Injury notes: Butch Jones said the bye week came at the appropriate time for Tennessee and that he “fully expects” everybody back for the Alabama game except for wide receiver Jason Croom (knee), who hasn’t played this season yet. He did clarify that he would know more later in the week on some players, especially offensive linemen Jashon Robertson and Brett Kendrick, both of whom missed much of the Georgia game last week.
Freshmen Jack Jones and Chance Hall will get “valuable reps” in practice, per Butch Jones, as they prepare them, as well as the injured players, to potentially play in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The Vols played much of the second half against UGA with the offensive line of Kyler Kerbyson, Dylan Wiesman, Coleman Thomas, Jones and Hall.
Receiver Marquez North remains listed as a starting receiver despite missing the past few games with a sore back.
“Impressive” Alabama: Butch Jones had plenty of opportunities over the bye to assess No. 8 Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC), a team coming off an impressive 41-23 win at Texas A&M on Saturday.
“The term that comes to my mind after watching Alabama on video is impressive,” Jones said. “They are an impressive football team. I think the statistics and their body of work speaks for themselves.”
Alabama leads the SEC in total defense, interceptions, pass-defense efficiency, rushing defense and is second in scoring defense. Offensively, the numbers aren’t quite as gaudy, but Alabama is ranked in the top six in the SEC in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense. Alabama leads the league in takeaways and is fourth in turnover margin.
“They are very, very talented,” Jones added. “They are as talented of a football team that we have faced so far, when you look at the number of NFL draft choices that are in their program. When NFL scouts come through, I always ask them about our opponents. How many prospects does each program have? [Alabama] has been at the pinnacle of that. There’s a number of individuals on both sides of the ball that will have long and productive years in the National Football League. That’s a byproduct of recruiting and development and standing the test of time over a long period of time. They have done a great job with that.”
Kamara’s return to Alabama: Saturday will mark Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara’s return to Tuscaloosa for a game for the first time since the redshirt sophomore running back left the program after spending one year there as a redshirt in 2013. Kamara detoured through Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in 2014 before signing with the Vols as a five-star JUCO prospect in the 2015 season.
Jones hasn’t seen much change in his demeanor this week as he gets ready to face his former team.
“Well, you know Alvin is a competitive of a young man that we have in our football program,” Jones said. “I know when he talks about his time at Alabama, he talks about the respect that he has for that football program. He still has a number of friends on that football team, but really we don’t talk about it a lot. Alvin, is a very determined very confident young man, but he’s very focused and very determined, and he doesn’t talk much about the past.
“Everything is about the present and moving forward, and that’s what I like about him. So, I don’t see his approach changing at all from this game to any other game. As far as the run game, that’s something that we take great pride in. Obviously we’ve made mark progress with that this year, and we’re going to be challenged on Saturday.”
Opening line: Alabama opened as a 14.5-point favorite over Tennessee, according to Vegas Insider. That’s the most Tennessee has been an underdog so far in the 2015 season.
Game-times announced: CBS confirmed over the weekend that UT-Alabama will be the 3:30 pm ET CBS game on Saturday. CBS initially used a six-day extension to decide if it wanted to go to either Ole Miss-Texas A&M or UT-Alabama.
Tennessee will play Kentucky at 7:30 pm ET on the SEC Network on Oct. 31.