The Tennessee Volunteers returned to Haslam Field at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning for their final practice in pads before Saturday's Orange and White game.
Head coach Butch Jones' maxims of "nobody walks" and "winning habits" echoed across the field, emphasizing the urgency of practice and Jones' focus on effort and determination.
Wide receivers Jacob Carter, Paul Harris and Jason Croom are among the players that were withheld from practice due to injury, and Jones said they will not be participating in the game this weekend. Junior running back Marlin Lane will also miss this weekend's outing and continues to miss practice due to disciplinary issues. Wide receiver Vincent Dallas, however, returned to practice from injury today.
Wednesday's practice gave the team an idea of where they stand entering summer practices, and Jones said there is plenty of work still to be done.
"It's a very important day, as it was the last day in full pads before the Orange and White game," Jones said. "We were a little rusty. We have a long way to go, but our players continue to come out and work."
On Saturday afternoon, the Vols will have their first outing of the year in front of fans at Neyland Stadium. This will also be their first chance to show the Volunteer faithful how much they have improved since this past season.
"Coach Jones says it's going to be a show so we're expecting a big stage," sophomore defensive back LaDarrell McNeil said.
For many players and coaches, this early feedback from fans is an excellent motivating factor, and Coach Jones encourages fans to show their support for "Team 117."
"A big crowd on Saturday would send a message in a lot of ways," he said. "We have the best, most passionate fan base. It is a chance to show that there is no better place to play than Tennessee."
While focus may be on their upcoming exhibition, the team continues to look ahead to summer practice and the football season ahead. Jones said this summer may be the most critical summer for the football program in a long time, but he is confident that fans will be pleased with the results.
"I think this team is willing and trying to give everything they have," Jones said. "Our margin of error is small but our fans will like this team."
The team will take the field Saturday at 2 p.m. "Fan Appreciation Day" will be held prior to the game, where fans will have the chance to collect autographs from their favorite players and coaches. Lines will be able to form at 7 a.m., and stadium gates will open at 11 a.m.