Butch Jones spoke to the media for his weekly Wednesday press availability. He discussed his team’s match-up with Georgia this weekend in addition to providing a few injury updates.
Here are some of the notable comments from Coach Jones this afternoon.
Butch Jones started is press conference by updating us on the status of some key injured players.
“Evan Berry, Jakob Johnson and Latrell Williams will be out for this game. Everyone else should be available,” Jones said.
That means Ethan Wolf, Jashon Robertson, Shy Tuttle and Austin Smith should all be eligible to play on Saturday.
Jones expanded more on his two key players on the line of scrimmage, adding that Robertson and Tuttle both had a good day of practice yesterday.
Austin Smith hasn’t played all season, but Jones is ready to slowly work him back into a depleted linebacker rotation against the seventh-ranked Bulldogs.
“He was out at practice yesterday participating in practice,” Jones added. “With him, we anticipate him (playing), but I’ll probably know more by the end of the week.”
Tennessee struggled on first down against UMass. Jones said it’s “critical” to stay on schedule ahead of the chains against Kirby Smart’s defense.
“When we talk about first down efficiency, four yards, whether it’s a run or pass, is an efficient play. We have to be about 65% on first down efficiency,” Jones said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tennessee has its hands full with Georgia’s offensive line blocking for multiple running backs.
“That’s one of the progressions of their football team. I’ve been very impressed by their offensive line, the way they run off the football,” Jones said.
Behind that line is a freshman quarterback who’s already won in a hostile atmosphere on the road. Jake Fromm started on the road against Notre Dame a few weeks back, and he helped Georgia earn a 20-19 victory.
Jones says there’s little difference in UGA’s offense with Fromm on the field instead of sophomore Jacob Eason, who’s been sidelined with injury since week one.
“With Jake, you see poise. You see confidence. He can make all the throws. He’s very mature,” Jones stated. “I believe his teammates around him believe in him. We have to do a good job of containing him and impacting the quarterback, and that’s going to be a great challenge.”
Defensive Line Growth
After two weeks without a sack, Tennessee’s defensive line has taken major strides getting after the quarterback in the last two games.
Tennessee bullied a bad offensive line last Saturday against UMass, but Jones is still pleased with the growth of his defensive linemen. He said it’s been hard to replace the production of last year’s departed stars such as Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen, but some players are starting to step up as the season progresses.
“Obviously a Derek Barnett you can never replace,” Jones said. “Or a Corey Vereen. It’s the beauty of college football, new opportunities.”
Jones mentioned all of his defensive linemen when he talked about those new opportunities. He started by praising end rusher Darrell Taylor.
“Darrell Taylor continues to progress. He’s been one of the leaders of our football team,” Jones said. “You look at the constant growth and development of Jonathan Kongbo, and really last year from his starting on the outside and by the end of the year having to play defensive tackle. Moving him back to his natural position has really helped.
“I’ve been really pleased with the progression of Kyle Phillips. Kyle has really done a nice job. You can see him from one game to all the way throughout the course of the season continue to get better and better,” Jones said.
He added that his team needs to continue to get deeper on the defensive line, but the progress so far has been good.
Against UMass, three of Tennessee’s seven sacks came from the interior of the defensive line. Jones added that there are many ways to affect the quarterback, starting with the defensive tackles and the secondary.
“So much of the sacks on the edge are dictated by your interior defensive linemen,” he said. “There’s so many things that go with impacting the quarterback.”