Butch Jones addressed the media on Friday for his normal mid-week press conference. Due to the Monday game, UT moved the media availability back in order to still be three days before the Vols take the field.
Here are the notes from what Coach Jones had to say:
Kirkland To Miss Season
Jones confirmed a report earlier this morning that junior linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. will miss the entire season with a knee injury.
“It wasn’t the news we wanted to hear. He will be out the entire season,” he said in his opening statement.
“It’s all about moving forward. We have some individuals who have played a lot of snaps for us. Dillon Bates, and freshman Will Ignont at the Mike position. We’ll move on. That’s football.”
You can read more about Kirkland’s injury here.
Quarterbacks and Kickers Still Competing
It’s not a surprise that Jones still hasn’t announced a starting quarterback for Monday’s game. But he did tip his hand just a little bit as to whether Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano will start.
“Through video study, we have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for us, and we have a pretty good idea who the quarterback will be for them,” Jones said.
He added later on that there has been an ongoing dialogue between the coaching staff and both quarterbacks in the competition. Without Joshua Dobbs behind center, Jones will likely simplify the starter’s role. He said that the onus will largely fall on the other ten players to make Dormady or Guarantano’s job easier.
“Anytime you’re playing a quarterback that had the experience like Joshua Dobbs did, it’s very comforting as a coach. It’s more than just the quarterback. The quarterback doesn’t have to win the game for you, but he can lose the game…we’ve tried to put (the quarterbacks) in every game-like situation we can,” Jones added.
Jones added that he has a “pretty good idea” who the primary kicker will be as well. But he still won’t name a starter there either.
“It’s still ongoing. There is a possibility that will be determined by the length of the field goal…Everything is charted. It’s a body of work over a long period of time when we started about a month ago.”
Shuffled Offensive Line
Jones talked more about his offensive line, which will look different without the suspended Drew Richmond.
But there is lots of continuity within that group. The Vols O-line, which was ranked 10th in the country last season by footballoutsiders.com, will be very important to make the QB’s job easier.
“You can’t beat continuity. These individuals have worked for a week side by side of each other. You can never have enough depth. We all know what occurred last year. Those individuals have done a really good job from the communication aspect of it,” Jones said.
He specifically pointed out Brett Kendrick as an important piece of Tennessee’s offense. The redshirt-senior started all 13 games for Tennessee last season.
“He just goes to work every single day. We’re going to need that mentality. He’s played a lot of games over the course of his career. Not just the physical toughness, but also the mental toughness. The ability to endure, and work through those things. As a football player you’re never 100% health.”
Jones confirmed once again that Shy Tuttle and Josh Smith will make the trip to Atlanta. They will both be game-time decisions.