Everything Tennessee’s players said about playing Florida

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    Vols senior wide receiver Josh Palmer, sophomore running back Eric Gray and senior outside linebacker Deandre Johnson met with the media on Tuesday to preview this Saturday’s game against No. 6 Florida.

    Palmer was the first to speak. Tennessee’s leading receiver discussed how frustrating it’s been to not play at times this season, his view on the rivalry with Florida, what he’s seen from freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey,

    Here’s everything Palmer had to say:

    What Thanksgiving weekend looked like for the team:

    “He gave us the option to go home if we lived within a close distance. So a lot of us just spent Thanksgiving with our families and some guys just stayed here and had Thanksgiving in the facility.”

    On if it’s been difficult to adjust not playing as frequently as most seasons:

    “A little bit. You get used to running a lot and then when you get a lot of time off, it’s hard to get your legs back. I feel like with the breaks, we’ve been able to get our legs back under us, running a little bit more, especially this past week. We ran a little bit more. We just come out to practice and we work hard. That’s what we do here. A lot of the time, it works out. We should be good for gameday.”

    On having fresh legs after several weeks off:

    “Yeah, I would say so. Like I said before, the only difficult part is when you’re not running and getting your legs back, but once you start running a little bit more, you start to get your legs back. We should be good on gameday.”

    On wanting to beat Florida:

    “I’ve always wanted to beat them. I never really understood the rivalry when I came here as a freshman, but over the years, I’ve come to dislike Florida in a friendly way, in a competitive way. It’s always exciting to play Florida and I look forward to the game.”

    On where the offense has improved the most over the last couple of weeks:

    “Understanding the game plan. We’ve had a lot of time to really sit down with Coach Chaney and have him explain to us the why’s: why we’re doing certain things and how we’re supposed to them. I think with a lot of this time off, we’ve been able to understand what he wants out of us.”

    On how frustrating it is to watch other teams play and the concern of teammates in contact tracing:

    “It’s a little frustrating knowing that we should be playing and seeing other teams play. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise. We get more time to gameplan, more time to understand the offense.

    “Next guy up mentality. The guys that are out should be back very soon and we’re excited to have them back. I’m excited to see how the team responds.”

    On potentially coming back for a second senior season:

    “I haven’t really considered it right now. I’m just waiting to see how this season plays out.”

    On the variables that will factor into his decision:

    “There’s always factors when it comes to making big decisions. I haven’t really weighed all of the options yet. I’m just ready to get out with my team and win these next few games.”

    On Harrison Bailey’s performance in practice over the past few weeks:

    “Harrison’s coming along. Obviously, he didn’t get a lot of reps because of the fall camp and not having a spring. All of the quarterbacks are rallying together. The receivers are pushing him and the coaches are pushing him. We’re excited to see how he’s going to respond. He’s responding well in practice, so that’s really exciting to see.”

    On the morale of the team:

    “I think our team morale is high. We’ve been off for some time. Two games in the past five weeks. We’re just eager to get out there and play.”

    On what makes him a good deep threat:

    “I work on it all the time. Every day. After practice. I have my jug guys — where they shoot me jugs everyday after practice. Will and Ben. Whatever I just feel like I’m weak at, I try to work on it everyday after practice. With the quarterback, with the coaches, with anybody I can.”

    On if he has had to learn how to high-point deep balls or if it comes natural:

    “Athletically, it came naturally. But once you got here, the balls are thrown at different angles, it’s a lot harder than it was in high school. It’s always something I’m working on.”

    On why Tennessee hasn’t had opt outs like other schools have:

    “I don’t know the reasons for players oping out at other schools. Probably declaring for the draft and stuff like that. I can’t really speak for them. For us, we’re just really bought in and we’ve come together as a team. We’re just trying to finish the season strong. A lot of unfortunate events have happened throughout the year that we didn’t expect, but at the end of the day, we all came in with a goal, and now we have to accomplish that goal. You’re either all in or all out. We’re all in no matter what happens.”

    On how he would assess his season to this point:

    “I probably have a list of things that I wish I could have done better in games. Every loss, I feel like there was something that I could have done better that would have changed the tide of the game. I feel like when I played well, we had good results in the game. If I played badly, then we had bad results in the game. I put a lot of weight on my shoulders to help this team. There are always things I need to improve on. I don’t really look at it as things I do well, because I’m supposed to do it.”

    On the feeling of not playing in Neyland Stadium in several weeks:

    “I miss it. The away games definitely take a toll on the flights. I’m excited to get back in Neyland with the fans, play a heck of a game and beat Florida.”

    On how using the jug machines after practice have helped his game:

    “I have two guys, Will and Ben, that help me every day. Will will play defense and play harder than a normal DB could in the game, because the refs would call pass interference. That’s an everyday thing I’ve been doing for the past two years with these guys. They’ve helped me a lot in my development. I don’t really think it helps with footwork, but it helps with hand-eye coordination by working on the depth of certain routes. Then, I’ll work with the quarterbacks later so we can develop timing.”

    On what impresses him about sophomore running back Eric Gray:

    “His competitiveness and his toughness. He wants the ball and he wants to show the world what he can do. It’s our responsibilities as receivers to help him show that. We’re excited to see when he breaks long runs and we’re the ones blocking for him.”

    On if there’s something about Harrison Bailey that makes him think he can handle a moment like starting against Florida:

    “He’s calm, cool, and collected. When you see him get put into the game in fourth quarters, you don’t seem him thinking too much. We have a good gameplan for him and he’s coming along well as a quarterback and as a young guy. We’re excited to see what he shows in the game.”

    Go to the next page to see everything Eric Gray and Deandre Johnson had to say.

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