KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The pre-practice stretch period is a time when Butch Jones usually imparts serious messages. So there was a look of mild concern among players when he announced, “I want you to know, I cut somebody today.”
He was met by silence.
“Do you know who I cut?”
“Look around and see who’s missing.”
Finally, players caught on. No. 98 Daniel McCullers was gone.
In his place, was No. 63.
“I want everyone to welcome No. 63, Dan McCullers to the team,” Jones said.
Everyone started clapping. The media put down their rosters and stopped hunting for a missing player.
In case you missed it, the theme this week has been “63” — in six seconds, give three great efforts, or strains. Strain to Sustain. Or sustain strain. Or something.
Giving McCullers a new jersey for one day was an indication that Jones wants more strain out of him.
McCullers only played about 13 snaps (according to my count) during the opening game against Austin Peay, so he should have plenty of gas left in the tank for the Western Kentucky game.
* As expected, there was no sign of Devrin Young, who sustained a hand or wrist injury in Tuesday’s practice. I don’t expect that we’ll get any further official clarification of his status until Saturday. Alton “Pig” Howard, Jacob Carter, Marquez North and Johnathon Johnson returned punts in practice.
* We also didn’t see injured defensive end Jacques Smith. Jones said he would have the screws removed from his thumb and might play on Saturday, although that would be a quick turnaround.
* We got to see a few Circle of Life battles during practice today. Jones even seemed to set it up so we could see it better (usually we’re blocked by players). Freshman defensive end Kendal Vickers, who is presumably redshirting, was a frequent circle target. So was end Jason Carr. Dylan Wiesman and his opponent (who we couldn’t see) got a little chippy in back-to-back engagements. That’s the second time we’ve seen a little scrum involving Wiesman, only a freshman. (I like his moxie.)