HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
"Good afternoon, first off I would like to with our thoughts and our prayers go out to Ben Flick and the entire University of Cincinnati football family, the University of Cincinnati community. Our thoughts and our prayers for a speedy recovery Javon Harrison and Mark Barr. It is events like this that puts things into perspective. I want them to know that we are thinking about them. Also, our VFL Dan Williams who lost his father in a tragic car accident on his way to the game. I want them to know that they are being though of here in Knoxville.
"Moving forward, Nate Peterman underwent surgery today on his hand. No timetable has been set yet for his return. I will know a little more probably later this week. So that is the status of Nate. I think everything we talk about in our football program is creating a standard of performance and that standard of performance is in our values, it is in our beliefs. The score will take care of itself if you take care of the small details and the small details add up to the big details. Last week, last Saturday, we didn't take care of the small details and the big details.
"You can't win football games if you turn the football over, we had six turnovers. We spoke about one of the keys to the game was third down conversions, getting off the field defensively, then offensively not relying on third down conversions and explosive plays. The other thing I didn't think, I didn't think we managed the critical situations, the critical downs, the critical stages of the game. A lot of times the game can be shaped whether you win or lose by two to three plays, I didn't think we really managed those situations particularly well. You never know which two to three plays are going to make the difference in the football game.
"Moving forward we will find out a lot more about our football team, our competitive character, our leadership, this senior class, the way we approach this week, our preparation, controlling what we can control and getting ready for a very good South Alabama football team. I think everything is how we respond. I meant it, for the first time I really felt remorse in the locker room, I thought our players laid it on the line, they were visibly upset. When you invest more you put more into it, it is direct correlation to your commitment level. It is how do we respond.
"There is a lot of football left to be played. We shouldn't even be up here talking about this, how we respond. But I think that is part of the evolution, the growing stages that we are going through with this football team. I am understanding that we live in a week to week world, we live in a week to week society, your judged on your results one week at a time. You have to continue to grow and get better and that is what we are looking forward to.
"We are going to need everyone's support Saturday in Neyland. It starts with our great fan base, proving that we are united, that we stay together. Also our student body. I have to do a much better job of the head football coach of the University of Tennessee of getting our student body involved. We should sell out our student body tickets every single home game, that is the expectation that we have and it is up to me. I will do anything and everything for our student body. We need them. We are all one Tennessee coming together.
"You have South Alabama coming in here not feeling sorry for us. They had a bye week, they had an extra week of preparation. Defensively - athletic, physical, very aggressive, bring a lot of pressure and they play very good team defense. Very well-coached football team. With their discipline, with their fundamentals. Coach Jones has done a great job there. Then offensively, their quarterbacks they like to run the quarterback. They have a good uptempo in their offense and they try to get the ball on the edges. They do a great job of their play calling, screens, and running the ball at you and deep play action balls when you are coming up. We have to do a great job, we have to be ready for anything and everything come Saturday."
(On Justin Worley starting this Saturday)
"As of right now Justin Worley is the starter."
(On distributing reps to the freshman quarterbacks)
"The way we do things, usually our number 2 quarterback gets equally number of reps as our number 1. A lot of people say well how do you have that much time. It is pretty much the same, it may be the difference of about 5 or 6 snaps in practice but both freshman quarterbacks will get ample amounts of repetitions. We have to do a great job of getting them ready to play mentally and then physically as well."
(On the freshman quarterbacks)
"Just like anything in our program they are going to have to earn their spot."
(On what he wants to see from the freshman quarterbacks)
"I think a confidence level, the ability to manage our offense, that leadership aspect, that command presence, that alpha male. We will try to simulate as many game like conditions as possible but as we all know you can't simulate it until there are people in the stands and it is for real. The one who makes the least mistakes, the one who doesn't take chances with the football, the one who understands what we are doing, the power of why. Why are we trying to do this. The ability to take care of the football which we didn't do a good job against Florida and you cannot turn the football over. That is in our plan to win, when you execute it you have a chance to be in every game but when you turn the football over you are not giving yourself an opportunity."
(On how long Justin Worley will be out)
"It will be at least four weeks. He will not play this week."
