From UT sports info:
“Good to see everyone. We had a couple days of very good practice, working to improve in everything: the fundamentals, the technique, the fine details to winning. I’ve liked the mentality of our players. I know we’re looking forward to competing Saturday evening in 102,455. So, I’ll answer any questions you may have.”
(On Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s improvement)
“I think the best thing I could say is just an overall maturation process. He has really worked himself into what I feel is one of the best linebackers not only in the SEC, but in the country. He’s very active, athletic. He’s improved his strength levels. He’s been committed to the weight room. He’s developed into one of our team leaders. He works very, very hard at his craft. Not only is he excelling on defense for us, but on special teams as well. He would start on every single unit, but obviously we need him also on defense, so we pick our spots with him in terms of the special teams game. He takes his role and his responsibility very seriously. You could see that, a number of tackles on our punt team last week. He means everything to our football team and to our defense. I can’t say enough of his development. He’s one of the guys I greatly admire and respect, just because of his attitude, his character, and everything he brings to Tennessee football.”
(On balancing a hurry-up offense with protecting a lead and keeping the defense fresh)
“It’s a balancing act. Sometimes you do have to protect your defense. Sometimes if they’ve been on the field for an extended period of time, you have to keep them on the sideline. That’s when we talk about playing complementary football. It’s all three phases. When you look at our special teams game in Trevor Daniel and the ability to flip field position, I thought he was one of those unnoticed, unspoken about advantages that we had in terms of flipping field position Saturday night. We’re going to need more of that. But also, you can never sacrifice just your overall execution and playing to your style of play offensively. So it is a balancing act.”
(On Kenny Bynum’s playing time)
“Kenny has a workman-like approach every single day. Kenny’s doing a very good job. He’s doing some good things on special teams for us. He’s very, very positive in terms of his attitude. He works hard every day and he’s a very, very high character young man. So, he’s helping mentor the young linebackers and he understands his role on our football team. That’s been great and he’s a very, very important aspect of our football team as well.”
(On why Kyle Phillips has not played more to this point)
“Kyle was set back a little bit with some nagging injuries that really kind of set back his growth and development. Again, we have to be not so quick to anoint 17, 18 year-old kids. They’re working to be adults. This is a different world. It is not high school football. This is football at the highest level. And all the things that go in to it, these are kids growing up. There is so much more in their lives than just football. There’s academics. There’s study hall. There’s life off the field. There’s football life, which we talk about all the time. I think everyone wants to look at recruiting rankings and was he a three star, four star, five star…and I think really that’s blown out of proportion. These are like your children. Kyle has done a phenomenal job. His attitude is outstanding. His work ethic is outstanding. But you’re competing at the highest level, and to his credit he’s worked very, very hard each and every day, and he’s going to have an opportunity with the absence of Curt [Maggitt] to insert his will on this football team and to earn playing time each and every day. He will play a lot Saturday and we’re going to need him. Kyle is a very, very talented young man. It’s important to him, he works at his craft every day and I’ve been very, very proud of him. But I think we also have to sit back when you’re growing and developing a football program, these are still 17, 18-year old kids that are growing into adulthood and the maturation process is different for each young man. [The first question] brought up Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Jalen’s the first to point out he almost didn’t even travel the first road game. He didn’t even play until the fourth game of the year of his freshman year. But see, people forget that journey. People assume that everything happens very, very fast. So I’ve been proud of Kyle, I’ve been proud of all of our freshman. They’ve worked very, very hard and I can see the progress that they are making each and every day.”
(On fans underestimating Western Carolina)
“I will tell you this, and I think everyone should understand this: winning is fragile. Winning is hard to do in college football, and we need everyone’s support. It’s a nationally televised game. The last I heard, there were only, I believe, a hundred tickets left for this game, which is a tribute to our fans. It’s a tribute to their passion, and we’re going to need them, just like we do every home game.
“I have a big sign in my office that was signed by our student body, promising to be the 12th individual on the field, promising to never take any win for granted, promising to be there with us through the highs and the lows of a long football season, and I look at that each and every day. They’ve done that.
“We’re going to need everyone in the stands. This is a football team that’s coming in here, that’s going to expect to win. Coach [Mark] Speir has done a good job of really building their identity, and all you have to do is look around the country, and really what happened last week in college football. It truly is a week-to-week season.”
