The Tennessee football team put on the pads for the first time Sunday in their afternoon training session in the summer heat.
Whether it was the heat or the extra weight on their shoulders, the team did not come out to the start their coaches would have liked them to on the third day of training camp. No jogging, unbuckled chinstraps or lazy stretching was tolerated by Butch Jones.
In the midst of team stretching the Vols head strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson took the players staff, which consists of 14 members, off to the pit on the fare end of the offensive side of the field where they had to do sit ups.
"We challenged them and they better respond and they did respond," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian said. "We've been talking a lot about the Power of One. One common purpose, one commitment, one game at a time, one play at a time, one snap at a time."
Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson and the rest of the elected leaders of the team let their tempers cool down and returned to practice with a better mentality and dove in to the first "Circle of Life" drill of the season.
"So much of the idea of looking at things one unit at a time is taking advantage of every opportunity that you have to come out and get the most of practice," he said. "When you come out and have a slow start it's an illustration of you not taking advantage of that opportunity. It's been a theme of ours all offseason and we didn't do a good job of that, but there's always tomorrow."
The players' staff this season will be held responsible for making sure practices go smoothly and everyone is on the right task.
The group is made up of Johnson, Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman, Curt Maggitt, Brian Randolph, Corey Vereen, Mack Crowder, Marquez North, Jordan Williams, Marcus Jackson and Marlin Lane.
"Coach Jones has done that at various points throughout our time together, he said. "It's a way to create accountability for one another. Obviously we are going to be demanding as coaches, but they need to be demanding of each other. It's a group that is elected by their teammates and it's constantly changing."
With training camp in its early stages still, the quarterback battle has not seen any separation between Worley, Peterman and Dobbs.
Since their first practice, when they threw a total of 62 incompletions, they have dropped that number into the mid-40's.
"I need much more consistency," he said. "For us at the quarterback position right now we need to play pitch and catch. We've missed too many receivers. We just have to have better accuracy and better ball location."
"We track everything. Last year there were 63 balls that hit the ground in the first practice so we're getting better I guess. The improvement from practice one to practice two was drastic. We have to execute the passes. I'd like to see that number get in to the twenties."
Pig Howard's Stellar Performance
Not too long ago the team wasn't sure if they would have their leading receiver from last season in terms of catches (44) and touchdowns (3) back for this season.
However, junior Pig Howard has earned his right back on to the playing field and he has impressed his coaches every day in training camp so far.
The 5-foot-8, 187-pound slot receiver made an outstanding one-handed leaping catch on a bullet pass from Peterman across the middle that drew ooh's and ahh's from the media and his teammates.
"He's had a great three days," wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said. "Knock on wood he's been outstanding. His work ethic has been unbelievable. His mentality and play have unbelievable as well."
He also has been working on special teams returning punts and kickoffs along with others, such as Von Pearson, Josh Malone, Vic Wharton, Jacob Carter and Evan Berry.
"He is like a different player from last year just as far as now he knows what I expect," Azzanni said. "He's been great. We are just taking it one day at a time with him and not putting too much on him or too many expectations. Just putting one day after the next day after the next day and hopefully he's running out of that T with us."
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni yells instructions during fall football practice on Aug. 3, 2014.
All photos courtsey of Samantha Smoak.