Tennessee head coach Butch Jones prides himself on game management and preparation, which is why this figures to be a long and restless week for the first-year headman.
“My mind has been racing,” Jones said. “I woke up about three times in the middle of the night last night worried about the first day nuances. Having 11 men on the field. Getting your extra point team on. Getting your offense off the field. The transitions, the special teams, game management type situations.”
As backwards as it sounds, Jones said he is finally able to find peace when game day arrives.
“I get more nervous in preparation Monday through Friday then I do on game day. To me that is when you prepare to win, that is when you deserve to win. Your preparation throughout the course of the entire week."
More from Jones…
Corey Vereen, Jacques Smith and Riyahd Jones will be out for the season-opener. Jones said he expects Smith to play against Western Kentucky.
Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane will receive the baulk of the carries this season. Jones did commend Tom Smith for an impressive showing during fall camp and said Alden Hill will be a special teams contributor.
Ten freshmen were listed on Tennessee’s two-deep depth chart. Jones said the abundance of youth was due to a combination of freshmen winning jobs in open competition and a lack of depth.
There’s a chance Curt Maggitt will play in Saturday’s season-opener against Austin Peay. Maggitt will practice this week and the staff will make a decision Friday.
Embattled kicker Michael Palardy has “full grasp” of both kicking positions. Jones said the competition “wasn’t even close.”
Worley named starter…
Justin Worley had an idea he’d be named Tennessee’s starting quarterback when the decision finally came.
But, that doesn’t mean Worley wasn’t relieved when the news broke Saturday night.
“I guess just knowing that I’m the starter, there’s a sense of relief there,” Worley said. “(Jones said he) didn’t want me to have any worries or be looking over my shoulder or things like that. He told me to take control of this team. It’s your team now.”
Worley isn’t taking his first-string status for granted. He views it as a privilege to helm the Orange and White.
“It’s an honor and privilege to play quarterback here,” he told InsideTennessee.
Worley said he has matured greatly since the start of fall camp, specifically with leadership and what he dubs “playing smart football.”
Senior offensive tackle Ju’Wuan James said he noticed the improvement as well, but added that it doesn’t matter to the offensive line who’s under center.
“(Worley’s) starting to play with a little bit of swag,” James added. “But it really doesn’t matter to us. Our job is to rush the ball and protect the quarterback. Who ever is behind us, we’re going to block for him. Whoever is back there each game this year, they’re going to be protected.”
Jones would like to see Worley continue to improve from a leadership standpoint.
“(Worley) is progressing. He is a work in progress,” Jones said. “He still has some improvement to go just like the rest of our football team is really learning leadership.”
From the offensive line…
The offensive line’s segment of the Monday afternoon’s press conference began with a joke.
A reporter asked Ja’Wuan James and Antonio Richardson if they were relieved to find their names listed as starters on the depth chart.
“I was shocked,” Richardson replied with a chuckle. “I didn’t think we were going to make it. But it’s good to know.”
But that was the end of the smiles.
James and Richardson have clear goals heading into the 2013 campaign.
“Our goals are to play tough, smart and physical,” James said. “…the rest will take care of itself.”
Jones has been challenging the offensive line to play with passion, not emotion.
Richardson explained the difference.
“(Jones) wants us to be consistent,” Richardson said. “He thinks emotional teams are up and down and up and down. He wants a team that’s like a McDonalds team. You know, a team that is going to be consistent.”
Ferguson draws praise…
Jones wouldn’t reveal which young quarterback earned the title of third stringer.
When asked, Jones smiled and replied, “I know our third string quarterback will be a true freshman.”
While Jones said he was pleased with both young quarterback’s progress this fall, it was Riley Ferguson who garnered praises from Richardson and James.
“Riley has a presence in the huddle,” Richardson started. “He’s loud and commanding.”
James agreed, and added a comparison.
“He has a great arm. He takes control,” James said. “He reminds me of (Tyler Bray) when he was a freshman.”
North standing out…
Tennessee players spent much of Monday afternoon raving about freshman wide receiver Marquez North.
The young wideout was listed as a starter alongside Alton “Pig” Howard and a bracketed Jason Croom and Josh Smith.
Players noted that North appears to be the most game-ready freshman on roster.
“You can tell the difference in his maturity level and some of the other freshmen,” James said. “That's why their giving him this opportunity and we need him to step up right now.”
See what else stood out to IT staff members Riley Blevins and Danny Parker by clicking play in the video below: