"As we all know, it hasn't been a typical offseason."
Butch Jones spoke to the media on Monday, a day before Team 121 hits the field for the first of 15 spring practices. In the time since Tennessee last played, much has changed.
"A lot of new faces," said Jones, referencing the five new coaches on staff for the Vols, "which I think really has leant itself to a lot of new energy, a lot of new excitement and fresh perspectives."
Making all the changes in the offseason was difficult, said Jones, but this new unit has already started to gel. He's excited about what comes next.
"You're in constant evaluation of your program and what you need. Each team is different, each year is different and I've been excited about the staff. The chemistry has been there almost instantaneously."
Throughout his nearly 30 minute long press conference, Jones constantly praised one change in the program in particular.
"It all starts in the weight room, Rock Gullickson and the entire strength and condition staff have really done a remarkable job, they've set the temperament for our football team. Coach Rock has a unique way of challenging our players in a very very positive way and we're getting the results necessary that we need to compete at a high level."
Remember, Gullickson, a former strength and conditioning coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, was hired as the University's new Director of Strength and Conditioning in January.
"I'm excited to see a lot of these players apply all their gains that they've made in the weight room," said Jones, "to really apply them on the field and playing football."
PLAYERS MISSING SPRING
Unfortunately for Tennessee, there will be some players who are not able to apply those gains in the weight room right away. Jones announced on Monday that eight players would not be participating in spring football, recovering from injuries and surgeries in the offseason. The list includes:
-Micah Abernathy, Jr DB
-Brandon Johnson, So WR
-Brett Kendrick, RS Sr OL
-Kyle Phillips, Jr DL
-Josh Smith, RS Sr
-Shy Tuttle, Jr DL
-Kendal Vickers, RS Sr DL
THE NEXT TENNESSEE QUARTERBACK
Of course, one of the biggest questions coming into this season is, who will start at quarterback?
The two prime candidates seem to be junior Quinten Dormandy and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano.
The job is up in the air now that Josh Dobbs is preparing for the NFL Draft. Jones said toady there is no depth chart and no timetable for determining starters and depth at any position, not just quarterback. Whoever starts under center for the Orange and White against Georgia Tech will need to be ready.
"Consistency and performance," said Jones. "Every single day, never being too high, never being too low."
That, paired with continued growth, will be key to determining who will be the signal caller for the Vols this season.