By Steve Megargee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —
Tennessee hopes a different look leads to different results.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones unveiled subtle changes to Tennessee's usual uniforms Thursday and introduced an alternate uniform to be used in one home game this season. The new gear, designed by Adidas, signifies a new era as Tennessee tries ending a string of three consecutive losing seasons.
"The great thing about Tennessee is we do have tradition, but also you look at any great company, any great organization," Jones said. "They're always staying ahead of the times. They're always embracing change."
The alternate uniform features jerseys and pants in a color school officials described as "Smokey gray," a nod to the team's mascot. Jones said the 1914 Tennessee team wore gray jerseys and went undefeated.
"Knowing that there's a team that went undefeated wearing it makes it that much cooler, knowing that we're going to bring that out in an SEC home game for a team we may need that extra motivation to beat," nose guard Daniel Hood said. "Maybe we can pull on the memories of that team."
The usual orange home jerseys have an outline of the state of Tennessee above the players' names on the back. The white road jerseys have a checkerboard pattern on the numbers. The white jerseys have a "Power T" on the back and the word Tennessee written above the numbers on the front.
Jones introduced quarterback Justin Worley, offensive guard Zach Fulton, cornerback Justin Coleman and linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt as they modeled the new uniforms on a runway constructed in Tennessee's locker room. Earlier in the day, Maggitt received raucous applause after entering a team meeting in the gray uniform.
"There was a big uproar," free safety Brian Randolph said. "Everybody was excited. Everybody was jumping up and down, doing chest bumps, stuff like that."
The uniforms represent the latest change Jones has brought to Tennessee in an effort to shake the lethargy out of a slumping program.
To get players accustomed to maintaining focus in hostile situations, odd sounds such as the cries of a baby have aired over the loudspeaker during practices. Jones carries a microphone in practice and calls out players when they do something wrong.
As training camp begun, Jones put a black stripe on the helmets of all the newcomers and said they wouldn't get their stripes removed until they'd "earned their stripes" by performing well.
Jones also has brought fun to training camp.
At the start of each practice this week, the team has done its own version of basketball's three-man weave to improve hand-eye coordination. Players divide into three-person groups and run half the length of the field throwing a football to one another while "Sweet Georgia Brown" plays in the background. Strong safety Byron Moore said Jones even won a rap competition with defensive end Jacques Smith.
"Coach says you have to treat practice like recess, so I think that's how he approaches it," offensive tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson said. "I haven't had a practice this year where I've been bored or just like, 'Man, I don't want to be here,' because Coach always keeps it interesting."
Jones has changed the atmosphere around Tennessee's program, but he understands none of that will matter if the team doesn't change its recent fortunes.
"It's what we do on the field," Jones said. "(The) bottom line is winning football games."
NOTES: Cornerback Riyahd Jones' leg injury could cause him to miss a substantial portion of the season. "It's not going to be a one-week, two-week, three-week thing," Butch Jones said. "It could be a couple of months." ... Jones also said defensive end Corey Vereen is ahead of schedule. Jones said Friday that Vereen would miss at least five weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. ... Jones said as many as 13 to 16 freshmen could play this season.