Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES
"Good afternoon, good to see everyone. We always speak about inches make the difference in the game of football, you are fighting for inches, and really you are fighting for those blades of grass. Which we speak to our football team all the time. Last week's football game was great evidence that four to six plays can be the difference between winning and losing, you never know what four to six plays it will be as the game continues to work itself out. There were a number of plays, not one single play cost us the football game but I think it is a combination, a cumulative effect as you continue to move forward.
"We talk about playing winning football, we take a touchdown off the board, you can't take seven points off the board. We come away with zero points. Trips to the red zone, you have to kick touchdowns, you can't kick field goals. Third-and-one, that is a difference between winning and losing, we don't maintain possession and we have to kick the football. Third-and-long, last drive, you have to get off the field, you have to find a way to impact the quarterback and make a play, we didn't do that. Red zone efficiency, I just spoke about. So when you look at the nuances throughout the course of the game there were some things we did well and obviously things we need to improve on in our last game versus Kentucky. I thought our defense played well enough to win, I thought they did a great job of getting back to, we talk about ball disruptions and taking the football away and I thought they did a great job. But at the end of the day it comes down to making plays when the game is on the line. We didn't make the plays necessary to win the football game. I give Vanderbilt credit, they did. Now we move on. Where we at, we go on the road, we are looking to win on the road. Our whole goal is to be 1 and 0 after this week, 1 and 0 to start the off season to continue to improve and get better.
"Kentucky is a very talented football team in terms of team speed. They are going to challenge us defensively at getting the ball out on the perimeter. Another athletic running quarterback. Defensively, big, strong, physical up front in their defensive front. They play a lot of man coverage. Again we have to prove that we can go on the road and win football games. There is a lot to play for. I think our players understand that. The great thing is watching their body language yesterday, everyone was in the building and everyone was watching film. So I am excited to see their temperament and their demeanor today. But we are still playing for a lot and we are working to be 1 and 0 this week and carry that momentum into the offseason."
(On motivation for the Kentucky game)
"First of all, if you are a competition it is another opportunity to compete. We always talk about competitive character in our football program. So that is first and foremost. You are representing Tennessee. It is another opportunity. For the younger players it is another opportunity to put their football identity and their football resume on film as we continue to build this football program and move forward. It is the last opportunity for our seniors of ever representing Tennessee. So there is a lot of things at stake."
(On Nathan Peterman getting some reps in the final game)
"Joshua Dobbs will be our starting quarterback. I think Josh has continue to progress. I thought Saturday he showed his age a little bit. He rushed his progressions. He had done a great job of going from A to B to C or 1 to 2 to 3, everything was kind of happening very fast for him. So I thought he show a little bit of his age Saturday night. But again, Josh has already been in and that is the maturation phase of a young quarterback playing."
(On the lower number of touchdowns for the offense)
"I think it is not one area. I think it is a combination of a lot of areas. First of all, I just spoke of it, red zone efficiency. We have to score touchdowns in the red zone. I think it is critical mistakes at critical points of the game. Whether it is illegal procedure, a dropped pass, a miss read, a negative yardage football play, all of those snowball effect. I think it is a combination of a lot of little things. As we all know, the little things add up to the big things."
(On if there has been changed Josh Dobbs' confidence)
"No, he is a very poised young man."
(On the emotions of the senior class)
"First of all, Daniel Hood has given this football program everything and more so than what he has. He has great character, he is competitive, he has an affinity for the University of Tennessee and this football team. He has been a tremendous resource for me here and he has been a great spokesperson for our senior class and our entire football team. They have been through a lot and that is why when I sat in here Saturday night I was disappointed and I hurt for them because they have been through so much. We have one more opportunity left as Team 117, as a football family, and then we are moving onto the next year. He has brought so much but I think when it comes from him it is credibility and he has been a great illustration to our younger players about the buy in and what you have to do. Understanding that greatness, being good to being you have to do things outside, you have to do it on your own. You have to come in and you have to do the extra, working your hand strength, one on one pass rush, working the sled on your own. When practices are over with, the great players go over and do the extras, they work on their craft. To be a great football player you have to constantly work on your craft, not only on the field but off the field, in the classroom, studying film, having the FBI that we talk about on a day to day basis, the football intelligence that is associated with playing the game. To be great you have to do that stuff on your own. Those are all great points as we continue to grow and build our football program."
