KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee is looking forward to the depth it gained at the cornerback positions after Riyahd Jones and Michael Williams returned to practice Tuesday.
Both players were battling for a starting spot when they were sidelined, and their presence at practice was a good step forward.
"Will they be game ready? I don't know yet," Volunteers coach Butch Jones said. "They've been out for a while, so it takes some time, but it was great just from an overall competitive standpoint."
A junior college transfer, Riyahd Jones enrolled in January and left spring practice as a starter at corner, but he was sidelined midway through preseason camp with a blood clot/circulation issue in his right calf.
Tennessee expected him to be out for a while.
"You always kind of look for the worst; then if it happens before or above that time frame, it's always great," Coach Jones said. "We prepared for the worst. Now it's getting him back, not only into game condition, but also mentally as well into our schemes and our habits and our fundamentals and the fine details of playing defensive back.
"His spirit has been outstanding, and I know he was very excited about it, so it was great to have him back."
Riyahd Jones expressed his enthusiasm on his Twitter account Tuesday: "After 7 weeks of tears, pain, intense rehab, doctor visits, and tests. God finally showed up and showed out! im cleared to play!"
Butch Jones was just as thrilled to have the 6-foot, 179-pound former Georgia Southern freshman back at practice.
"I think it puts everything in perspective that you can never take this game for granted and it can be taken from you at any point in time," the coach said. "Just making him realize that it is special being at the University of Tennessee, football is a very special game and it means a lot to him. I love Riyahd; I love his competitiveness; I love his spirit. So I think it's just good for our team to have him back."
Worley looks ahead
After the Vols' sloppy offensive performance in the first half against Florida last week, Justin Worley has regained his job as the starting quarterback. Tennessee failed to create any form of rhythm with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman at the helm. Worley took to the field at the start of the second half.
He completed only 10 of 23 passes for less than 150 yards with two interceptions, but Worley continues to look ahead.
"I was talking to Coach Jones, and he wants everybody to approach him and give him one thing that they're going to work on each week," Worley said. "For this week, mine was decision making and being decisive with what I'm seeing and where I'm going with the ball."
Worley threw an interception while trying to throw the ball out of play, but open quarterback competition last week in practice allowed him to improve, he said.
"Competition you always hear is a good thing, and I'll tell you it's a good thing," Worley said. "It helped me last week. Both Nathan and I had great weeks, and we were pushing each other each and every day.
"You had to focus on every throw and every play. You don't want to play tentative or anything like that, but you have to focus on every play doing the right things and managing the offense and being a leader out there."
Fulmer stops by
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was at practice Tuesday. Jones, who maintains fairly regular communication with Fulmer, said the 1998 national title-winning coach, whose final season at Tennessee was 2008, had a "great message" for the current team.
"We talk a lot of football," Jones said. "Just like with Coach [Johnny] Majors as well, I want to get as much information as I can on football, on the University of Tennessee, their great teams. We're all one, and it's just talking about our tradition, it's talking about our plans for the future and moving this program forward, so it's all that and above.
"Those relationships with these types of individuals really mean everything to me because people make a place, and we have great people here, and to have them come back and watch practice and be a part of it, but also to have them around our players, I think it speaks volumes about how special this place is."
An ESPN camera crew also was on campus Tuesday taping for the "ESPNU All-Access" program, which will air next week.
Slot receiver Johnathon Johnson (leg) returned to practice in a noncontact jersey after missing the past two games. Linebacker/special teamer Raiques Crump also was back on the field after a three-week absence. Freshman receiver Ryan Jenkins (knee) remains out indefinitely.
Staff Writer Patrick Brown contributed to this report.
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 ...
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