If anyone stood out at SEC media days, it was Vols linebacker Jacques Smith. Kind of hard to miss the Ooltewah native in his orange blazer. Talk about a conversation piece. Said UT offensive lineman Antonio Richardson,"I told him he was the black Bruce Pearl when we first came together. (laughter) It's very stylish. I like it."
And you might think you are watching Bruce Pearl's fast break offense this fall. New head football coach Butch Jones is going up-tempo. As a result, the offensive lineman have done a lot of extra running. Said lineman Ja'Wuan James,"We've learned to love it. Strength coach Dave Lawson broke all of us when we ran 52, 110's. I think that was the last day I hated running." Added Richardson,"The thing was seeing guys that usually wouldn't make their time like when we run 21, 110's. And seeing guys that normally wouldn't make their times. Seeing those guys make their times for all 52. That was really encouraging."
Opponents had no trouble running on Tennessee last year. The Vols were last in the SEC in scoring defense. But Smith expects better results this season. Said the Vols senior linebacker,"Definitely got a chip on our shoulder. We're excited, and we are ready to play some "fist up" defense. "Fist up" is all about winning the down. Getting off the field on third down, whether it's third and long or third and short, or whatever the scenario is. We are going to get off the field, and when we do, we are going to win with our fist up."
If the Vols can "fist up", maybe they will finally "bowl up" as well. UT hasn't been to a bowl game the last two years. Said Richardson,"I'm about to be a junior now, and I haven't been to a bowl game yet. Me personally, I'm a winner. Coach Jones has been doing a good job of setting the standard of getting back to where Tennessee needs to be." Said Coach Jones,"We expect to win right away, but we're not going to compromise the building process. If we focus on the process of becoming better in every thing that we do, that will take care of itself." Added Smith,"What gives me confidence is Coach Jones effort. I'm telling you, the man is on a mission every where he goes. Watch him. He's on a mission."