(On how he tells if the process has worked)
"I think that is great question when you ask that. Everyone looks at the win/loss record. I say it every week, as the caretaker of Tennessee football you have to step aside and everyone hurts and everyone is emotional and everyone has scars. We do as coaches as well, when you invest so much in your players, in your football program, in winning, a lot goes into it. I have to be able to step back, take the emotional side out of it and look at the progression from December to where we are at right now. I see tremendous strides. From the mentality of our football team to the energy to the work ethic to all the demands that we placed upon them, our style of play, the standard the expectation. For people that don't play sports, they don't get that. They think you roll the footballs out and you play on Saturday. But the individuals that are in the battle every day and understand the sport, they understand that there are a lot of things that go into it. You are molding the mindset of 17 to 22 year old individuals. That standard of excellence by which we are going to abide by in the classroom, on the field, that is in place. I said in August, we need to get to a bowl game, but success isn't totally measured in that. It is, after year one, we have to make sure the standard, the foundation and everything is in place to continue to move forward. I do believe that that is in place. Do we have a lot of work to do? Absolutely. I say it every week. But i see the progress but sometime it is not measured in wins. But I see it every day."
(On motivating the team for the final game at Kentucky)
"It is a consistency in your approach each and every day. Things aren't changing. Our standard of excellence isn't changing. How we prepare, the mental effort, the mental intensity it takes on a week to week basis. That never waivers. You rely on your seniors, and you rely on your leadership, and you rely on your pride. We are playing for a lot. We are playing for our seniors as well. There is a lot at stake. This game, you never take this game for granted. You never take playing at the University of Tennessee for granted. I keep saying it. It is an honor and a privilege to play here. So it is another opportunity, it is the last opportunity, our life expectancy of Team 117 is down to so many days. We have one more opportunity as a football team and then there will never be another Team 117. There is a lot to play for. That is something we will continue to talk about. But if you have individuals who have competitive greatness, who love to compete, it doesn't matter the circumstances, you compete each and every day."
(On Marquez North)
"Progressing, we'll know more a little bit later today. He's day to day and I'll know more as the week progresses. Right now, he's listed as day to day."
(On conservative passes after two early interceptions)
"Well, when you start off and you have two interceptions that kind of now forces you to come back a little bit. I think more so than that, we never really established a rhythm in our throw game. Everyone wants to point to Josh (Dobbs) with the interceptions and he's the quarterback and you take full responsibility and accountability for that, but it was the other players around him. We run a curl route and our wide receiver slips and falls and that's why the ball was intercepted, but everyone just looks at the interception. So, I always say quarterback praise and blame it's all the same. I think that's a great indication is the other players around him."
"I said it Saturday night when we lost Marquez (North), a big chunk of our offense was removed. It's up to the receivers and running backs and tight ends to paint clear pictures for the quarterback. On the scramble drill, our receiver is supposed to come down hill at an angle. He didn't come down hill at an angle. Yeah, he has to throw the football away and learn to play another down, and sometimes fourth down's a great play because it's the only play. You play field position because we knew it was going to be a field position game. So, I think it's everyone else around him that's responsible for his performance."
(On Ja'Wuan James)
"It says everything. He's a high character individual. Football means everything to him. This football team means everything to him. We talked about Daniel Hood a little earlier. He's been another great spokesman. He holds court at training table and lectures to everyone about mistakes that he made early in his career from the weight room to that standard of performance, of your body is your weapon, of improving your strength and telling stories about his career and talking about man I wish I had another year or two in this football program, and when the younger players hear that, that helps everyone else. I can't say enough about Ja'Wuan. I can't say enough about Daniel Hood, but really the entire senior class. They've all been like that since day one."
