Tennessee will have an important piece of its defense back this week as the Vols get ready for Florida.
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Danny O’Brien has been reinstated after a two-week suspension that saw him miss the game against Oklahoma in Week 2 and Western Carolina in Week 3, coach Butch Jones confirmed at his press conference Monday.
O’Brien started the opener against Bowling Green, recording two tackles and a sack against the Falcons. Though Jones said O’Brien will be back on the practice field Monday afternoon, he also said he’ll have to earn everything going forward have missed this period of time, reportedly for failing a drug test.
Jones also confirmed that receiver Jason Croom (knee), who hasn’t played this season, is still a couple weeks away from returning. Safety Max Arnold is questionable for the Florida game and running back/return man Ralph David Abernathy IV remains out.
Florida’s defense “impressive”: Much of the talk on Monday centered on Florida defense, which Jones said could best be described best as “impressive.” The Gators are ranked second in the SEC in scoring defense (15.3 ppg), first in total defense (258 ypg), first in rushing defense (55.3 ypg) and eighth in passing defense (202.7 ypg).
While the Gators haven’t played top-tier talent yet (New Mexico State, ECU, Kentucky), it appears that much of the defensive talent brought in by former coach Will Muschamp remains in Gainesville.
“What can I say about their defense?” said Jones. “I don’t know if there are one or two adjectives that could describe it. The word that comes to my mind is impressive. Last week, they held a team to eight completions. They are number one or two in every statistical category, and deservingly so. They are deep. I believe they play 10 on the defensive line. They have the ability to play press-man coverage. They are as good of a defense that we have seen since we have been here. They are active, explosive and get after it. I think that the results speak for themselves.”
Vols deflecting talk of the streak: It was pretty clear what the unified message was from Tennessee when it came to discussing the Vols’ current 10-game losing streak against the Gators: That was the past, all that matters is focusing on this week.
“No,” Jones said when asked if he discusses the streak. “Well, first of all, only 12 individuals on our roster went to Florida. That is for you guys to talk about all week long. What matters is our preparation and becoming a better football team. The challenge that lies ahead of us is playing a really talented football team that is 3-0. All we can control is our work ethic, our mindset, our improvement, our preparation and the go execute on Saturday. That is all you can do. Every game is critical. We don’t put more emphasis on one compared to another because you still have so many games left.”
Cornerback Cam Sutton, reflecting the general consensus of the four players who spoke on Monday, said there’s been no talk about UT’s recent failures against Florida. Sutton went as far as to say he didn’t even know what the streak was at heading into the 2015 matchup in Gainesville. Jones also downplayed talk about the overall importance of this game for the season and his tenure at UT.
“Everything is about preparation, and before you want to talk about this is the most important game and everything, it’s not the most important game – it is the most important game in terms of it’s the next game, and that is the way it is,” Jones said. “We live in a week-to-week season. It’s a 12-game season, and we are working to get to 13. This game is important because it’s the next game. Does this game mean a lot to a lot of individuals? Absolutely. But again, everything is about our preparation. Everything is about our approach.”
Tennessee has lost 10 straight to the Gators, dating back to 2004. The Vols’ last win in The Swamp came in 2003 – a 24-10 win for UT.
Williams honored by SEC: Freshman receiver Preston Williams was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week after catching three passes for 98 yards and touchdowns against Western Carolina on Saturday.
Arkansas game time set:
Tennessee will play Arkansas at 7 or 7:30 pm ET on Oct. 3 on ESPN/ESPN2 or the SEC Network. pic.twitter.com/yR7pxbtEGO
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 21, 2015