Jones and Tennessee players discuss managing preseason expectations and the importance of student leadership

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MCT

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp shakes hands with Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, September 21, 2013. (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times/MCT)

Tyler Waldrep

With new head coaches at Georgia and South Carolina, and an almost extinction of experience at the quarterback position in the SEC outside of the state of Tennessee, the stars seem to be lining up for a Rocky Top resurgence.

“That’s what you work for. You want high expectations. You want high standards. I remember standing up here at the podium three short years ago, and the room was half filled and nobody was talking about Tennessee football,” coach Butch Jones said. “That’s why you play, is to be in a program like the University of Tennessee where everybody is talking about you. That’s what you work for. Now it’s what you do with that opportunity.”

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs said he isn’t concerned about living up to the hype this season. He’s more interested in taking some advice he got from former Volunteer quarterback Peyton Manning and enjoying his final season in the SEC.

“It is cool to be mentioned alongside the Heisman,” Dobbs said. “It is a very prestigious award and a lot of amazing college football players have won that award, but personally the only thing I can worry about is being the best quarterback for Tennessee.”

One reason Jones believes his team will be able to not only experience, but sustain success in the future is the leadership potential he sees in his players. As a team captain former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara will be one of the guys Jones leans on this season.

“When he came to Knoxville, all he did was be quiet and work,” Jones said. “And he earned the respect of his peers immediately by his work ethic. He’ll tell you he learned so much from his previous stops, his previous experiences. And he’s really applied that to the biggest game, and that’s the game of life. He’s been a mentor [for our team].”

Kamara is just one of several leaders residing in Knoxville, Tennessee. In the spring, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin wanted the team to correct some mistakes it was making on the field so he created and led the team through a video plenty of his own errors.

“It’s just some plays from the spring that I saw that mimic some things from the season and it’s not good when those same mistakes repeat themselves,” Reeves-Maybin said. “… [I included my own mistakes because] I might have this hype, but I still struggle as a football player too. I’m not above anything.”