(On the play of the offensive line)
"They have been challenged because they have played two of the better defensive lines in the country with Oregon and Florida, they are disruptive. We still have to get more physical. I said it when I came in here and watched film. I have challenged them, they are very prideful, it is their pad level, it is finishing plays. I think everyone thinks our line should just dominate their opponent on every single play and if it is a four-yard gain it is not a good yard gain, four-yard gains are good and we are playing talented defensive fronts. I thought we took some strides moving forward, I thought we protected the passer much better in the second half. But I need more in terms of physicality and finishing plays and they understand that and they know that. We are continuing to work on that. The hardest thing to teach with an offensive lineman is your pad level and playing with a low center of gravity, a low pad level, is a direct by product of being physical. We are working on that each and every day."
(On not generating big plays)
"The big plays is hurting everyone, the minus the big plays. Everyone wants to point towards the offensive line but it is our entire offense. When you don't have big, explosive plays you can't be perfect, I say it week in and week out, in the world of college football. You need big chunk plays, we need somebody to turn a five-yard hitch into a 35-yard gain and that helps the quarterbacks as well. What is happening now is your body of work is on video now, so everyone now had four games on us and if you have to prove you can beat man coverage or you are going to keep seeing it. We live in a copycat type deal where coaches are going to follow game plans of other opponents that have had success, that is the way football works. You have to be able to prove that you can beat certain things, just explosive plays, trying to manufacture explosive plays, that is critical as we continue to evolve. That is hurting us right now on offense."
(On the offense developing)
"I do see that development. Having Alton Howard back was a big boost for us this past Saturday. But again now Alton needs to understand the small details, the work that goes into and preparation that goes into it from a mental standpoint, the physical standpoint but also taking care of your body to be able to perform at a high level. That is that standard of performance. His role will increase as he proves he is capable of handling that role. We spoke about it yesterday with him.Marquez North will get better, he is a true freshman. Josh Smith will get better. Jason Croom is starting to do some good things for us. Again, it is that consistency in performance that I think we are lacking right now as an offense. It is a group identity, it is not just the offensive line or the quarterbacks or the wide receivers, it is an entire body of work by the offense. I just think a high level of consistency, being able to run the ball efficiently every time we run the football. Not having a minus one-yard gain and then a five-yard gain, we want four-yards, get four-yards and then the yardage will come. It is the running backs with the ability to make individuals miss in space, finishing runs and then playing with an uptempo, we have to play faster as well. It is everything that is a work in progress offensively."
(On if Worley's confidence needs rebuilding)
"No, he understands. I thought he took some strides moving forward. In the second half, here's one play in particular and never ever make that mistake again. Our quarterbacks can't make catastrophic mistakes. They have to eliminate the catastrophic plays. The one where he flushed the pocket and he's trying to throw the ball out of bounds and he doesn't do it and they make a play on it and it's an interception. Throw the ball away. Leave no doubt. I said it after the game, sometimes punt's the only play. Let's get to fourth down and play field position. Those are all things that we'll continue to strive and we'll work, but I did think he took some steps moving forward Saturday."
(On if Worley responded the way he wanted)
"I did. There's a lot on that young man's plate. I think we forget that these are still 17-22 year old student-athletes. These aren't professional football players. I think we get caught up in all of that. They have families, they have friends, and they have people that are there at the games. They're very prideful individuals. You look at Justin (Worley), the setback of when you're a competitor it hurts when you're not the starter, but the way he managed his business and when he got his opportunity he didn't feel sorry for himself. He went in there and he was leading. If you noticed in the huddle, when he wasn't in, he was still leading. Those are all the other things that I look for in a quarterback intangibles and I was very pleased with that aspect."
(On Brian Randolph's knee)
"I haven't seen really much affects with the knee. Brian Randolph is an individual, when we talk about consistency and performance, you know what you're getting with Brian every day. You know what he's selling, you know what he's bringing to the table, and the thing I like is I think you're starting to see a little more passion, a little more energy, a little more confidence in the way his demeanor is, his body language on the field. I've been really really pleased with the way he's playing right now."
