As if adjusting to a new coaching staff and learning a new playbook in 15 practices this spring is not enough of a challenge for the Tennessee Volunteers, they took the field on Tuesday for the first time in 10 days following Spring Break. Despite the long break, the Vols feel that the long layoff was not a detriment to their path to success.
"We really wanted to see how our players would respond (to having Spring Break during spring practice)," head coach Butch Jones said. "I thought we had a focused group of young men yesterday in our meetings. Today, I liked our mental focus, I liked our mental effort. It's like building a building, you build it brick by brick and what we're building right now is this football program. We still have a long way to go, but I also saw some individuals who really went on spring break and came back and they were in great shape."
The players echoed Jones' sentiments that the break was not going to inhibit the team from achieving their goals this spring.
"I felt we were refreshed, we had it up tempo," sophomore Brian Randolph said. "There was some things we were unsure about, like some of our checks, but once we started getting back into it we pretty much caught on quick."
Junior linebacker A.J. Johnson felt that the team came back from Spring Break ready to get back into the swing of practice.
"We all came back ready to practice," Johnson said, "We picked up pretty good (from where they left off before practice), we had a great practice today. I know coach was proud of our practice and our effort. It says a lot about our team this year, I say we came back pretty hard and I think that was a big step for us as a team."
Although the coaching staff was happy with the effort given following the break, there is still a long way to go for the Vols to reach the level of play that the coaching staff wants out of the team. And Jones wants to see more improvement in a receiving core that has the task of replacing the three most productive receivers from the 2012 roster — Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Zach Rogers.
"Our receiving core has to step up," Jones said. "We're not anywhere where we need to be and we need some individuals there. And I think our overall physicality as a football team has to improve greatly. And that's going to be the emphasis each and every day. We're going to get even more focused cause obviously playing in this football conference we have to be a much more physical football team than what we showed today. The thing that I like about our players is they're eager, they're willing, but we still have a long way to go."