(On lack of depth)
"Well, I haven't hidden from the question about our lack of depth. It is what it is. I'm a realist and that's an issue that we have to get corrected in the recruiting process. We have to recruit our way out of our depth issues. You do it through developing your current players, but also going out in the recruitment process. That's an area that we have to continue to grow and develop our younger players in our program right now, but we also need to add to the competitive nature and structure of not just the receiver position, but every position. Recruiting is very, very critical as we move forward. That is, that's a critical element. The thing when you talk about the lack of production and lack of points the last few weeks, I go back to the same issues we had early in the year is big plays. We have not had big plays. We want to be able to throw the ball down the field and play jump ball, and have our wide out go out and get it or tight ends. We just, we haven't been able to execute that part of our offense."
(On if lack of depth limits their playbook)
"No, we're not anywhere where we need to be in terms of our style of play or our identity on offense. It's very difficult to call an offensive game when you start off with a couple interceptions, the elements, it's cold, it's windy, and your best receiver goes out, but that's the way it is. That's football. Next individual in, and when you have that depth, and we'll get to that point, you're able to overcome those things. Right now, we're not able to overcome those circumstances, but we'll get to that point. We'll be able to. It's great to teach lessons to a lot of our younger players too of you never know when your time's going to be called and when your time's called, you better be ready to go."
(On their defensive identity)
"Yeah, I think we've established in terms of our identity and our style of play in which the standard and expectations by which we're going to play football here. We grade loafs, we grade softs, on every single snap. Our players understand now the standard by which it takes to play here, by which it takes to practice. It usually takes a couple of years for that full identity to be born. The transition from year one to year two to year three, year four, year five of established programs is night and day, but that foundation is in place. That is one of the positives that has occurred this season. So, that standard, that expectation is in place. When we go out for spring football in a few months, our players will know where they're going. They'll understand the effort that's needed, the mental effort, the mental intensity it takes to prepare for practice. They will understand that. Now we're going to have a lot of newcomers, which is exciting too, with all of the midyear enrollees, but again now we're rely on our older players to teach them. So, I see a lot of progression in terms of that."
(On balancing running backs)
"Well if an individual is hot, we're going to feed him until they can go no more. The luxury we've had is Marlin Lane has given us some great reps and Rajion Neal has played winning football for us. Everyone can see that he's really changed his style of play. He's playing with a physical presence. That's the improvement again I see in a lot of individuals in our football program. It is a balancing act, but you go with the hot hand. When they can't go, they have the confidence to come out of the game and put the next individual in. Also, when you're play calling you play to the skill sets of your players. We think players not plays. Trying to get different touches and try to manufacture different touches for different players, so each players have kind of their own plays we feel they're better at. So, it's a balancing act. There's a lot of communication that goes on throughout the course of the game in the play calling as well."
(On similarities between his first year at Cincinnati and this season)
"There are some similarities, but there are more differences than similarities. It's been a hard year and I know everyone here hurts. Our fan base has been outstanding. We have the strongest football family in the country. We'll go through adversity together, we all know that great things lie ahead of us, and we're extremely optimistic about the future, and we'll stay together because we're Tennessee. We're one Tennessee. There are some similarities but some differences, and every program is unique and different. There (Cincinnati) with 4-8, we had some older veteran players coming back that really asserted a leadership role. When we come back with this football team, there's going to be some individuals that are going to have to step up and lead this football team, one being Curt Maggitt. We have some older players that now they have to learn what it takes to lead and hold everyone accountable to a standard of excellence. Our attitude, our willingness, our want has been great. There's been zero resistance. Again, it just goes back to developing our style of play in the offseason, being fundamentally sound, developing our players, and recruiting. That's how you improve."
