Butch Jones spoke to the media during his weekly press conference on Monday, and he offered up his thoughts on Tennessee’s 45-24 victory over Virginia Tech at the Battle at Bristol. He also provided updates on some injured Vols.
Jones began by saying he was “very disappointed in our start” against Virginia Tech. The Vols allowed 14 points in the first quarter and were out-gained 204 yards to 26 in the opening quarter. But Jones did note the team played much better from there on out.
“Things I did like: The 31 unanswered points. We made a lot of progress, but there’s a lot of work still to be done.”
Jones also noted that Tennessee was extremely efficient in the red zone, pointing out that the Vols scored touchdowns in four of their five red zone possessions.
Tennessee as a program may not have much experience with their Ohio, their next opponent, but Jones does. He pointed out he coached against them in the MAC title game when he was still at Central Michigan.
Jones didn’t shy away from criticizing the offensive line, but he did offer some levity as well. “I thought Dylan Wiesman played the most complete game of the year,” Jones stated about the offensive guard. He also said the reason Jack Jones saw time against Virginia Tech was because of a solid week of practice.
Injuries: Jones offered up injury updates on several Vols that left the field during Saturday’s Battle at Bristol. Middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr.’s ankle injury appears less serious than initially expected. Jones said Kirkland Jr. will be out this week against Ohio with a high ankle injury and will be evaluated week to week. When asked about who would fill in for Kirkland, Jones offered up several names, including Colton Jumper, Cortez McDowell, and Quart’e Sapp.
Jones also stated defensive end LaTroy Lewis has a high ankle sprain and will miss more time than Kirkland. Lewis is expected to be out at least a couple weeks.
Preston Williams saw very little action against Virginia Tech, and that was apparently due to an injury. Jones stated that Williams “injured his hamstring last Tuesday” and that’s what limited him against the Hokies. Jones also said Evan Berry sustained a hamstring injury during the game, and they would know more later on Monday.
Jones also said offensive lineman Chance Hall “is making remarkable progress” but is still at least two weeks out from coming back.
Defensive scheme: Jones let on about a couple different ways Tennessee’s defense operates during his press conference that could affect games going forward.
In regards to Darrin Kirkland Jr.’s injury, Jones noted that both the Mike and Will linebacker spots are “pretty much interchangeable” in Tennessee’s defense. Meaning Jalen Reeves-Maybin could slide over to middle linebacker if need be and the coaching staff wouldn’t feel like the defense would miss a beat.
Jones also said they could take advantage of the versatility in their secondary and will consider moving Malik Foreman from his nickel spot over to the second cornerback spot opposite Cam Sutton.