That's why Vol fans will see Gerald Jones lined up in several positions and deployed in a variety of ways this fall. And the player couldn't be happier about it.
“This offense puts me in so many positions to make plays,” Jones said recently. “All I've really got to do is catch the ball and do what I've been doing since I've been here. This offense has helped me a lot, especially Coach Kiffin, because he's putting in a lot of different ways for me to make plays.”
Asked how specifically the new scheme exploits his talents, Jones replied:
“It gives me the opportunity to be matched up on a linebacker or catch the ball deep in the open field. My specialty is making people miss. In the open field I think I'm dangerous. In this offense I've got a lot of chances to do that (get in the open field).”
A good player in 2008, Jones hopes to become a great player in '09. He thinks he took a big step in that direction during the Vols' just-ended spring practice.
“I think I've gotten a lot better,” he said, “especially with my blocking.”
The Vols desperately need a receiver with enough deep speed to stretch the field vertically. Jones would love to be that guy.
“I really want to work on my speed,” he said. “I really think I'm very elusive but I don't think I have the breakaway speed. There's some things I have to work on, and that's probably going to be one of the biggest things.”
Jones thought the offense made significant strides during the spring but stopped itself at times with “bonehead mistakes that can be corrected.” He sheepishly added that some of the scrimmage miscues were “things that we do in our sleep” in practice.
In spite of the occasional miscue, Tennessee's offense gave its defense plenty of competition this spring. That was in stark contrast to last spring, when the defense dominated every practice and every scrimmage.
“Really, last year at this point we were struggling,” Jones recalled. “To actually come out here and be competitive – give this defense a run for their money and make big plays – gives you a confidence level and makes you excited to come out here every day.
“Last year I was like 'Ugh, it's just another day at practice ... getting my tail whupped by the defense.' This year it's a different mindset. I'm out here competing and talking trash with my teammates. We're making this a competitive thing, and that brings joy to my heart.”