(On what areas need the most improvement)
“Everywhere. Everywhere across the board. It starts with our fundamentals, our discipline, and our technique. Our discipline and our fundamentals of playing winning football. Carrying the ball in the proper arm. Eyes on the thighs, driving for five, and our tackling. No mental errors. Just continued growth and improvement.
“We’ve been challenged with a young football team right off the bat. We just played two opponents that arguably will contend for their conference championships, so we’ve had to grow up in a hurry. We’ve had to improve in a hurry, and I’ve been proud of our players. They’ve come this week with a mentality to get better. They understand the things we need to improve and to work on, and it’s our job as coaches to continue to push them and guide them and direct them and help coach them to improve.
“Just being clean, playing a clean game. No dropped footballs. Taking care of the football. Taking the ball away on defense. Playing relentless, with a relentless approach. Our overall style of play. Being disciplined in terms of penalties. The big thing is no negative yardage football plays. No pre-snap penalties. There’s a lot to improve on, and we speak about it each and every day, so I know we’re all anxious to get out there and compete Saturday evening.”
(On the updated status of senior LB Curt Maggitt)
“With Curt Maggitt, he continues to be evaluated. He does not, as of today, need surgery which is a positive. It could be eight weeks. It could be six weeks. It could be ten weeks. It’s all based on his body and how his body heals.
“Curt is an integral part of Tennessee Football and will always be an important part. He’s part of the building process. He’s our leader. I know he hurts right now. I know he’s disappointed. I love him to death, but I know he’s very resilient. He’s been resilient ever since he’s been here, and he’s a great representative. He has a great, great future ahead of him.
“I don’t want to sit here and speculate when he’ll be back. We hope he’s back. All goals are that he will be back at some point in time, but it’s all based on how his body heals.”
(On throwing downfield)
“I think a number of things go into that. First of all, we had some throws in the first game. We were able to do that. We also made a decision to run the football to protect our defense a little bit. We had two running backs that were performing at a very high level. We also did throw the ball own the field. This past week, we didn’t throw the ball down the field and execute as much as we would like. It’s all eleven. It isn’t just one individual–not the quarterback, not the receiver, not just the tight ends or running backs or offensive line. I thought being all eleven playing as one, we struggled with that consistency. One play, it was a breakdown on one position group. The next play, it was a position at another position group. Next play, it may have been a dropped football. Everything in a game is rhythm, spacing and timing. It may be running a 12-yard post, and we run an eight-yard post. Those are the disciplines and small details at the schemes in terms of doing it. Some of it was they are a good football team defensively. They do some different things, but we have worked very hard on it. I know we have to get better in the throw game. It is a point of emphasis not just offensively, but pass defense as well. We have very talented players that are eager, want to do it and are working very hard at it. We will win a game this year–you watch–with having to throw the football just like we did last year. We will do that, but we are working very hard on that.”
(On Curt Maggitt’s injury)
“It’s basically a chipped bone in his hip, but it’s a small chip to my knowledge, so it doesn’t require surgery. It’s just based on the healing process.”
(On Austin Smith’s opportunity)
“Austin continues to grow and develop. We spoke about the development of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Kyle Phillips. If you look at austin, he is the same way as Kyle. He didn’t have any spring football. I believe we had 26 practices leading up to the Bowling Green game then four more, so that is 30 practices that they have had at the collegiate level with an expanded playbook, everything to goes into playing the position–fundamentals, details, knowledge. Then, couple that with a special teams playbook as well. The volume becomes very large. He has done a very good job. He gets better each and every day–his attitude, mentality from a physical standpoint. He is very explosive, can run, has worked hard in the weight room. His attitude–he wants to compete like all the freshmen and all the players in our program. It’s been great. He has been wearing us out on special teams. Everyone’s learning curve and growth curve are different based on each individual. I have been very pleased with him, and he is going to get playing time Saturday because of it. He has earned that.”
(On Quinten Dormady)
“Any time you can get reps, it is paramount and critical for growth and development. He has gained numerous repetitions in practice. He had a very good day yesterday throwing the football and managing. The repetitions are critical. The thing I have been really proud of and pleased with Quinten with–obviously the physical and mental sides of it–but the leadership. He is much more vocal that he has ever been. He is holding everyone accountable around him. He has been very confident. His body language, the ay he presents himself, he commands the line of scrimmage. The way the walks in the office and the locker room, you can see that each and every day he is growing more and more confident in his play. It’s based on what he is doing in practice. Those repetitions are very important.”