(On it being a holiday week)
"Well, thank you for bringing that up and I meant to say happy thanksgiving to everyone. You are right. You have to step back and you have to be thankful for everything that you have and we have our health, you have your families, we have our families, and we're here at the University of Tennessee. I'm excited and it makes you work that much harder. We had over 97,000 people at that game Saturday night in the elements watching our football team. That's very encouraging to me because when this thing really gets going, it's going to be special. We have a lot to be thankful for. I told our coaching staff today, we are where we're supposed to be. I think there's days like this and times like this where you have to step back and there are a lot of things to be thankful for."
(On if he will do anything special with the guys this week)
"It'll be a consistent approach. We'll do some different things Thursday with it being the seniors' last practice. So, we'll do a couple things there within the traditions of Tennessee football, things that have gone on for a very long period of time here. That's something that we value, our traditions, and we'll continue to do that. We'll eat Thanksgiving Day dinner Wednesday night as a football family. We'll move practice up on Thursday, but pretty much the week in and of itself will stay the same."
(On the downturn in sacks since South Carolina)
"It's always an emphasis. It's all about impacting the quarterback. That's what it's all about. You have to be able to impact the quarterback. So much goes into it, the use of your hands, your techniques, and mentality to get to the passer. That's something that in order to win football games we had that opportunity at the end of the drive and we weren't able to do that. That's something that's always a point of emphasis and we just need to continue to work on it and get better and better with it."
SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN JA’WUAN JAMES
(On motivation for the last game)
"I don't think it will be difficult to get motivated at all. We are all competitive. For the seniors, this is our last college football game. We want to go out there and compete and play to the best of our abilities. I am going to try and make that 60 minutes last as long as I can."
(On the direction of the program under Butch Jones)
"The program is going to be great. It is way different than what I had in the past. He has done so much in this little period of time. The underclassmen have now built that relationship and trust built with him. They can now do everything the right way, which is Coach Jones' way, in order to be successful.
"This upcoming week is big. We need to get a win to go into the offseason. It helps with momentum. My sophomore year, we lost to Kentucky. That offseason compared to last year when we beat Kentucky makes a big difference. A victory helps get good things going into the offseason."
(On difference going to Kentucky this year compared to two years ago)
"It is way different. We have that sense of pride and accountability for the younger guys. We are not going to let them slip up or let this week of practice go to waste just because we lost our opportunity to go to a bowl game. The lifespan to play for Team 117 is down to six days now. We are going to work this week and go out and have fun playing together for one last time."
(On not converting short-yardage situations)
"The one Saturday, they schemed us well. They ran the right defense, and we had guys, you know if you slip up against guys with the right defense then it's going to be hard to get that (first down). The last four (3rd and shorts), like you said, I really don't know how to put a finger on it. You know you could clean up technique from watching and all that, but we just couldn't get that. The defense played better on that play."
(On disappointment of not converting short-yardage situations)
"It's very disappointing. On Saturday when we didn't get it, I'm like `We didn't want to put the defense back on the field.' We said it before during that timeout that we wanted to go out there and get this first down so we can make as much time as possible and get in the end zone, but when something like that happens, you put it on your shoulders. We weren't able to stop them, but I feel like that was more of us not being able to convert with four minutes to go."
(On rushing for over 2,000 yards on the season)
"It's a great accomplishment. Coming into the season, we wanted to protect the quarterback as well as we can and run the ball. We wanted to get a 1,000-yard rusher, and I think Rajion (Neal) is 10 yards away. That'll be a proud moment for him. He hasn't ran for 1,000 yards in his career, and that'll be a proud moment for all of us.
"There's some positive things that we can take out of this season still, and we can take out of this game. I wouldn't change anything about this season. I appreciate these coaches and how they made it, especially for these seniors, guys like me and Mike. We just want to go out here like I said and try to be 1-0, and try to just go out here and have fun."
(On message to quarterbacks going in to the offseason)
"I'll tell them to leave, you know, we're not going to be here anymore. The four seniors up front, we tried to lead and make sure they were comfortable. They're going to have a bunch of new starters now on the offensive line, so whoever's at quarterback, I'll just tell him to instill confidence in them. Try to lead more and instill confidence in the O-Line because they're going to be fresh out there and they haven't been there yet. I have confidence in the line and what they're going to be able to do. It's really just learning to take over the team, you know, take over in the weight room and starting the offensive training in a leadership role."
