Coach Butch Jones said he was appreciative of the more than 900 fans who came to Tennessee's 48th annual all-sports picnic Tuesday at Lipscomb's Allen Arena.
The Vols football coach also had some words of encouragement.
"Their patience and loyalty will soon be rewarded," Jones said of fans' support despite last year's 5-7 record. "We are going through a process together of the reality of building a college football program. We are going to build it right. The foundation will be etched in stone, or 'brick by brick' as we say."
Jones said the 2014 Vols will be young. Tennessee also must replace the entire offensive and defensive lines.
"Half of our team hasn't even gone through the rigors of an entire football season and the natural adversities that football season brings about. We are going to rely on our older players and the guys here with me today, A.J. (Johnson), Curt (Maggitt) and Mack (Crowder), have done a great job of that so far."
Jones and the three players came to Nashville from Birmingham, Ala., where they spent most of Tuesday at SEC Media Days.
Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick and athletics director Dave Hart also were at the picnic.
"Butch Jones is a really strong face of not only of our athletic program, but also for the face of our university," Hart said. "He is a very genuine, and that comes across immediately."
Fans are still excited about Jones as he heads into his second season.
"He has a lot of character, integrity, and I think that's what kids are looking for," said Nashville's Hal Sensing, a 1991 UT graduate. "He has things on the right swing. He is a strong recruiter with a strong coaching staff."
Hart is on the same page as the fans.
"We are on the right path, without a doubt, of getting back to where we all want to be," Hart said. "We are very much still in that process of rebuilding. I know people don't like that word 'rebuilding,' but it's a fact. It's an exciting rebuilding process, and the fans' reactions are very evident of that. I think they are excited of where we are headed."