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Jones wants 'slow' Vols to accelerate

The SportsXchange

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Statistically, Tennessee's season opener was a banner day for the offense. The Vols amassed 45 points, with 42 of them coming in the first half. They opened the game by scoring on seven consecutive possessions. They generated 30 first downs, and 447 yards of offense.

Yes, the Vols looked mighty sharp in their 45-0 dismantling of Austin Peay. Not sharp enough for coach Butch Jones, however. Or, to be more specific, not fast enough. Tempo has been a point of emphasis for Jones and his staff since he was hired.

"The tempo changes up based on the situation but I thought we played slow. We have to do a better job of getting lined up fast and playing fast," Jones said Monday at his weekly news conference.

To Jones, it's not just about playing at a high rate of speed. It's about being able to "strain and sustain," and maintain a high level of technique despite the quick tempo.

"When we have played great offensive football in this scheme we were able to play at a very high level and never relinquish the ability to play physical and fundamentally sound with the small details," Jones added. "That's part of the mental conditioning that I talk about, part of the development process that we're working through as an offensive unit."

Jones' lack of satisfaction with the offensive performance didn't end there. Even though the Vols ran for 315 yards -- their highest total on the ground since the 2010 season opener against UT Martin -- Tennessee's new coach still found room for improvement. Specifically, he noted that the Vols "left a lot of yards out there" and critiqued the offensive line for not finishing blocks.

Just as Jones expects the Vols to raise their game, the opponent is also of a higher caliber. Western Kentucky was picked to be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference this season, and scored a 35-26 victory over Kentucky last week in the Hilltoppers debut of new coach and SEC veteran Bobby Petrino. He now has the chance to lead Western Kentucky to back-to-back wins against SEC teams to start the season.

It's up to Tennessee to make that happen. Which, apparently, means pushing the pace. Even though UT was favored by double digits in the early odds, Western Kentucky represents a stern challenge to the Vols' 11-game win streak against non-conference opponents in the regular season.

Notes: Ten true freshmen made their debuts for Tennessee, among 22 players making their first appearance for the Vols. ... The team hands out a "Juice Man Award" every game week for the player who shows the most energy on the sideline. Defensive end Jacques Smith took that honor for the Austin Peay game. The playing status of Smith (thumb) and linebacker Curt Maggitt (knee) will be decided late in the week.
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