KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Even without the two apparent position changes on Monday, the morning session of Tennessee’s two-a-day contained plenty of news.
Seeing Riyahd Jones on the sidelines in crutches drove home the precariousness of the Vols’ secondary depth. Freshman corners Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman will have a greater impact on this season than anyone could have envisioned.
Butch Jones was more vocal and animated than we’ve ever seen him before. And we’ve seen really animated.
On to the notes…
* Butch’s buzzword today was “psychological disposition.” As in, “What’s your psychological disposition right now, (insert player’s name)?! You look tired to me!”
* It was during a special teams drill that Butch absolutely went bonkers today. (It was not during a filming period, so you’ll have to trust our observations). I’m not sure the players were doing anything so egregious on this fairly routine punting drill, or Butch was just waiting for a reason to make his point.
The essence of his rant: “Too many losing habits!” He’d seen much better in the “freakin’ Big East.” Too much hype. “Around here, every time a guy plays as a freshman, they want to crown him.” … “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!” And so on.
The most vicious part came when Jones called out a veteran player, saying he likes telling people he plays Tennessee football, puts a big sticker on his car, but is “unwilling to put in the work.” And, Jones said, his teammates know it. Ouch.
* On special teams, we saw George Bullock and Michael Palardy connect on back-to-back 51-yard field goals. This was in full scrimmage mode, a relatively high-pressure practice situation.
* Linebacker Kenny Bynum intercepted a tipped interception thrown by (I think) Nathan Peterman. The pick was nice, but Jones was even more impressed by Bynum’s awareness of the situation. There were 10 seconds left in “the game” and the offense was driving for a score. Bynum didn’t attempt to risk fumbling on a return; he simply went to the turf. “Good job! Take a knee. The game’s over,” Jones said.
* More random Butch on the mic: “Do not panic! It will sort itself out. Poise! Poise! Poise!”
* In some red-zone “skele drills” — only quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs — Justin Worley overshot Alton “Pig” Howard on two throws in the end zone, but found him for a nice touchdown on the third try. Peterman missed Jason Croom on one incompletion out-of-bounds, but found Ryan Jenkins in the back of the end zone for a score. Jenkins caught another touchdown from Josh Dobbs with a sliding grab.
* Receiver Paul Harris and defensive back Michael Williams were in “the hole” on Monday, and others — including linebacker Curtis Maggitt and tight end Alex Ellis — were in non-contact jerseys.
* Afterwards linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, said he thought Maggitt was only a few days away from returning to the main practice group.
* Defensive coordinator John Jancek said Williams was the “most improved DB” on the team. Williams and Max Arnold, two walk-ons, have gotten plenty of reps this month.
* Running backs coach Robert Gillespie had more good things to say about Justus Pickett. He’s an incredibly mature and has been an asset in the meeting room. Pickett’s longshot waiver request to play immediately in 2013 is still pending. Otherwise, the Maryland transfer will sit out this year and be eligible in 2014.
* Pickett had the black stripe torn off his helmet on Sunday. There are now five stripe-less newcomers — Pickett, Sutton, receiver Marquez North, offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman and defensive end Corey Vereen,