KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Eleven days into August, Tennessee’s emerging standouts are showing flashes of promise on Haslam Field and also in NFL preseason action. Head coach Butch Jones spoke to reporters after Friday’s practice and discussed some of the young men who are stepping up.
Earning Their Stripes
On Friday, freshman defensive back Theo Jackson and freshman tight end LaTrell Bumphus earned the removal of their black helmet stripes, a rite of passage that Jones started back in 2013. First-year players must wear a black stripe on their practice helmets until they prove themselves to their position group teammates.
“You’re always kind of interested to see who will have them removed first, but they’re very deserving,” Jones said. “They come and they work hard every day and it’s all about earning the respect of your peers and they have [their stripes] as evidence today.”
Barnett, Kamara Enjoy Strong NFL Preseason Debuts
On Thursday, VFLs and 2017 NFL Draft picks Derek Barnett and Alvin Kamara excelled in their NFL preseason debuts for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints, respectively.
Barnett recorded two sacks and four tackles in the Eagles’ 24-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers. In the second quarter, he used an inside move on Packers left tackle Jason Spriggs to bring down quarterback Brett Hundley for an eight-yard loss. On Green Bay’s next possession, Barnett chased down Hundley for a 12-yard sack on first down.
Kamara, who has received high praise from Saints head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, was New Orleans’ leading rusher in a 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He finished with four carries for 35 yards, including a 22-yard run through the left side on the Saints’ second possession of the first quarter that set up a field goal.
VFL Joshua Dobbs will start at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight in their 7 p.m. preseason opener against the New York Giants on NFL Network.
“Josh and I exchanged text messages yesterday and I’m very, very excited for him,” Jones said. “When I got home, I watched to see how your players did and I’m very proud of all of them. Even when all the NFL scouts come in, I’m following up on them and trying to text message them and sending them the Vol For Life as well. It’s all about the pride that we have, so I’m very proud of that.”
Vols’ Coaching Staff Strengthened By Bonds That Go Years Back
While there are several new faces on the Tennessee football coaching staff this season, the strong relationships Jones has with his new assistant coaches were forged by years of communication and camaraderie.
“It’s all about relationships,” Jones said. “We talk about obviously our players and being a family but it’s the same as coaches. These individuals go back a very, very long period of time, and you know I still remember making many trips as a young coach to the University of South Florida when they were in the trailers and spending time with Mike Canales and then obviously Larry Scott as well and talking a lot of football.”
He even recalled going to the same coaching conventions as Canales and drawing up football plays and schemes on hotel room mirrors.
“[Canales and Scott] work very, very well together and I think any time you can add individuals that have been coordinators in your room and they get along as they do, they respect each other, I think that really helps,” he said. “Then obviously when you throw in the expertise of Robert Gillespie and Walt Wells, who’s also been an offensive coordinator, that really helps