KNOXVILLE - Jacques Smith knows what part of his game needs the most focus and the most improvement.
And the rising sophomore defensive end at Tennessee also knows getting to the level he and the Volunteers want him to be simply is going to take some time.
"I just need to be more consistent. It's all about consistency," the former Ooltewah High School star said after making three tackles with a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry in Saturday's scrimmage. "Your starters, they're people you can depend on every single play that they're going to have the right alignment, the right assignment and the right mindset for the ballgame. That's just something I need to develop."
Smith is still adjusting to becoming a full-time starter and an every-down player after being a key contributor off UT's bench as a freshman last season. He showed that talent won't be the issue, but continuing the progression is a process in itself.
"I think Jacques is doing a good job," UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said last week. "He did some real good things for us last year. We expect him to take the next step and be a guy that we can depend on every game. He is still a ways from being a well-rounded player, and that's not a knock on him."
Smith was only slightly satisfied with his performance in Saturday's scrimmage, as he was quick to point out that his game is far from where he wants it.
"I'm still in that young habit of [going] through plays and I bust one here, or the next one I hit it really well and the next one I bust one, so I just need to develop that consistency," he said. "It's really just the knowledge of my playbook, so I just need to dig in there and just study some more. I think the more repetitions I get with my plays and things like that, especially in practice, the more easier it is whenever they're called on the field."
UT's defensive coaches have consistently said that Smith's future is promising, but as it with most of the Vols' rising sophomores who are in key positions all over the field, going from freshman contributor to dependable sophomore is what makes spring practice, individual summer workouts and preseason camp so important.
"He's going to have that many more practice snaps, that many more workout times," Wilcox said. "It's not like he's done it before besides [last] season. Some guys come in to their senior year and they've seen every block, they've seen every play-action, they know what it looks like. He's not to that point yet.
"The more he plays, the better he's going to get. He's got some very good skills as a defensive lineman, and we're expecting him to continue to improve on a daily basis. He's done a good job so far this spring, and we expect him to continue to do that."
Correspondent Matt Dixon contributed to this story. Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrownTFP.