Everything Tennessee’s players said about the bye week, Arkansas

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    Vols senior left guard Trey Smith, sophomore inside linebacker Henry To’o To’o, and sophomore running back Eric Gray met with the media on Monday to recap Tennessee’s bye week and preview this Saturday’s game against Arkansas.

    Smith spoke about his performance to this point in the season, what Tennessee’s offensive line worked on during the bye week, and playing Arkansas for the first time in his career.

    Here’s everything Smith had to say:

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    On how important Tennessee’s bye week was:

    “Your open week is really important not only for team development, but also for recovery. As a player, it’s a great opportunity if you are banged up and bruised up to get that proper rest and the time you need off. Anything that can make the team healthy, it helps us a lot.”

    On the unfamiliarity of playing against Arkansas:

    “In terms of playing another SEC West team, it’s always interesting because we’re not familiar with them. At least personally I’m not, this will be my first time playing Arkansas. But at the end of the day, everyone in the SEC is pretty similar. You’re going to have insane athletes at certain positions, especially defensive line. You’re always going to have that freak of the week, that guy that you need to be prepared for. Defensively, a lot of the schemes they run are similar to a lot of our opponents, especially Missouri because their defensive coordinators have a lot of connections to the past.”

    On what the offensive line worked on during the bye week:

    “This week was a perfect opportunity for a lot of the younger guys and guys who don’t play as much to get the chance to present their skills and present their abilities. I think a lot of guys definitely shined through this week. It’s a great opportunity, like I said earlier, for players who don’t get the proper reps that they need to present their abilities on a grand stage in front of the coaches.”

    On evaluating the team at this point in the season:

    “I’m not really a master evaluator. I’ll leave that to the coaches. Obviously we’re not where we want to be, but in terms of progression, we have to keep fighting, keep chopping. At the end of the day, like the Maxim says — put on more steam, we just gotta keep going regardless of what’s happening. We’re gonna fight every opponent like it’s our last.”

    On how he has led during the bye week:

    It’s more of a commitment thing. Just seeing where a lot of guys are mentally, especially after a loss. Challenging them to come back and we have to respond. At the end of the day, this game is not based on sympathy. No one is going to feel bad for you. No one is going to feel sorry for you. You have to come to work every day. You have to be prepared every day. At the end of the day, when that clock hits, and it’s time to go on that field, it’s business time. That’s one thing we have to take serious. This is a business. We have to do a better job of protecting Neyland Stadium and doing our job every week, every Saturday, and playing to the highest level with the best effort and the best ability that we can.”

    On his performance to this point in the season:

    “I don’t think I’ve played that well in terms of playing up to my abilities. I don’t feel like I’ve really scratched the surface of it yet, which is frustrating. There are a lot of things that I can do better, but like I said the game isn’t based on sympathy. You have to bring it every week. At the end of the day, I have to bring it every week and step my game up every week, which I feel like I’ve progressed in. But to be where I want to be, I still have a ways to go.”

    On what the offensive line worked on during the bye week:

    “Fundamentals and finish. One thing you always want to do as an offensive line … you can harp on great fundamentals, you can harp on playing with great technique and proper execution, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to finish someone through the ground. I think that’s one thing that Coach (Will) Friend preached to us. Get low, drive, finish, get after guys and really sustaining and finishing blocks.”

    On his thoughts as to why he has gotten off to a slow start this season:

    “I always have an adjusted scheduled for practice anyways. Given COVID, and all of the things we’ve had to deal with, it’s been hard not only on me, but the whole team. For me, there’s a certain standard I want to play at. There’s a certain way I want to play. There’s a certain amount of times I want to get pancake blocks, finish someone through the block, be the most violent guy on the field, and to me, when I don’t meet that standard, I’m not playing well. Not necessarily that my grade from the games are bad, it’s just my standard for myself, I’m not meeting that expectation.”

    Go to the next page to see everything Henry To’o To’o and Eric Gray had to say.

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