Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT)-- The 23rd-ranked Tennessee football team continued its preparations for Saturday’s game at No. 24/25 Florida on Wednesday at Haslam Field. Head Coach Butch Jones met with members of the media for the final time before the Vols meet the Gators at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
Tennessee and Florida will meet for the 47th time in the series and for the 24th time both teams will be ranked.
The storied rivalry has featured some thrilling games in recent memory with Tennessee erasing a 21-0 deficit to win 38-28 in Knoxville in 2016 and Florida squeaking out one-point victories in 2015 (28-27) and 2014 (10-9).
Only 27 players on Team 121 made the last trip to “The Swamp” in 2015, and Jones expects to lean on the leadership of those upperclassmen in the last few days leading up to the Vols’ first road test of 2017.
“I think you have to be able to start fast, particularly when you go on the road,” Jones said. “It’s going to be a great college football environment. Of our 70 individuals boarding the plane going to Gainesville, only 27 have ever even been in the swamp. That’s going to be a great challenge in and of itself. You have to rely on your older players, but it comes down to the discipline to execute for 60 minutes. If it takes more than 60 minutes, it takes more than 60 minutes. I think it takes a mature football team, particularly when you go on the road in this great rivalry.”
Jones added four new coaches to his staff (associate head coach/defensive line Brady Hoke, special teams coordinator/defensive backs Charlton Warren, quarterbacks coach Mike Canales and wide receivers coach Kevin Beard) this offseason and promoted tight ends coach Larry Scott to offensive coordinator and quality control analyst Walt Wells to offensive line coach. The staff has jelled well, and Jones has confidence in his assistants heading to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after bonding in the spring and overcoming a 14-point deficit in the season-opening 42-41 double overtime victory over Georgia Tech in a neutral site game held in the Yellow Jackets hometown of Atlanta.
“When you assemble a staff, you want teachers, you want high-character people,” Jones said. “I look at it with having three boys of my own, and one that is now really a part of the coaching staff, would I want my son to be coached by them? I ask that question all the time, and the answer is I would want all our coaches to coach my son.
“I think it was really defined if you look at the end of the game against Georgia Tech. We had four minutes and 50 seconds, we had to drive the length of the field with a new play caller, a new quarterback, and a lot of new wide receivers, and we were able to score a touchdown. Obviously, then (we won) in double overtime. You find out a lot about your staff right from the get-go.”
The Vols will head to Gainesville on Friday afternoon.
Head Coach Butch Jones Quotes
(On the evaluation of coaching staff through preseason and two games)“Really, it started back in January. It all starts with cohesiveness. This has been a group that’s extremely close. We spend more time together as a staff than we do with our families right now, so you have to enjoy getting up and coming into work everyday. You get to know them personally just because of the inordinate amount of time that you spend. I think the ability to communicate, the ability to work together (is strong). There’s no egos. They’ll do anything for the good of the program. I think it was really defined if you look at the end of the game against Georgia Tech. We had four minutes and 50 seconds, we had to drive the length of the field with a new play caller, a new quarterback, and a lot of new wide receivers, and we were able to score a touchdown. Obviously, then (we won) in double overtime. You find out a lot about your staff right from the get-go. Again, they work exceptionally well together and everything is about the good of the program. I think they’re relentless in recruiting and they’re good people. When you assemble a staff, you want teachers, you want high-character people. I look at it with having three boys of my own, and one that is now really a part of the coaching staff, would I want my son to be coached by them? I ask that question all the time, and the answer is I would want all our coaches to coach my son. That’s why I’m excited that he (Alex Jones) is involved to the degree that he’s involved in with our football program, because he’s learning the intricacies of how to coach the right way.”
(On the importance of starting fast on the road)
“I think you have to be able to start fast, particularly when you go on the road. It’s going to be a great college football environment. Of our 70 individuals boarding the plane going to Gainesville, only 27 have ever even been in the swamp. That’s going to be a great challenge in and of itself. You have to rely on your older players, but it comes down to the discipline to execute for 60 minutes. If it takes more than 60 minutes, it takes more than 60 minutes. I think it takes a mature football team, particularly when you go on the road in this great rivalry.”
