Controlled chaos, an oxymoron when put together but Tennessee coach Butch Jones is turning it into a lifestyle for his UT football team.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and Jones reiterated in Friday’s spring press conference that the spread offense is returning to Knoxville, but not in the traditional mold most fans might expect.
“We’re gonna hang our hat on being a tough offense,” Bajakian said. “We’re going to be physical and tough and we’re going to play tough. We have to establish that standard of excellence in practice.”
The next step according to Jones is implementing these skills during the next 14 practices.
Controlled chaos is things flying everywhere, but we're in control. We have to focus on the task at hand and eliminate the clutter.
-Vols Head Coach Butch Jones
“We use a term we can’t let the mind tie the feet up,” Jones said. “You have to learn to walk before you can run. That’s why we’re going to take our time with the installations, we’re going to teach our style of play and we’re going to build that confidence.”
However, the staff won’t merely pamper the Vols as Jones has plans for distractions such as babies crying and glass breaking that will be played during practices to help players react to "sudden-change" moments in games.
“Controlled chaos is things flying everywhere, but we're in control,” said Jones. “We have to focus on the task at hand and eliminate the clutter. So many teams get caught up in the outside distractions and aren't focusing on the task at hand."
Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman both worked out of the spread offense in high school making the transition to the fast-paced “fast and furious” scheme a whole lot easier, according to Worley.
"Coach Jones has been talking about 'Fast and Furious,' and he has incorporated that in everything we've done," Worley said. "Coach Lawson has as well. It's not going to be a 'sling it all over the place' type of offense. There is a lot of pressure on our run game as well."
That commitment to the running game was one of the biggest draws for newly-hired running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
"Coming to Tennessee I knew this place had a lot of tradition, one of the most storied programs in the SEC," Gillespie said. "I knew all of the guys on the coaching staff, obviously you want to associate yourself with guys who are sharp, guys who know how to win and are respected in their profession, a head coach like coach Jones who brings a lot of enthusiasm and passion."
Gillespie was a standout running back at the University of Florida and came yards short of scoring in the checkerboards his freshman year, a story he still recalls to this day.
"I guess the first time will be as a coach," said Gillespie. "As a player, it was tough to get in there. I played against some really good defenses and I know coach (Jancek) is going to get these guys just as fired up and get them back to where they should be."
Curt Maggitt and early-enrollee Jalen Reeves-Maybin, two players expected to contribute on defense for the Vols will be held out of spring practice due to injuries.
Maggitt suffered a torn ACL against Missouri last season and is expected to return by the beginning of the season if no hang-ups occur in the 6-foot-3, 230 pound junior’s recovery.
Freshman Reeves-Maybin, a highly-touted recruit from Clarksville, Tenn., suffered a shoulder injury during his senior season that required off-season surgery.
SPRING POSITION CHANGES
Jones announced a few players would be making position swaps for the spring.
Devrin Young is moving to wide receiver, Brent Brewer is making the switch to linebacker, Jacques Smith and early-enrollee Corey Vereen are jumping defensive end, and Justin King is heading full-time to tight end.
Young, a Knoxville-native, played sparingly in the backfield the past two seasons and has worked in a kick-off and return specialist.
We need some disruptive, quick playmakers on the edge of our defense and so we look to him.-Jones on early-enrollee Corey Vereen
“You might see him at running back as well, but right now he's getting full repetitions that he needs to learn the slot position,” Jones said.
Smith and Brewer are seniors who are moving back to positions where both players can showcase their speed according to Defensive Coordinator John Jancek.
Vereen’s move to defensive end was aided by the Vols returning 15 players in a linebacker unit that includes four seniors.
“We need some disruptive, quick playmakers on the edge of our defense and so we look to him,” Jones said.
The Vols will hold their first day of spring practice March 9 at 11:30 a.m. on Haslam Field, leading up to the Spring Game on April 20 at 2 p.m.