KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The first steps aren't always the biggest, but they are as important as any other and the Vols took a step forward on Tuesday.
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones walked off the practice field pleased with his team's effort but was quick to note the need to continue to build on what it has accomplished so far.
"I thought today was probably our best overall practice of the spring," Jones said. "Obviously it is very early, but I really like the mental effort, the mental intensity, the focus of our team. I was really waiting to see how we would respond on a Tuesday after a long Saturday practice. There is still a lot of work to do, but for the first time I could see some things coming together in terms of swarming to the football. You know, I like the overall physicality of practice. We have a long way to go, but I think the big thing as we continue to progress is focusing on what it takes to play winning football. There's so much that goes in to it and we have a lot of work to do in that regard.
"I am starting to see small steps. We're taking those incremental small steps, but you start to see individuals doing what we're coaching in terms of bodying a body down the field. Again, we have to generate more turnovers on defense and then our quarterbacks have to do a better job of taking care of the football. Saturday we had the costly turnover that was six points the other way. That's again playing winning football. So I see it happening in small dosages, but it's there. It's encouraging to see that."A pair of Vols defensive backs did not participate in practice on Tuesday.
Senior Eric Gordon and sophomore Daniel Gray missed the session. According to Jones, "Eric's on campus. He's taking classes, but Eric's taking care of some things off the field that occurred. So we're working through that, and he has some things that he has to do in order to get back practicing." Gray's issue was medical according to Jones, "He has asthma and this morning he woke up with an asthma attack. So obviously we are going to err on the precautionary side with our players."