Vols punter Trevor Daniel previews upcoming football season.
Dan Fleser/News Sentinel
At SEC Media Days last month, Butch Jones did an about-face. After having full-time captains last season, Tennessee’s football coach told local media that the team will go back to naming captains on a game-by-game basis in 2017.
Jones explained the reasoning behind the switch last week after a preseason practice.
“This team is different,” he said. “We have a lot more leadership by committee on this football team. They have really stepped up in a leadership role, not just our seniors but also some younger players as well. (Game-by-game captains) is what this football team needs. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Vols, who will hold their team media day on Sunday, are different in the sense that they’re less luminous. Their star power has been diminished by the departure of such players as Derek Barnett, Joshua Dobbs and Alvin Kamara, among others.
Furthermore, the injury attrition of last season, which undermined the team’s potential, has reinforced the importance of every player in cultivating more depth.
Trevor Daniel did not endorse any sort of correlation between the past and present, however, because the fifth-year senior punter said the players didn’t convene a discussion regarding the matter. Instead, they formed their committees during the offseason for more practical purposes. Daniel indicated the get-togethers happened as if by instinct.
“It’s kind of like we need to do this if we want to get to where we want to get with this program,” Daniel said. “If we want to be champions, this is what championship teams do. It’s an understood thing.”
Daniel said that he and the kickers were accustomed to working by themselves during the summer. But then Marquez Callaway reached out via text this year, asking to be apprised of their schedule so the sophomore wide receiver could join them and catch punts. And Callaway brought freshman teammates with him.
“Giving them some work, but they’re also giving us some work,” Daniel said. “So it balances each other out.”
Scenes from University of Tennessee football practice on Aug. 8, 2017.
Jakob Johnson said such gatherings took place throughout the summer, involving both the offense and defense.
“We had player-led throwing sessions, player-led seven-on-seven situations, guys just getting together and going through the plays,” the senior tight end said.
“It gives us a head start now. There was no break like you usually have. We got the ball rolling from the end of spring.”
The evolution has occurred on a personal level as well. At Media Days, Kendal Vickers said leadership involved some tricky footwork on his part.
“I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone a little bit,” the fifth-year senior defensive tackle said. “But I like it.”
University of Tennessee Defensive lineman says group wants leadership role
Dan Flesser / Knoxville News Sentinel
Defensive line coach Brady Hoke suggested strongly last week that Vickers has his steps down pat.
“When someone is not paying attention, he’ll get their attention,” Hoke said. “When someone is not early to a meeting, he’ll get their attention.”
Jonathan Kongbo counts as an unusual sort of convert. The junior defensive end still has been answering for his struggles of last season. But he also is more fluent in the accountability language of Barnett and his other former teammates.
“At the time, they might have seemed a little harsh or mean,” said Kongbo, who came to Tennessee as the No. 1-ranked junior-college prospect. “But being an older guy, you kind of understand the importance of needing everybody. There might be a week that I can’t play. You can’t drop the level of competition just because I’m not around.”
Kongbo considered his hard-earned wisdom, the influence it’s had on him and said, “It’s funny actually, having to be in that position now. ”
He’s found his place on a committee.