CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Tennessee's football players were to spend some of the wee hours of Saturday morning in the aquatic center pool on campus.
The Volunteers knew it wouldn't be for fun.
An ongoing part of first-year coach Butch Jones' offseason program includes leadership training, and one important facet of it features a visit from a Navy SEALs unit that will test the players' mental and physical fitness and toughness.
"It's just leadership," Jones explained after speaking at Bradley Central High School in an event hosted by the Bradley County Sunrise Rotary Club. "It's bringing a team together and that's what it is. It's team-building and leadership exercises and really teaching what leadership entails and continuing to educate [our players]."
In previous stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones said, he brought in the special operations units to train his team, and now the Vols are getting the taste. That included a 4 a.m. trip to the pool that was sure to be grueling, as Jones attempts to instill toughness into his team.
"Goals are what we want to do, but standards are what we are. And standards have consequences,'" Jones said, sharing a quote one of the SEALs gave to him.
"We have very high standards in our football program."
The crowd of about 600 fans that packed Bradley Central's auditorium saw Jones' energy as he spoke of how he wants his program to look. Much like many of his stops across the state and the South this spring, Jones focused on leadership, discipline and character that have been traits of his program in the past.
His first question from a fan, of course, was about who would be Tennessee's starting quarterback.
Fans also asked if Jones would wear orange pants in the manner of his predecessor, Derek Dooley, (Jones replied, "No orange pants") and when Tennessee finally would beat Alabama, which hasn't happened since 2006.
Lane back working
Jones confirmed that tailback Marlin Lane, who was suspended for the end of spring practice for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, is back working out with the team.
"He's back," the coach said. "He's working out with the team. He still has things he has to do, but he's back."
On a couple of occasions since the end of spring practice in April, Jones has given indication publicly that the rising junior would return to the team, and though some reports of Lane's return surfaced this week, there had been no official word from the program.
In two seasons as the second option in the backfield, the Florida native ran for 984 yards, tallied 389 receiving yards and scored six total touchdowns, and though redshirt freshman Alden Hill came on during the latter half of spring, Lane is expected to form a tailback tandem with Rajion Neal.
All but two of Tennessee's 2013 signing class is on campus attending classes and participating in the summer offseason program.
Receiver Ryan Jenkins, who posted on Twitter on Wednesday that he leaves for Tennessee "officially on July 7th," is not on campus yet. Jones said it's unlikely tailback Jabo Lee will qualify academically, and Tennessee will try to place the 5-foot-9, 175-pound three-star prospect in a prep school or junior college.
During his speech to the packed auditorium, Jones referenced the Vols' current recruiting ranking, though he publicly has said this spring he and his staff aren't caught in prospects' star rankings on various recruiting services.
Yet Jones is at least aware that Tennessee, with its nation-leading 15 commitments, remains in the No. 1 spot in Rivals.com's team rankings.
"It's not about the rankings," he said. "It's finding the right fit for the University of Tennessee. Every college football program in the country has their profile.
"I think the big thing is finding the right people to help this program moving forward."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...