Josh Heupel and the rest of the SEC head football coaches talked to the media Wednesday during the SEC’s weekly coaches teleconference.
Here’s everything the Vols’ first year head coach had to say ahead of the Pitt game.
Question: How important is time of possession in Heupel’s offense
Heupel: “I think the biggest thing is controlling the clock in certain situations, which to me starts with the end of halves— especially is you have a lead, being able to milk it in four minute situations. To me, that’s the biggest thing on possession. I think you want to look at plays and the ability to pick up first downs and stay on the football field on third down situations before you just look at time of possession. Certainly winning those end of game situations is incredibly important.”
Q: Have you ever had a season on the aggregate where three-and-outs and losing time of possession hurt the defense. If so, how did you adjust.
Heupel: “I don’t care if you’re going fast or slow if you go three-and-out you’re applying pressure to the other side of the football, so to me, again, it’s about playing complimentary football together. Whether you’re playing with pace or not playing with pace.”
Q: Will running back Tiyon Evans be available to play on Saturday?
Heupel: “All injuries I’ve told you we’ll talk (about) later in the week. Those are things we’ll address as we get closer to kick off. I don’t like to speculate until we get later in the week.”
Q: How did you feel like Jabari Small held up last week with the tempo and his work load (22 carries)?
Heupel: “I thought Jabari played extremely well. I really liked a lot of things our backs did over the course of the ball game. That’s including the two younger backs that got in at the end.”
Q: What would you like to see better in Joe Milton’s decision making as we get to week two?
Heupel: “Well you can make your biggest jump from week one to week two but that doesn’t mean it always happens. I think you have an opportunity to slowly improve at the quarterback position. Really for him, some of the structure we saw the other night was different than what we expected. He needs to understand what we’re doing, get his eyes in the right spot and then ultimately that will include getting it to the right wide receiver. As all of our quarterbacks are growing in what we’re doing offensively I think they’ll continue to understand the reason behind what we’re calling and be able to queue the right guy and go through their progressions.”
Q: How did your team’s practice go today?
Heupel: “Really well. I thought on both sides of the football there was really good energy on the practice field— a work man’s mentality today. Tuesday and Wednesday are two heavy days for us. Our kids lift after practice today so we have to finish it out the right way here but I like the focus of it. They understand we’re playing a really good football team on Saturday. They understand it’s going to be a physical, tough football game. The ball’s going to mean a lot. We’ve got to create some turnovers and take care of the football over the course of play. This group is excited about going out and competing Saturday afternoon and I like the energy they’ve come back in the building with really from Monday morning when they first arrived.”
Q: How would you asses how your defense tackled against Bowling Green?
Heupel: “You’re never going to be perfect in that as you get guys in space. I thought what showed up was some of the fundamentals in a positive away that we worked on in training camp and will continue to work on throughout the season. I thought the effort we played with— which is really important to me— showed up in a positive way. I thought that over the course of the game and going back and watching it. I thought we had all three levels of the defense chasing the football. A couple of the screens our d-line breaking from the core and playing flat down the line of scrimmage and showing up on some of those inside tunnel screens. To me that’s a part of defensive football. Your missed tackling becomes more glaring when guys aren’t playing hard and competing and running to the football. A lot of positives from what we saw the other night. This football game will be important. Their quarterback is a veteran player. We played him twice at the previous stop and he’s still around. He’s played a lot of football and played at a really high level and continued to get better each year. They have good skill players out on the perimeter. They’re multiple in their formations. We have to do a great job of recognizing and communicating and then playing our assignment and then play with great eye discipline in the second and third levels.”
Q: Will defensive end Byron Young be available against Pitt?
Heupel: “I spoke on them even before or right after the ball game. Byron, we’re still waiting word on his eligibility from the NCAA. Obviously, Monday was Labor Day. We weren’t able to get word back. Hopefully we’ll have it in the next 24 to 48 hours.”