(On Brian Randolph)
"Yeah, he's an individual, which you want him to, he internalizes everything. If you're a competitor, you relive every single play in your mind. We also have what's called, when you're playing the game, a snap and clear mentality. You can't let that play beat you the next play. You have to line up, you have to play the snap, and clear it from your mind. Then you go back once the game is over with and you relive those moments, improvements, and angles to the football. Quite simply, great defenses play great team defense. Our nickel, Justin (Coleman) did a great job of coming up and setting the point, turning the ball in. Our nickel just has to run his feet and make the play and he falls down, then Brian (Randolph) takes not the proper angle and the guy runs by him. That's all part of the evolution of greatness, understanding the why and executing. It's a game of inches and we always say inches make the champion. It is a game of inches, the way you run the football, your angles, your hips, and you all have an angle in the hip of the defender or the runner. You have all those things that you practice every day in practice and you coach it, but when it comes in real live game situations, you have to take advantage of your teaching that you've practiced throughout the course of the week."
(On how close the tempo is to where he wants)
"We're not close but a lot of those are two or three and outs. You can't have three and outs. Again, I thought we put our defense in some really negative situations in field position wise. We can't have three and outs. I think that's a byproduct of playing fast and big plays on offense, which we just spoke about, but you can't have three and outs and that's going to be our focus this week."
(On if there's a specific area slowing them down)
"It's something different. Again, it's that consistency in performance, it's dropped balls, an inaccurate ball, a missed run read, and the not finishing the play. I said it last week here, football is the greatest team sport. It's one out of eleven. If one out of eleven doesn't do their job, you're not going to be successful. We'll continue to work exceptionally hard on that."
(On if Curt Maggitt will play Saturday)
"I don't think so. I think Curt is going to be week to week on how he progresses. He's coming off of two surgeries and he's really trying. He's still out there but right now I don't want to come in here and lead everyone on. Every week I tell you I think he's ready. I'd rather expect the worst and if it happens, it happens. Right now I wouldn't count on him playing."
(On if redshirting him is an option)
"We'll see where we're at in the season. If this season continues to progress, a lot of it will depend on his wishes and his family's wishes as well."
(On the number of freshman played)
"As we continue to move forward in this program, I don't think it's much so the freshmen or the redshirt freshmen that are playing. It's the roles they have in your program. A lot of those freshmen and redshirt freshmen have dominate roles if they're starters. The one thing you can't put a price tag on is experience. We should get to a point at the University of Tennessee where we're bringing in the best of the best in recruiting classes and student-athletes. When you bring in and you attract the highest caliber student-athlete in the country to come to Tennessee, naturally they're going to play as true freshmen. I think it's their roles. Each year is different. Each position group is different. Right now, I would probably say we have too many freshmen in expanded roles. Right now, everything is about gaining confidence and a lot of times you may ease a true freshmen in to playing on one or two special teams and you can take your time and you can develop them and maybe they're ready by week six, week seven. Now they're ready, they have that confidence. They have that development where we haven't been afforded that luxury. It is what it is. They have to step in and they have to play. It's a whole balancing act because now you have to make sure that you don't set back their development process for year two, year three, or year four. What does that mean? The guys that are redshirting right now, or that we're intending on redshirting, they're going through a different lift cycle. They're going through developmental lifts. They're on a completely different development routine than our travel team. Those are all things that, I've been in situations where we have to, so you have to do your due diligence in the development of your players."
(On Jalen Reeves-Maybin)
"We are. We did not want to rush Jalen. He's coming off the shoulder surgery. I thought, one of the positives, Jalen stepped up and really did some good things for us on special teams Saturday. I really liked his intensity. I liked what he brought to the table."
(On the young secondary)
"They're learning under fire. We don't have anyone else. So, they have to go. I think Willie Martinez has done a great job of really trying to force feed them in the fundamentals and the small details that it takes to play defensive back at a high level. I think what you see, is you see a group that is continuing to get better. Will we be challenged this week? Yes we'll be challenged. They'll be challenged each and every week. Some individuals are progressing at a more rapid pace than some of the other ones but as a group I think they're continuing to get better."
(On how to deal with family members publicly calling for playing time)
"That's something that I'll address with them. We continue to educate our players and our families. We've only been here for a short period of time. Let's just say that's part of our Vol For Life program and that's a work in progress and I'll handle that. You always ask the difficult questions."
