Butch Jones updated the status of quarterback Justin Worley, left guard Marcus Jackson and right tackle Coleman Thomas at his weekly press conference on Monday.
Jones expects Worley (shoulder) and Jackson to return to the practice field on Monday and is still waiting on Coleman Thomas. He expects to know more about the true freshman offensive tackle as the week continues. Ultimately, he expects all three to be be able to play on Saturday against No. 4 Alabama.
Wide receiver Josh Smith (ankle) will start running on the practice field, but Jones classified him as a “long shot” to play against Alabama. Jones went on to say that they’ve missed Smith immensely as a playmaker and a leader and they aren’t, at this point, entertaining the idea of sitting him the rest of the year and getting him a medical hardship.
Other key press conference takeaways:
• Jones was asked several questions about Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville this weekend. He, as expected, downplayed it, saying that most of the players “aren’t aware” of that storyline and he said he wouldn’t address it. He said this game means everything to UT and the fanbase because it’s Alabama, not because of Kiffin. He went on to say that he’d never met Kiffin in person. We’ll write more about this storyline as the week progresses.
• Jones harped on the missed opportunities from the Ole Miss game – “We thought we had great opportunities for a couple interceptions, we had the right defensive call with the right down-and-distance. You know, robbing a dig route and we are waiting for it to be thrown and it is thrown and we kind of freeze in the moment. We have a long run down the sidelines and if our receiver continues to run off in the man coverage or block his guy there is a great chance we are going to score on that play. Missed passes, missed opportunities. So again, when your opportunities present itself you have to make plays.”
• Jones said that Cam Sutton started talking about matching up with Laquon Treadwell in the fourth quarter of the UTC game as soon as that contest was out of reach. Jones expects Sutton to be matched up with Alabama star receiver Amari Cooper for much of Saturday’s game, but said that it will be impossible for him to cover him every play due to the way that they move him around before the snap. Sutton went on to say that he’s excited for these matchups against elite WRs and has been ever since he’s seen the film.
• Though the injury situation could play into it, Jones didn’t commit to any changes on the offensive line. He said Brett Kendrick did some good things at tackle and also noted that Jacob Gilliam isn’t quite ready from a quickness standpoint coming off his torn ACL, but said “he’ll get there.”
• Jones has been talking about the notion of complimentary football for a few weeks in terms of the offense, defense and special teams working together. He said he needs to see it within the offense as well going forward. The sacks and the negative plays are all contributed to by that entire unit, not just the o-line. He wants to see Justin Worley get rid of the ball quicker, receivers and running backs make more plays and called that group family – pointing out the need to help each other.
• High praise for Josh Malone from Jones: “Josh is one of those individuals we spoke about, about being assertive, being more assertive. Again, just playing fast, and I thought he played fast. I thought it was his best game he’s played to date. He attacked the ball in the air. He ran routes with confidence. He played with confidence and he showed a little bit of his skill set. We’re going to need more of that moving forward.