Saturday is a big day for the Tennessee football program as it gets ready to play in the DISH Orange & White. For Butch Jones, his staff and all of Team 117, it will be their first opportunity to showcase themselves in front of the Volunteer faithful, who they hope will show up in droves to Neyland Stadium.
“First and foremost, we do have the best fan base in the country and the most passionate fan base in the country,” Jones said. “We need to continue to make Neyland Stadium a home-field advantage. Anytime we get to compete in that venue, it is special. I know our players are really looking forward to playing in front of our fans. We need everyone to come out and continue to support. This is really the first public display of Team 117 and it is all about first impressions. That is the mentality we have taken this week in practice.”
Wednesday’s practice was the last in full pads for the Vols before the spring game, which will feature an offense versus defense format similar to what the team has used in previous scrimmages this spring.
“Obviously, we would like to have a draft, we would like to draft teams but that is where we are at with our program right now,” Jones said. “We don’t have much depth so it is going to be offense versus defense. We will have a scoring system so there are numerous opportunities for the defense to manufacture points with three-and-outs, turnovers, tackles for a loss. It is the same formula that we have been using throughout the course of the spring so our players are used to it.”
The spring game isn’t just a test for the players though, as Jones will be evaluating how he and his staff perform as well.
“I want this to be game day for our coaches. It is game day for us. There are little things that maybe people take for granted, from the way you do pregame in your locker room, the way you do pregame in warmups, the way your team takes the field, areas on the field for pregame, all of those little things. This is basically a dress rehearsal for Austin Peay, so we also think it is important that we have our coaches connecting in the press box. We’ll be on the sidelines and we understand that communication is critical.”
In addition to providing the Vols one last chance to see where this year’s team is at on the field, Saturday’s spring game also gives them the opportunity to showcase the program all weekend. To go along with the game, UT is also hosting a lettermen’s golf event on Friday with nearly 200 Vols For Life set to participate.
“You look at all of the events going on with a record number of lettermen coming back for a golf outing on Friday, a record number of former players, VFL players, coming back, that is going to be exciting,” Jones said. “[Then Saturday’s game] is an opportunity to compete, it’s another evaluation tool for us as coaches, and, obviously, it is a chance to play on national television. That is a great opportunity and everything is about recruiting as well so it is all about a great weekend and it is a chance for us to continue to prove that there is no better place than Tennessee.”