(On discussing with team close SEC vs. FCS games)
“No, it has not come up. We have to concentrate on ourselves and doing whatever it takes to win the football game, continue to improve and work on playing winning football. It’s been about us and Western Carolina, our opponent. It’s been pretty much business as usual. We have not spoken about that. Our players know. Everyone has Twitter and Instagram. Everyone watches all the news feeds. They know what is our there. That is the world we live in. I have not had to bring that up, but they are aware of it.”
(On if seeing other quarterback injuries around the country inspire him to make on a concerted effort to get Quinten Dormadyin-game repetitions)
“It registers greatly here because we’ve lived it, we’ve lived for the last couple of years. I think that’s the state of football whether it is any level high school, college, or the professional ranks. That’s all part of it and it’s always preparing your No. 2 quarterback to be the starter. He is one play away and the No. 3 is two plays away, and that’s not coach speak, that’s real. I love the way Quinten has competed, the way he’s worked. Sheriron Jones — the same way with a workman like mentality each and every day. We talk about the power of the position and being nine strong. That quarterback group has done a great job. I think them being able to watch the workman-type approach that Joshua Dobbs brings to the table every day from a meeting room perspective to on the field, that entire unit, that position group has continued to grow and elevate their play.”
(On how he assesses the current state of the program)
“I can tell you this: as someone who has lived the program for three years, the strides we have taken in two and a half to three years is monumental. It’s a tribute to our players and our coaching staff to even be playing in that type of game last week in terms of what’s gone on here in building that program. I believe in being positive and I said it Monday, a year ago we weren’t even competitive against that program. They have recruited to their system, I believe, for 16 or 17 years. Unfortunately, we came up short. It’s football. We have to get better. That’s on me as the caretaker.
“Our players are on a journey. You have to focus on the journey. You can never look up. You can never look in the rear view mirror. You have to just keep your head down and just keep focused and going. I’m proud of them and where we’re at in terms of character, in terms of even depth, just a culture and a mindset…it’s night and day, it’s different. These players come to practice and all week they give everything that they have and invest in it.
“I said we are going to be in games that are close, decided by two or three plays from here on out, but really that’s because we’ve started to become competitive. We still have long ways to go. It’s all about development and recruitment, recruitment and development. It’s happening, but I am impatient as it is, but when I step back and I really know what’s going on inside the walls of the Anderson Training Center, it’s really refreshing. It’s great. Our players bounce back. They’re resilient and now we have to come out and we have to play our best football game to date against Western Carolina. We have to coach our best game to date that’s all about that continued growth. We’re still developing a program. It’s one thing to develop a team, it’s another thing to develop a program. So, I haven’t listened to outside voices because I’m confident and I know what we’re building here. I am proud of our players because they continue to work and grind it out each and every day.”
(On whether the program required more development than he initially foresaw)
I can’t speak of what’s gone on before we were here. All I can speak of is since day one when we walked in. I think everyone knows of the roster being completely rebuilt, playing in the toughest conference in all of college football with 17- to 19-year-olds, with very small senior classes, but that’s been great. I am indebted to all the former players that were players here when we arrived. They embraced us. But it is a process. The road to success is always under construction. You’re never a finished product. It’s all about being nine for nine. Nine position groups strong — that takes recruiting and that takes development.
(On the impact of LaDarrell McNeil’s return)
“Having LaDarrell back is a big boost to us. It’s a big boost to us in terms of the special teams game but also just the experience factor in the back end of our defense. I spoke with Coach [Willie] Martinez earlier today, we just have to make sure that we slowly ease him in. This is an individual who hasn’t played competitive football here in a couple weeks. So from a conditioning standpoint, just getting back into the rhythm and flow of a game and the communicative process that’s involved and the physicality – we just have to pick our spots with him. But it’s great not only just having his presence on special teams and in the back end, but just his leadership and everything he brings to the table. And again, you know when we talk about the building of a program – LaDarrell, Brian Randolph, Curt Maggitt, all these individuals that have been there from to the get-go with us. Mack Crowder – all these individuals – Kyler Kerbyson, I can go on and on. These kids have been remarkable. They’ve been resilient and they continue to lead the way [for] our younger players and that’s all part of the special culture that we have here now.”
