published Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Vols' Jones says 'just coach us'


by Wes Rucker

KNOXVILLE -- Gerald Jones isn't going to stop working hard for his Tennessee football coaches, but don't expect the Volunteers' top wide receiver to spend much time off the field making efforts to learn about the new staff's families and personal interests.

Some would call Jones' new mindset jaded, but others would call it a firm grasp on the businesslike modern nature of the sport.

The senior-to-be has had three head coaches the past three seasons, and four wide receivers coaches in the past four seasons.

"I've had so many coaches, so I'm not really looking forward to relationships outside of football," Jones said after UT's spring-opening Thursday practice. "I just want them to coach the (heck) out of me, and I'm going to play the best I can and do everything I can for them.

"If they'll just be themselves, actually be here for us and try to help us get better every day, that's all I really care about."

Jones was optimistic Thursday but added that it was "just day one."

"Of course they've been here for a while now, but there's differences between the lines," he added. "That's where you see the real person come out, so I think it'll take a while. Probably after the first scrimmage, we'll see who's about what and who does what.

"Fifteen practices, with all the meetings and all the time we spend during spring, I think that will be enough time to get to know each other."

New head coach Derek Dooley said he "absolutely" agrees with Jones that coaches and players have to share time on the field to jell.

"Really, I'm still not going to know them until we put (full) pads on," he said. "And then I'm still not going to really know them until we go play a game. And they're not going to know us. It's going to take a good full year. Probably the biggest time when you find out about players and coaches is when it gets tough, when the adversity comes.

"Everything's good right now. We haven't lost. We haven't played anybody. It's all rah-rah, and we're feeling good. That's easy. We'll get to know each other, but it's going to take a good year."

Still, the coach has complimented the Vols' "workmanlike" attitude since January and said they've seemed to enjoy themselves more the past few weeks.

"It's recently really started to turn a little bit," Dooley said. "I think they're feeling good about where they're headed."

Austin transition

Junior-to-be Austin Johnson admitted he was nervous before his first practice at middle linebacker, but the converted fullback said Thursday went much better than he initially expected.

"I'm not going to lie. Before I came out here, I was a little nervous to see how rusty I would be," Johnson said. "But after I was out here, I picked it up pretty quickly. You've just got to be natural with it and be confident with yourself, and that's what I'm trying to do."

Johnson was a highly decorated fullback and middle linebacker in high school, and several major-conference programs recruited him as a defensive player. He was hesitant about switching sides after emerging as a solid offensive player last season, but Dooley's need for linebackers and preference of tight ends over fullbacks left little choice.

"We have two people hurt right now -- Nick (Reveiz) and Herman (Lathers) -- but they're really helping me out," Johnson said. "I'm just kind of under their wing right now. They're teaching me the defense right now, and hopefully I'll earn my way up the depth chart as the spring goes on."

One bonus for Johnson's switch has been working every day under linebackers coach Lance Thompson -- one of just two UT assistants back from last season.

"Coach Thompson's been great," Johnson said. "It's nice to see a familiar (coaching) face."

Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.

about Wes Rucker...

Twitter - @wesrucker Facebook - /tfpvolsbeat

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