(On Arian Foster's comments)
"Arian's an individual that, in a very small period of time, I've gotten to know. We have not spoken yet and all I can speak of is our current situation. We have an administration. We have a complete athletic department that's totally aligned in our philosophies and our beliefs and our education of the student-athlete. We spend an inordinate amount of time with the education process of our football players and the do's and the don'ts. We have a full time compliance officer. I think we're one of the very few schools in the country that actually has a compliance officer right in our football offices in our building who's a tremendous resource for us. We have weekly education sessions with our players, so that's part of our program moving forward since we've walked in the door. Since Dave Hart has been the athletic director here, that has been at the forefront of not just football but our entire athletic department."
(On Devaun Swafford)
“Well Devaun is a great story. Again, he’s a walk-on who’s done a tremendous job and when we were evaluating Malik Foreman, there was another individual who kept making plays on the film. So we kept asking about him and you know part of being a successful football program at this level is having a very successful walk-on program and with the limitation in scholarships, you need walk-ons to have roles in your program. He’s an individual who’s doing a tremendous job for us, again he’s learning through fire – the good, the bad – but he’s extremely competitive. He takes coaching and he’s very athletic. As the season progresses and fully expect him to get better and progress as well.”
(On student attendance)
“Well it’s challenging you know and there are some ideas I have once the season is concluded and in to spring football, trying to build ownership with them and also bring them in and let them see what we’re doing and really involve them in our football program. I’ve met with a lot of our on campus organizations and our student government and I think it’s an ongoing education in terms of, I want to say 80 or 90 percent of our student body is from the state of Tennessee. They grew up being Vol fans and we need to get them in the stands. That’s part of the educational process, that’s part of the institution, it’s a pride of who we are and I never want to create anything where it’s the students and the football team. We are student-athletes, we are part of the student body and I’m part of them and that’s why I walk around campus, that’s why I go in the bookstore, that’s why I’m around and I think they need to know that I have to be visible and I just need to continue to tell them that they’re an important part of what we’re building here at Tennessee.”
(More on student attendance)
“Well I wouldn’t say disheartening. I would say exciting because it’s getting them there, it’s a challenge, it’s educating them. It’s an opportunity I would say. I think it starts when an individual walks in as a freshmen and really educating them on ‘hey, there’s only one Tennessee’. Neyland Stadium is very very special and them knowing that we need them, that they’re a part of us that they can directly influence and impact a game. So I think they big thing is them knowing that they’re wanted and they’re needed.”
(On big plays)
“Well I just think it’s choices. It’s the decision making process with the football. I don’t ever think of taking chances. It’s a confidence level. I’ll give you a great example, Alton Howard made a great play in the game on Saturday. He made a great choice with the football. It’s supposed to be a double reverse, we have a double reverse coming and there is penetration and instead of flipping it to the guy who is running around, he gets the ball and he gets north and south and gains nine yards. Instead of being reckless or careless with the football he made a great choice and we try to – even when we practice that in practice we try to create those type of situations – but I think it’s confidence and taking care of the football and when you prove that you can take care of the football we’ll call more of those plays because we have confidence in it.”
(On Corey Vereen)
“Well Corey had 7 snaps on Saturday. They were a very productive 7 snaps, just having him back on the field gave us another edge presence. You could see the difference on the get off, he impacted the quarterback on a number of plays. We anticipate, obviously with his health, he’ll play more plays this Saturday as he continues to progress. Just his whole mindset is what we want here. You know his preparation – the kids laugh – he stretches for an hour a day. All you have to do is tell him one thing, if I say ‘hydrate, here is a gallon of water’ he’ll go drink two gallons of water. He is hungry for greatness. He has that inner drive that the special players have. He’s always in watching extra film. There are a couple days I’m going home and I look out in the indoor and there’s a guy running sprints and it’s Corey Vereen. It’s important to him. He’s a good student, he does everything that we ask of him. I’m excited and it’s a complement to our training staff, to our doctors, and to him that he’s back at this point in time after going through knee surgery and again that’s his work ethic, that’s his mentality.”