(On this being the offensive line's last time together)
"We thought about it Saturday before the game about this being the last time in Neyland to play together and the last time the four of us would be on the same team. We're going to go out here like I said and have fun. We're going to enjoy the game we love, enjoy it with the people we love and just go out there and compete."
(On his consecutive starts record)
"I don't even know how to speak about that. I feel lucky, basically. I got an opportunity when I was young, and God blessed me without me getting hurt overall these games. The cool thing was I got to meet the guy (Jeff Smith) whose record I tied this past week after the game. He came up to me after the game and said, `I appreciate you. I've been watching you over the years, and I wouldn't want to tie with any other guy.' He feels like I just need to go out here and keep competing, keep playing and one day somebody will break my record."
(On the offense scoring three touchdowns in past four games)
"It's very frustrating, but our defense I feel like has had our back and played well to give us opportunities, but we've got to have their back as well. Three touchdowns is not acceptable, especially in this league, but we've just got to go out here and practice, practice, practice, and go out here and score some points against Kentucky."
(On how the offense got to that point)
"I really don't know. We've been playing against some good competition, and we've been out here making too many mistakes against good competition. You can't make that many mistakes when you're playing teams like this. We've got to go out there and try to play a complete game as an offense and limit the MA's and technique issues."
SENIOR KICKER/PUNTER MICHAEL PALARDY
(On kicking in the elements on Saturday)
"There are a lot of things that go into kicking. Elements like being worn down and the cold are things you try not to worry about. Sometimes it is a little difficult, but for the most part, it is my job to go out and be as consistent as possible. I can't control the weather. I can't control the condition of things like Saturday. I have to adjust accordingly and go from there."
(On preparing for cold games differently than normal)
"You try and stay as warm as possible. I am not moving around like any other position on the field. I am sitting on the sideline. I stay by the heaters to keep my feet warm. It is kind of tough and difficult when it is windy. When those two elements combine, they aren't good for a kicker or punter. For the most part, it is still the same preparation. You have to prepare for games the same way. You want to get the same result."
(On attempting to kick instead of faking the field goal)
"Coach called it from the sideline, and I did what I was told. He thought it would work, and we have been preparing for it all year if the situation every occurred. He felt we could get it, but Vanderbilt covered it well. It didn't work out. When I go out there, I do whatever I am told."
(On the direction the program is heading in under Butch Jones)
"I have so much confidence in this coaching staff and the young guys on this team. I know we lose a lot of seniors, but the fact that we have so many young guys that have experience in games; they get to show the new guys coming in during the spring or fall how things should be done. Coach Jones is implementing a system where situations like this never happen again.
"I have the upmost confidence in this coaching staff. Like Ja'Wuan said, we are focused on this game. It starts a win streak. We don't want to give up on ourselves or on this team because we want to end strong, positive, and with a 1-0 to start a winning streak for teams to come."
(On difference in leadership this year compared to 2011 Kentucky game)
"Absolutely. I think it's like night and day. Our senior class has been through so much together, so much adversity and Coach Jones always says `Football is life just sped up faster.' I think all of the adversity that we've gone through in the past four years has made us not only better players but better men as well, so we can pass that on to the younger guys and show them `You're going to hit adversity, you're going to hit bumps in the road, but it's how you overcome that adversity that makes you who you are not only as a man but as a player as well.' We've got to maintain that confidence this week in our preparation so we can go out on top and go in to Kentucky in Lexington and win."
(On importance of ending road losing streak)
"It's been a while since we've won a true road game. Like me and Ja'Wuan said, we've got to finish 1-0 so we can start a streak for teams to come. That's kind of the biggest thing, the most important thing, to show that we're not giving up on each other, on the coaches and on our team. We've only got so much time left together. We want to enjoy it this week, and we want to prepare the best way that we can to go in to Lexington and get a win."
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