KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTSports.com)-- The Vols put the pads on for the first time this spring. Despite being fully-outfitted, Butch Jones said his young team has a long way to go.
"First day of pads," said Jones, "(it was) pretty evident that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Overall, just our style of play, what it means to play winning football, the consistency we are looking for, the mental toughness, the mental conditioning that we talk about each and every day. A lot of work to do.
"We have great teaching opportunity, great teach tool in terms of our film, to go back and correct and really teach them our style of play. That usually happens the first day of pads, had some heat finally. We have a long way to go."
The players were excited to get back on Haslam Field and be able to hit.
"It's always a good feeling to get the pads on and get to hitting," said senior A.J. Johnson. "That's the big thing instead of just running around in helmets."
Sophomore defensive lineman Danny O'Brien was looking forward to today for a while after a challenging off-season in the weight room, where he increased his strength and improved his conditioning.
"Being in the weight room all winter, putting those pounds on, it was time to get in pads," said O'Brien. "We suffered a little bit on being in shape running wise, I think everybody was a little gassed but we'll get back in the swing of things. We'll be alright."
Having pads on made a difference in the speed of practice, which was noticeable to Jones.
"I thought we had very good tempo practice one and practice two and then we got into full pads our tempo really slowed down," said Jones, who has also made some adjustment in the team's protocol at practice.
"We are doing something a little bit different this year in practice, we have a 20 second clock, so as soon as that 20 second clock goes off a horn blows then we will do down-ups after practice for not maintaining the tempo. Today, I thought our tempo on offense, defense really slowed down. I think that was a byproduct of the pads. We have to learn how to work through those things."