(On having more players like Corey Vereen)
“Absolutely, you know our kids when I walk in the locker room are talking about how much Vereen stretches. Everything in our program is about flexibility so just by them talking about it, he’s making an impact.”
(On how the defense played against Florida)
“You know I’m glad you brought up Marlon Walls because I thought he had one of his best performances. You know Marlon is, again, has been a great leader. It’s important to him and I thought he played his best football at Florida and we’re going to need him obviously as we continue to progress here. Still a work in progress, it’s still – we need to do a much better job of using our hands, running our feet. We use a term called the junction point. The junction point is really your block destruction, getting off blocks. We have to do a much better job that way but I did think we were able to apply pressure. I thought there were numerous times we were able to impact the quarterback and I thought we did take some steps positively and moving forward.”
(On Riley Ferguson traveling to Florida and Josh Dobbs staying in Knoxville)
“Absolutely no indication of who’s ahead of each other. It’s one of those extremely challenging and difficult situations that you have to make as a coaching staff. There are travel limitations within the SEC and so you can only take a certain amount of players on the road and because we thought we needed more help in different areas and on special teams we only had the luxury of traveling three quarterbacks and it is zero indication of who is ahead of each other. It just came down to a decision and we made it and we’re moving forward.”
(On the offensive line remaining still when they thought Florida jumped offsides)
“We have to do, and again we talk about big splash plays and we talk about running the offense, we also have to do a better job of controlling the cadence. You know the cadence is so critical with the defensive fronts that we play and that’s one of the small areas we feel we can control is the cadence. It’s a decision making process and it’s one of those, it was real close and that play has been effective for us and again it’s providing the offensive line relief and even thought it was a negative, I think it still helped us in a positive regards moving forward in the game just because the difference in tempos and cadences.”
(On when Nathan Peterman got hurt)
“We can’t pinpoint the exact time when he hurt his hand and he couldn’t tell us. When you’re playing in a game and you’re filled with emotion and adrenaline and you have that going through so your body operates differently so we don’t know when that occurred in the game.”
(On having played the best offense and defense in the country in Oregon and Florida)
“Well I know a lot more than I did three weeks ago but it’s still ongoing. We’re in the process of building our identity and this week will tell me a lot and I’ve challenged them. It’s all about leadership and I told them last week after the Oregon game that we had to be a much more mentality tough football team and we took strides in that area. Are we anywhere where we need to be? No, we aren’t even close to where we need to be from a physicality standpoint or a mental toughness standpoint. Our teams in the past, that’s one of the things if you watched our teams play, that stuck out. We’re in the process of building that and sometimes that takes a lot of time because you’re dealing with human nature. You’re dealing with a mentality aspect but our kids have bought into that, our kids are starting to speak our language. They’re starting to see it more, they’re starting to demand more from themselves when they see their body of work on the video but we have a long ways to go in that area but it’s evolving and it is progressing and I did think we took a step in the right direction positively Saturday afternoon against Florida. Now let’s see. Let’s see how much we progress heading into South Alabama this week and that’s going to be my challenge to this football team.”
SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN JA'WUAN JAMES
(On continuing to increase offensive tempo)
"The next step is just working. We've got to keep working at it. We've been in the system since this spring, so we've got to put a lot of work into it. Right now our offense isn't doing a great job. We're not doing a good job at all. That starts with leaders. As a senior, I've got to make sure that I direct guys in the right direction and lead as I can, so that we can help the defense out."
(On the offensive line matching up against Florida)
"I think that was probably the best D-line in the country. I feel like we battled. It was a battle, one of those SEC battles. In certain areas, they got us, and in certain areas, we got them, so I think it went back and forth throughout the day."
(On play where line didn't move)
"We're taught that if the guy jumps offside, you've got to snap it, and as an offensive line, you don't move at all. That's what Coach (Mike) Bajakian teaches us because they don't want any confusion between the refs on who caused the neutral zone infraction. We're taught to not move until the quarterback gets done and tells us `Chill, chill, chill."
(On Justin Worley's response to playing after being benched)
"I feel like he did well. He remained the same as he always has been even at the start of the game. When we were huddled on the sideline, he was encouraging us by saying let's go. In pregame, when he knew he wasn't starting, he was coming up to the line saying protect them. When he got in the game, he took control of his opportunity, and I feel like he played very well."
