Butch Jones spoke to the media for his weekly Wednesday press availability. He updated the status of some injuries Vols, and previewed Tennessee’s upcoming matchup with UMass on Saturday.
Here are our notes from Jones’ Wednesday press conference.
Evan Berry, Austin Smith and Latrell Williams will all be out for Tennessee’s game this weekend according to Coach Jones.
Jones did get a positive report on one of his young defensive backs, however.
“We got some really good news on Baylen Buchanan…excited to work to get him going,” Jones said. Buchanan is expected to play this Saturday when the Vols face UMass.
Todd Kelly Jr. is not definitely out for the season, according to Jones. But there’s a chance the senior could take a medical redshirt to return next year if he does miss the rest of the 2017 season.
“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Jones said. “Obviously, we’d welcome him back with open arms…he’s been a great representative of Tennessee football.”
In his case, and in Cortez McDowell’s case, a second opinion may change things for their availability moving forward.
“As of right now, it’s ongoing with a second opinion. (His return) could be a bowl game, so I don’t want to speak this early,” Jones added. “We found out there’s a possibility Cortez McDowell could return for the latter part of the season.”
Freshman defensive end Deandre Johnson will also be available this weekend.
“He’s done a good job in terms of recovery. In meeting with our trainers, he’s questionable to probable,” Jones said of the freshman.
Position Groups With Changing Rotations
Tennessee relied a lot on its young receivers in The Swamp. But Jones sees tremendous growth from that group since day one.
“I really like their attitude and their mentality,” Jones stated. “Their drive to get better every single day. I can see them progressing…they’re learning from trial and error…there’s been so much that has gone into that. It’s a very young room, but a very talented room.”
On the defensive line, freshman Matthew Butler may factor in more to the rotation moving forward.
With just three upperclassmen defensive ends getting the majority of the snaps, Butler may move to the end rusher position and see more reps in the future.
“As we know, being a line of scrimmage league, you can never have enough depth at the defensive line position. Over the course of the year, his repetitions will continue to grow. Moving forward, we need him to get some repetitions,” Jones said.
At the quarterback position, Quinten Dormady is still the clear starter, but expect to see lots of Jarrett Guarantano this weekend against the Minutemen.
When Jones was asked if he’d like to play the redshirt freshman, he didn’t outright answer the question. But he seemed optimistic that Guarantano would see the field.
“We’d like to. He’s earned the right to play some,” Jones stated. “Every game, it’s a mentality when you’re the number two quarterback, you’re a snap away from playing…you have to have a starter’s mindset.”
Jones added that he wants to get Guarantano involved in the offense. He’s been impressed with his backup QB all week.
“Jarrett’s had a very good week of preparation. We’ve liked the way he’s attacked this week,” Jones added.
Another very public position batle, at kicker, is still taking shape. Jones thinks he’ll have a clearer picture of that group soon.
“It’s them trying to have as much of a clearly defined job description as possible. It’s a body of work throughout the course of August and September,” he said.
UMass will present challenges in the passing game, according to Jones. He said that the Minutemen may have a future NFL signal caller, and he wants to see his corners take a step forward.
Andrew Ford, the Minutemen’s starting quarterback, has thrown for 1,204 yards, six touchdowns, and just one interception while completing 64.3 percent of his passes this season. UMass has three receivers with over 230 receiving yards this season so far.
“It starts with the ability to challenge routes. Whether you’re an off coverage or press coverage, you have to challenge routes,” Jones said. “That’s an area we have to improve. That’s an area we have to take tremendous strides from last week.”
He added that UMass is “better than their record,” and should challenge the Vols. UMass is currently 0-4 but hasn’t lost a game by more than 10 points all season. He reiterated that the team is still angry about the loss to Florida, but they’re ready to move on.
“It’s time to go,” he said.