(On Chance Hall’s increased presence on the OL)
“We’ve zeroed in on his position and he is a tackle in our program. Chance is one of those individuals who works at it every single day, he works his craft. I spoke to our players about, `You always keep a journal.’ You keep a journal and you date it every day and you write down kind of how you did, what you need to improve upon, and kind of the thoughts on your mind. A lot of times what you see is you spend so much wasted energy on concerning yourself or worrying about things that really don’t have any bearing. And you know, [Chance] texts me last week and he goes, `Coach, I’m on my journal. It’s helped me immensely.’ And he’s one of those individuals that hangs on every word that you say. He’s worked hard to gain the strength levels, obviously he has a great length to his body so he’s able – with long arms – that’s what you want in a tackle. So he continues to improve each and every day, improve on his conditioning levels. Is he a finished product? No. He’d be the first to tell you. But with his attitude and his character, he’s going to help us win football games around here for a very long period of time.
“It’s the entire freshmen O-line. I think they’re doing a tremendous job. Drew Richmond continues to grow and develop. I see him making strides every day. Venzell Boulware, the same thing. He continues to grow. And that’s the most difficult position for a true freshman to play. I want to say there were 60-some-odd signees on the offensive line in our conference and only seven played the first week of the season. That is a very, very low percentage. And I think if you did a nationwide survey it would be really astonishing. That’s the most difficult position to play as a true freshman, but those individuals continue to grow and develop and get better and better and better. And we’re encouraged by all our signees, all of our young offensive linemen.”
(On Marquez North’s physical recuperation and his early play)
“I think it’s a combination of all that. I just spoke with Marquez prior to the press conference and he’s a very prideful young man and you want that. Deservedly so. And I love his work ethic, love everything. I think he’s just going back to getting into that rhythm, you know, the route running, winning in transition, being able to create separation. And his time’s going to come. As a wide receiver – I’ve coached the wide receivers most of my coaching career. They want the football and you want them to have that mentality. But also they understand the different things that they need to do.
“Everyone thinks that to play in the National Football League you have to catch a ton of footballs. That’s the biggest myth there is. It’s your style of play, it’s how you come off the football, it’s how you block. You know, one of the biggest evaluation tools is what does that receiver do away from the play, away from the point of attack, when it’s a run play opposite him. You know, and all those things. And our wideouts have done a very good job. They work very, very hard at their craft. They all do. And Marquez is going to catch his share of footballs. And I appreciate Marquez because he’s selfless. He doesn’t allow that to affect him, just like all the wideouts. And I understand what they’ve been through because I’ve been a receiver coach so I understand they dynamics.
“But they’ve done a very, very, very good job and you’ll continue to see them progress in our offense as time goes.”
(On how less physically gifted WRs can gain separation)
“Well it’s just like a toolbox. A great carpenter has a great toolbox and it’s just like a wide receiver or any position group. You have a toolbox and in that toolbox are your fundamentals, your details. And it’s learning how to run routes, how to create separation in terms of how you weave an opponent, how do you weave the defensive back, having quick feet to get in and out of your breaks, great hands, the ability to adjust to the football, separation quicks from the line of scrimmage, use of your hands. You know, bigger-bodied wide receivers have a different style of play in terms of their release mechanics. You know, being able to throw the ball up and high-point the ball, whether it’s an underthrown ball or a back-shoulder throw or, you know, high-pointing the football – using your body to your advantage. Running a curl and being able to outmuscle the DB.
“And a lot of that, too, is set up by the run game. You know, I could sit here and bring Coach [Azzanni] in and give you a whole clinic on wide receiver play and how the run sets up the pass with a run-through technique at the line of scrimmage and, you know, three-step locks and locking people’s hips and all those things that go into it. But there is different separation skills, there is a different skillset for bigger-bodied receivers as opposed to maybe looser – you know, there’s all sorts of types of wide receivers. “When you have a receiver corps, you want a mixture, you want a complementary group. You want individuals that bring different skillsets because when you get into games we don’t ever want to think `play.’ We want to think `players.’ And we have on our call sheet different ways to get each different receiver, each different running back the football. And they all have different skillsets. And I think Seth did allude to that in Monday’s press conference. You know, each individual has a different style of play and it’s our job as coaches to be able to adapt and adjust with formations to calls and matchups to get their hands on the football.”