KNOXVILLE — Tennessee and Butch Jones are hoping for a big turnout for Saturday's Orange and White football game, which will conclude his second spring practice as the Volunteers' coach.
There's little doubt many of those eyes will be on the four competing quarterbacks.
There's even less doubt Jones will hope to see more from the quartet of Justin Worley, Riley Ferguson, Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman than he did during Thursday's practice.
"I was really disappointed today in the overall position," the coach said. "I didn't think one quarterback really stood out amongst them. Again, we're looking for the alpha male. We're looking for the individual who comes out.
"Playing at quarterback at Tennessee is not a sometimes thing. It's an all-the-time thing."
During a Thursday morning appearance on Nashville radio station WGFX, Jones confirmed that Worley and Ferguson have taken more repetitions than Dobbs and Peterman, and that appeared evident in last weekend's scrimmage and in the open period of Tuesday's practice.
Yet Jones was adamant after Thursday's practice that there will be nothing in the way of a post-spring depth chart for any position, particularly the quarterbacks.
"You have to earn your spot each and every day," he said.
As for Saturday's exhibition at Neyland Stadium, Jones said he wants to see his quarterbacks show command of the offense, make plays throwing and running and demonstrate what he called a "genuine swagger," an aura that says, "I'm the quarterback of this football team."
It's a persona he's not seen this spring.
"That's what I'm waiting for: someone to take hold and take grasp and say, 'I am the quarterback of Tennessee,'" Jones said. "You have to earn that right every single day. You have to bring it every single day. You have to have tremendous juice and energy to play that position, because they feed off of you."
Off the chain
Cornerback Justin Coleman wore a bulky chain with a lock brandished with Tennessee's "Power T" logo around his neck during Thursday's practice.
Of course, there's a motivational reason for the prop, but it's more a creation of secondary coach Willie Martinez than Jones, who fills his program with mottos and cliches of all kinds.
"That's something that our defensive backs have down this spring with being a lockdown player," Jones explained. "We talk about the power of the position in everything that we do in this football program. It's a defensive back competition. Who performs at a high level, who performs with a high level of consistency and who plays winning football for us, they get the chain for the day."
Williams tries tackle
Jordan Williams has been a defensive end for nearly all of his Tennessee career, but the rising senior has lined up at tackle in both the Vols' base and nickel defenses the past couple of weeks.
The 275-pounder is hoping to add five or 10 pounds to his frame this summer to be able to hold up inside.
"The only difference is that power," Williams said. "When you get the guard and the tackle coming at you, it's different. You've got two 300-pound men in there trying to get you up out of there, and it's a lot different."
The tweak probably has as much to do with Curt Maggitt playing the Leo spot, the hybrid linebacker/end spot in Tennessee's defense, than anything Williams has done. If Williams is one of Tennessee's best four defensive linemen, the Vols will find ways to get him on the field. Though he's undersized, he now has the flexibility to play anywhere on the line.
"The one I always think about was when I was here my freshman year was Malik Jackson," he said. "Watching him, he was a taller guy, but he wasn't one of those 300-pound power guys in there. He was about my size. Just watching him on film, his hands, he was a technician."
Defensive end LaTroy Lewis got a look at tight end during positional drills Thursday, and the 6-4, 245-pounder from Akron, Ohio, didn't look too out of place running routes and catching passes.
The Vols also have given defensive tackle Jason Carr some looks at offensive tackle ahead of a possible move, and Jones said both were examples of spring experiments that may or may not become permanent position shifts.
"It's just seeing what they can do," he said. "We'll let them have the Orange and White Game [on defense], we'll see where we're at in the development of our football team once June rolls around and make some determinations positional-wise when we get to August camp.
Happy Young man
With his first spring practice since switching back to tailback from slot receiver nearly complete, Devrin Young seems content with the move.
"I've been pretty happy with the transition," he said. "It's not like I went to a different position that I didn't know. I felt pretty comfortable. The biggest thing was just learning the standards and performing up to expectations at that position that the coaches want me to."
As he's done at times earlier in his career, Young, who will leave spring as Tennessee's first-choice punt and kickoff returner, has shown speed and playmaking ability in the open field this spring, and he scored on a jet sweep in the last scrimmage and also took a screen pass for about a 20-yard gain.
"It's just a combination of everything," he said. "Having a good offseason, just working at it as far as off-the-field type stuff and executing like the coaches want me to. It's a number of things. You can't just point at one thing and say this is the reason why a little success is coming around."
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 ...