In a few days, the Tennessee Volunteers will pace in a tunnel behind the north end zone.
Knees will tremble. Fists will clench. The band will begin to form the “T.”
The anticipation will build before the Vols rush Shields-Watkins Field.
But when the time comes, the men clad in orange and white expect to be more excited than ever. And it all starts in the locker room.
“This staff has so much energy,” Tennessee senior defensive end Corey Miller said. “I expect to be really hyped before we take the field.”
A little more than nine months have passed since Jones and company took the reigns of the Tennessee football program. The players have spent countless hours adjusting to the new staff’s rhymes and rhythms since.
They’ve heard new slogans. They’ve trudged through demanding practices. They’ve felt uncomfortable.
But above all, they’ve seen passion.
There’s not a player on roster who knows what to expect from the new staff in the locker room before a game.
But one thing in certain: they can’t wait to find out.
“You can tell the atmosphere around here has changed,” Vols linebacker Brent Brewer told InsideTennessee. “This staff is going to bring it pre-game. I expect a lot of energy, no clowning around and being focused.”
The tightly run pre-game locker room will be a new experience for those who played under Derek Dooley.
Brewer said last season’s locker room was disorganized at times.
“There were some players who weren’t as focused as they needed to be, that’s for sure,” Brewer said. “Last season, the locker room wasn’t as tight as it needed to be. But that’s just my opinion. This year it will be a lot different because [Jones] expects a lot more from us. That really excites me.”
Tennessee center James Stone agreed with Brewer, adding that he’s most excited for the new “family feel” pre-game.
“Last season, there was more of a divide in the locker room. The offense did their thing and the defense did their thing,” Stone said. “Now it’s like we’re one big family. We all eat together, hang out together. It’s gonna be cool to take the field with your brothers.”
Stone said the new staff has taught him to expect the unexpected. He’s eager to see what pre-game surprises are in store.
“They’re always trying to do something new,” Stone said. “Something to keep us on our toes, to change things up and get more energy from us.”
To Stone’s disappointment, Jones said he doesn’t have many surprises up his sleeve. At least not at the moment.
“No, I like to keep things tight and in order pre-game,” Jones told InsideTennessee. “But who knows, maybe we’ll have a former player speak or something like that.”
Jones said he intends to read General Neyland’s maxims like it’s been done for years, with the team and staff hollering them in unison.
Jones plans to say a few words afterwards.
But “say” is an understatement. It's more like scream. Jones isn't shy to admit it.
“Yeah, I’m a rah-rah guy,” Jones said with a smirk. “I get passionate. That’s who I am.”
Before the energized speech, Jones said he likes the locker room quiet. Jones plans to spend the hours before kickoff thinking to himself.
“I use that time to think,” Jones said. “That’s my time where I try to play out every possible scenario that could occur throughout the course of a game. I try to play the game over and over again in my head. I’ll be thinking about field position, when do you go for it? When do you kick a field goal? All the different things. The game management situations and such.”
When the thinking is over, then comes the passion junior defensive lineman Jordan Williams has been anticipating for a long, long time.
“I’m real excited to get in that locker room and see what the energy level is like,” Williams told InsideTennessee. “I’ve been waiting for a while. It’s going to be hype.”
But, Williams believes a passionate pre-game environment does more than provide an increased adrenaline rush.
In his eyes, it could be a difference-maker all season.
“Energy can carry you – carry us – a long way,” he said. “The little things make a big difference. Being focused and fired up before a game, something like that can carry us for a long time. The right attitude is everything.”
Running through the T