(On what a quarterback needs to do to win in his first road start)
“Poise. Poise, discipline, a calmness, leadership capabilities. You’re the leader of the offense when you go out there on the field. You’re the leader on the football field. I just think an overall calmness, poise, consistency with everything that you do, and the confidence level. We always say really if you look at the evolution of great quarterbacks, the great quarterbacks have the ability to lead their team from behind on the road to a victory. Whether it’s a one-minute drive or whether it’s in the fourth quarter, and that’s really the evolution. If you look at all the great players that have played this game whether it’s at the collegiate level or the professional level that’s what separates them is being able to go on the road and win and perform in a hostile environment against a very, very competitive football team.”
(On the trust of players and coaches to treat Florida week like any other week)
“I think it is the trust I have in this team, the trust I have in the players, the trust I have in our overall program. Obviously, this is a big game, it’s the next game, it’s a SEC opponent, obviously it’s a rivalry game. But our players also have great respect for Florida, and they understand the challenge that presents itself Saturday at 3:30 in Gainesville. But they’re also very, very excited, so I think it’s a respect. I think it’s a respect in the game and I think it’s a respect for what they represent, which is a brand bigger than any one individual and that’s the University of Tennessee brand.”
(On the challenges of playing at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)
“Well it is a great challenge when you go on the road and play there. Those are what we call uncontrollable factors. You have to prepare your mind in terms of the humidity. You have to do your job throughout the course of the week in terms of preparation. Its more than just practice, it’s the metal preparation. It’s your body preparation. Your body is your asset. It’s about how you are hydrating throughout the course of the week. It’s about your nutrition levels. It’s about getting the eight to ten hours of sleep you need to be a pinnacle athlete, to be able to perform at a very high level. Those are all things that we talk about. That’s where the maturity of football players and the maturity of football teams really takeover. It’s a challenge from the communicative standpoint as well, with the crowd noise. That’s also what makes it exciting to go on the road. In terms of game planning, we game plan like all of their players are playing. They are going to do what they do and we are going to do what we do. It really comes down to the discipline to execute for a long period of time. It’s about having the ability to focus on each and every snap. It’s about the ability to play with great effort and having great team comradery. It’s not just about offense and defense, but it’s about special teams as well. They have some great weapons on special teams that really let them control their special teams, as do we. So its going to be a battle of wills on special teams as well.”
(On injury updates and his confidence in his kickers despite not attempting a field goal yet)
“Well first of all, Austin Smith, Baylen Buchanan and Eli Wolf will all be out. Everyone else, we expect to play. Evan Berry right now is probably questionable. We will see if he is able to do some things today. Everyone else should be available barring anything else happens towards the tail end of the week. Yes, we have tried to put our kickers in a lot of situations, stressful situations and a lot of end of the game situations. A lot of those kicks Aaron Medley had against Georgia Tech, even though they were extra points, they were significant. There was a lot of stress with those kicks. It’s not just about our kickers it’s also about our protection. WE will continue to compete. We chart everything in practice. It’s ongoing. I could absolutely see us playing two kickers at some point. I think both have done a great job. I think that with where we are at right now, their skill sets complement each other.”
UF POLICE, FDOT ANNOUNCE FLORIDA ROAD CLOSURES DUE TO FLOODS
From University of Florida Police
FDOT is currently monitoring the water levels at the Santa Fe River and the integrity of the bridges over the river at US 441 and I-75. They anticipate closing both bridges between 3 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET today (Wednesday) due to the rising waters. As a result, traffic will be diverted off the interstate north and south.
The preliminary detour is expected to be the following:
Northbound traffic will be encouraged to exit at SW Williston Rd (SR 121) and be routed to US 301 North. There will be a hard closure at the City of Alachua exit (US441) where all northbound traffic will be routed south to NW 53rd Ave. NW 53rd Ave will turn into one way eastbound traffic to NE Waldo Rd and directed north to US 301. Traffic at N. Main and NE 15ht St and NW 53rd Ave will only be allowed to turn east.
Southbound traffic will be diverted off I-75 in Columbia County and directed to US 19.