(On playing at Coach Jones' tempo)
"As an offensive line, our job is to protect whoever is behind us and play to the best of our abilities. We have to block, and we have to move just as fast."
(On recapping the Rajion Neal fumble)
"That was miscommunication. Guys were getting wrong signals from the sidelines, but things like that can be fixed. It was a bad mistake to have, especially in the red zone. It can definitely be fixed."
(On missing the block that led to the fumble)
"It was two different calls. The receivers had one call, the running backs had another call, and they gave the offensive line a different call. Everyone was doing different things."
(On noticing Nathan Peterman's injury)
"I didn't know he was hurt at first. I know he told me after the game that he was feeling kind of hurt after losing the ball, and the defensive lineman caught it. He didn't show any signs of it."
(On Nathan Peterman being able to bounce back)
"I talked to him on the bus ride, and I let him know that you are going to make mistakes. You can't let one game define your whole career. He is only a freshman, and I had to play as a freshman too. I let him know that you will get a lot of criticism, especially from guys in the media and stuff like that. I told him to put your head down and keep working, and when the opportunity comes again just be ready."
(On safeties blitzing more)
"It is tough. We don't have guys yet who have proven they can be playmakers. Everyone is watching our film and saying how can we defend them. If they don't see any playmakers, they feel like they can play man to man across the board at each position, and they bring those safeties up to make it harder for us to run. We need someone to definitely step up as a playmaker so people will respect our passing game."
RS SENIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN MARLON WALLS
(On Devaun Swafford interception and Jeff Driskel Injury)
"It was a play where I was just trying to get to the quarterback and affect him anyway I can. Unfortunately, I landed on his leg, and I didn't even notice it until he went down and started screaming. Really, it was just a bang-bang play. I was just out there playing football, and I didn't intend to hurt anybody. It was just a football play, and I've already reached out to him (Driskel) to let him know `get better.' It was just a football play, trying to make a play for my defense."
(On reaching out to Driskel)
"I sent him a message on Twitter just saying `I know what kind of competitor you are. I know you'll compete and come back even better.'"
(On Corey Vereen Saturday)
“He is explosive. We kind of questioned how explosive he would be after the knee injury, but he got it back. It is exciting to see because we could always use another pass rusher. i am looking forward to watching him this week. He has been progressing really well. He got his speed back, and that is something we could use on the defensive line."
(On his improved play)
"Coach Strip (Stripling) does a great job of teaching us that as a defensive line, we control the line of scrimmage by penetrating. I think we're finally starting to get it. We can really impact the defense by getting up the field and causing havoc in the backfield. We're really starting to take heed of what he's telling us to do and we're just trying to get more penetration."
(On if Florida game being one of the best of his career)
"I think so. It's kind of a bittersweet deal because we still got the loss and all of that doesn't even matter anymore. I think Coach Strip is doing a great job of teaching. I think I'm getting better just by listening to what he's telling me to do, and I feel like I'm starting to progress a little bit just by listening to him."
(On troubles with third-down defense)
"I know for me, I saw the film yesterday, and I feel like on third down, we were really close to getting to the quarterback or even just getting in his way, so I think that as a defensive line, we need to learn how to finish the play as opposed to getting there and slowing down a little bit. I think we've just got to learn how to finish. Those little plays, we can really impact them by getting in his way, throwing our hands up in front of his face. As a D-line, that's something we need to get better at on 3rd down, just penetrating the quarterback."
SENIOR LINEBACKER DONTAVIS SAPP
(On improvements on defense)
"We have definitely seen improvements. We had a bad loss at Oregon. We came out last week and fought like we will always do. We came back to work that week and kept grinding. We kept communicating and emphasizing the things that we needed to do, and we got it done. I saw no quit in the defense. We kept going till the last play. I definitely saw improvement."
(On creating turnovers by getting penetration)
"Of course, it was Florida week, and you want that game. We knew it was our job to get a little penetration and help this defense out, so we really took heed to that. Before the game, we emphasized that, get off the field."
(On troubles with third-down defense)
"When the play presents itself, we've got to make it. Keep communicating well, and pretty much we've just got to make the play when the time comes."