It was nearly a month ago that the Tennessee Volunteers broke out their pads for the first time this spring.
With today's 14th spring practice being solely a helmet-only practice that will be "more mental than physical," according to UT head coach Butch Jones, the Vols practiced in full pads for the final time this spring on Thursday in preparation for Saturday's Orange and White game.
"We went out there and competed as a team," senior linebacker A.J. Johnson said. "Today was individual day, and so it was self-motivation, pushing yourself to do what you need to do on the field.
"It was my last spring practice as a Vol, so I had to go out there and have fun and make the best of it."
Now with spring practice being over, the Vols turn their attention to the Orange and White game.
In Saturday's contest, the defense will don the coveted orange jerseys, while the offense will be wearing white. The first two periods will each be 12 minutes long, while the second half will feature two 10-minute quarters with a running clock. Individual drills will take place in between series in both halves.
For Jones, he expects the spring game to provide an opportunity for the Vols to showcase their improvement as a team.
"(I want them to show) the habits that we've been trying to form our identity throughout the course of spring – great effort, being a physical football team, making plays and being a team that plays disciplined football," Jones said. "A lot of times you just want to get through the spring games.
"For us – being as young as we are and the growth and development that needs to occur – Saturday is a big, big day for us and it's very important in continuing the evolution of this football team and our football program."
Williams embracing D-tackle role
For defensive lineman Jordan Williams, this spring has been a transitional one.
Throughout his career, the senior has been a pass rusher, either as an outside linebacker or a defensive end, but this spring he has found himself on the inside as a defensive tackle.
With his change in position, Williams has beefed up to 275 pounds and is still looking to add an additional 10 pounds to be able to deal with increased physicality that comes with the interior line.
"It's all the same, playing the three (technique), playing the five, it's all the same. The only difference is that power," Williams said. "When you get the guard and tackle coming at you, it's different."
One player that the Gainesville, Fla., native has been studying throughout his position change is former Vol and Denver Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who played a similar position to what Williams will play in 2014.
"The person I always think about is Malik Jackson," Williams said. "He was a taller guy, but he wasn't one of those 300-pound power guys in there. He was about my size, and just watching him on film, (it was all about) his hands. He was a technician."
Williams, however, is still looking to remain versatile through his change in case the situation arises where he needs to move back outside.
"I just want to have flexibility," Williams said. "When Curt (Maggitt) was out one weekend, I just played end the whole time, and I was comfortable out there too. So that's been good."
Disappointed under center
The Vols' final spring practice left much to be desired at the signal caller position.
In the midst of their quarterback battle, the four competitors failed to impress Jones, but the only quarterback who hasn't played a snap for UT was the one who may have separated himself, even if just a little bit.
"I was really disappointed today in the overall position," Jones said. "I didn't think one quarterback really stood out. Again, we are looking for the alpha male. Playing quarterback at Tennessee is not a sometime thing, it's an all the time thing.
"I thought Riley (Ferguson) had more leadership than any of them, but not to our standard by which we are going to play quarterback here at Tennessee."
Mad scientist at work
Redshirt sophomore LaTroy Lewis saw reps at tight end on Thursday, but will revert to playing defense for the Orange and White game.
"We're experimenting right now," Jones said. "That's what the spring is for."