Jones expects Vanderbilt to “challenge Vols deep”

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    Butch Jones held his weekly Wednesday press conference as part of UT’s “Media Wednesday,” and Jones came out jovial and ready to go today. He offered up some injury updates, spoke about the seniors of the program, and evaluated Vanderbilt, Tennessee’s upcoming opponent on Saturday.

    Challenging Vanderbilt: Butch Jones spoke about Vanderbilt as he has every opponent the Vols have faced under his watch: He made the Commodores out to be one of the best programs in the SEC and one of Tennessee’s toughest opponents. Jones praised Vandy running back Ralph Webb, saying he “knows how to get north and south” and should be one of the toughest running backs the Vols have faced all season. Jones isn’t wrong about the value of Webb, who has 1,003 rushing yards and 5 scores on the season. But he appears to be Vanderbilt’s only major weapon on offense at this point.

    But according to Jones, the Commodores present more than just Webb as a threat to make plays. Jones warned his team that Vanderbilt can “challenge us deep” and they would have to safeguard against explosive plays. The stats on this one, however, don’t back up Jones. Vanderbilt is last in the SEC in offensive plays over 20 yards and ahead of only Missouri in plays of over 30 yards. In fact, Vanderbilt has managed just 122 plays of 10 or more yards on the season, good for 110th in the country.

    Senior Day Memories: The Vols will be recognizing a handful of seniors during Saturday’s game, and Jones spoke to the value of those players and how much they’ve meant to the team. Jones stated that the seniors have left the program in a better state than when they got here and have “been part of the solution.” And that’s hard to argue. A four-year senior at UT came in during Derek Dooley’s last year, suffered through two 5-7 seasons, and now has a chance to win 8 regular season games.

    Jones also spoke to the importance of his seniors not being “emotionally hijacked” and not treading down memory lane. He claimed there’s time to do that in February and March, but now is not the time.

    Status Report: Once again, wide receiver Marquez North will be a “game time decision” per Butch Jones. So far this season, North has played in 6 games and has only caught 5 passes for 46 yards. Injuries have limited him severely this season, and all the talk of him possibly leaving early after his junior season this year have disappeared.

    In some good news, Jones says he expects freshman wide receiver Jauan Jennings to practice today and to be available on Saturday. Jones also updated the status of freshman linebacker Elliott Berry, saying they expect him to have a scope done on his knee after he finishes his finals. Offensive lineman Jashon Robertson is expected to be a full go this weekend, and the rest of the banged up Vols who are severely hurt should be good to go as well.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.