton “Pig” Howard said it wasn’t fun being called out by Jones for fumbling a kickoff return on Saturday (although technically he was ruled down before the ball popped out.”
“He was mad, but at the end of the day I’m more angry at myself.”
* Redshirt freshman Jason Croom, who has probably won the title of “most praised” receiver in spring camp, wrote “Today’s the day to be a playmaker” on his wristbands. “Everyday is a chance to prove yourself,” he said.
Video and photos to come later this afternoon.