Butch Jones talked to the media on Wednesday for his weekly mid-week availability.
He updated the status of a few injuries, gave a scouting report on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, and also addressed some changes on the offensive line.
Here are our notes from everything Jones had to say.
Jones started his press conference by updating the status of multiple injured players, starting with a few starters who have been at practice.
“Jakob Johnson will play,” Jones said of the senior tight end. “We’re excited to have him back. Evan Berry has been practicing…he’s questionable. Justin Martin will be at practice today. Cheyenne Labruzza will be out for the remainder of the season.”
A few more players who were out last week will progress in practice as the week continues.
“Deandre Johnson is questionable. We’ll see where he’s at with practice today,” Jones said of his young defensive end.
Jones also added that running back Carlin Fils-Aime and corner Justin Martin are both questionable as well.
He also updated the status of Jauan Jennings, who hasn’t played since the Vols’ season opening win against Georgia Tech.
“I don’t see Jauan Jennings being back this season,” Jones stated.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts led the Tide to a massive win in Knoxville last season.
But he’s come a long way since that game, according to Jones.
“The thing with Jalen is he can beat you in every aspect,” he said. “He’s really improved…he’s very comfortable in the pocket. He does an excellent jobs with the RPOs and moving the ball down the field.”
Hurts’ legs aren’t the only weapon though. Jones also raved about Hurts’ arm, emphasizing the importance of keeping him in the pocket when he gets rid of the ball.
“He’s a very very good quarterback who can make all the throws…with his speed, he turns into a running back. A great, great challenge defensively,” Jones said.
When Jones looks at Bama’s running backs, he made observations that go beyond the running game.
Each of their top three backs also play on the special teams unit. And that’s what impresses Jones the most.
“The thing that’s probably as impressive is his play on special teams. They’re the top three running backs. The value that they bring to their team on special teams as well,” Jones said.
Guarantano Prepares to Improve on First Start
Jarrett Guarantano did some good things against South Carolina. But Jones stressed that his freshman quarterback also has to improve.
That includes pre-snap calls, where Tennessee struggled at times to get lined up and avoid a penalty.
“It starts with focus and discipline on the small details,” Jones said. “We stress it everyday in practice, our players understand it. It’s those small things we talk about that leads to playing winning football or losing football games.”
In the first half, Jones was impressed with how Guarantano made plays. On third downs, his mobility was the driving force to keep the offense on the field. Then in the second half, UT got away from that running ability when Guarantano was under pressure.
“I thought particularly in the first quarter he was able to give us some yards. Being able to make something out of it and keep us on schedule. He was able to get us a couple third downs with his legs. I thought his energy and the way he approached his leadership, the quarterback characteristics we talk about all the time,” Jones added.
Changes on the Offensive Line
We reported yesterday at practice that the Vols’ were looking to change things up on the offensive line with a new rotation.
Jones says that decision is still ongoing. But he’s looking at every possible rotation up front.
“We’ll still continue to evaluate,” he said. “That’s a position that’s challenged by depth. So we’ll continue to move individuals around because of necessity and need.”
Freshman Ryan Johnson is one guy who could get a look at more playing time very soon. Jones was complimentary of the former Brentwood Academy product.
“Ryan works very hard everyday,” Jones said. “He’s very consistent, he’s going to come to work every single day and it’s important to him. Been very encouraged by what we see from him at practice.”