Everything Josh Heupel Said Before Pivotal Missouri Matchup

    by -

    Tennessee Josh Heupel

    Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel. Photo by Tennessee Athletics.

    The Tennessee Volunteers will face the Missouri Tigers in a crucial matchup this Saturday in Columbia. The Vols will be in their second of back-to-back away games as Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel returns to a familiar place. In 2016 and 2017, Heupel was the offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach for the Tigers.

    However, before the team takes off, Heupel met with the media on Thursday morning for his final appearance before the game. During his press conference, Heupel spoke about several topics, such as certain philosophies or mindsets the team is carrying into the game. In addition, Heupel also spoke about certain players and position groups, although some in more detail than others.

    Tennessee has two wins and two losses on the season, coming in alternating fashion. The Vols looked strong in their opener against Bowling Green but fell to Pittsburgh in the Johnny Majors Classic the following week. Tennessee was dominant in their bounce-back game against Tennessee Tech, as they should, but then ran into a wall in Gainesville. Tennessee fell to the Gators last Saturday night after a disappointing second half in which the Vols ran out of gas.

    On Saturday afternoon, though, Tennessee will have another chance to right the ship. The Vols will take on a similar Missouri squad, who also stands at 2-2 on the year. Both Tennessee and Missouri’s offenses are the strength of the team, although, in different ways. The Vols have been strong in their run game through four games, ranking fifth in the SEC with just over 200 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Tigers bring a strong passing attack. Behind the arm of QB Connor Bazelak, Missouri is third in the SEC in passing yards per game (324.5).

    Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) will take on Missouri (2-2, 0-1 SEC) in a crucial SEC East matchup this Saturday. The SEC Network will have the broadcast at noon ET.

    Below, you can find everything that Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said before the game at Missouri.

    Opening Statement

    “Hey guys, good walkthrough today for us. As you guys know, tomorrow we pick it back up a little bit. Guys have been great throughout the course of the week. I think we continue growing in our practice habits. You’ve heard me say it before, we’re still stressing that the urgency and focus with during the last 72-48 hours of preparation will be big for us. As you guys know, we have some guys that are nicked up. Today, some of those guys were able to move around, don’t have a final call on those guys. We will find that on that out tomorrow, where were at with some of those injuries.”

    On the motivation of losing…

    “If you don’t hate to lose, you’re in the wrong game, the wrong environment, wrong building. That’s important to me. It’s important that we take ownership of the things that we certainly can control, could have controlled last week. Everybody wants to (win), and is going to try during the course of the game, but your habits leading up to it – we’ve gotten be better we’re not where we need to be. I think that ownership is really important. I said it earlier this week, or maybe on my radio show last night, I’ve seen some leaders start to take a more vocal and active role in some position groups and I think that’s important too.

    On some of the vocal leaders on the team…

    “I don’t want to get into just a couple of guys. There’s been a couple guys on offense, couple guys on defense that, to me, are starting thrust themselves forward, or did this week. I’d like see to start seeing it more consistently before I start commenting on that publicly.”

    On Missouri’s success on third down…

    “Some of it is the third-down situation they’ve been in, you know, I mean, they do a good job of running the football and you’re in manageable situations there. I think their running back is a big part of it, their ability to use them in the pass-game and find mismatches. The quarterback has played consistent, too, and their protection up front has been really solid, as well. You put all those pieces together and you’ve got a chance to be highly successful on third downs.”

    On the pass rush of Missouri…

    “Big part of the game. It’s big being able to protect your quarterback, in particular on third downs, but normal downs too, first and second down. That is, the sacks put you in really long-yardage situations when they happen on normal downs. But it’s also part of the field position game, too, and changing the way the game is played when the other side of the football goes out on the field. For us, we got to do a better job, and when you hear the word sacks, everybody thinks offensive line immediately, but it’s all pieces of a puzzle. It’s your wide receivers doing the right things and being on time, and when versus press-man at times. Then it’s your running backs in maximum protection and the quarterback too. All 11 got to play together. That is a big part of the football game on Saturday. Sometimes it’s been in four-down, sometimes it’s been pressure. It hasn’t just been one thing.”

    On Tennessee’s third-down defense…

    “Some of it is making the play on third down, want (them) to be in longer yardage and win some of those one-on-ones and get yourself off the field. Part of that is tackling on first and second down, changes the way the game is played on third down too.”

    On the Vols rushing attack thus far and its success in his offensive philosophy …

    “Over the past five years, some of the numbers that we’ve put up in the passing game get a ton of the attention, but the run game is a staple of who we are. To me it’s got to be where we start. I think at times we’ve been really efficient. I don’t think we’ve been as consistent as we’re capable of. Some of that is just execution, some of that is running backs pressing the line of scrimmage – understanding the scheme versus the front and having their eyes on the right spot to read it and get to the open grass. Some of it has been our personnel being moved around and just not being as efficient as we are capable of.”

    On Heupel’s memories at Missouri …

    “There were challenges, but we had some success there too. When we got there, I think we’re in a rebuilding process of, you know that program. From the personnel to the behaviors, just everything that was going on inside of the building. Ton of growth, evolution, while I was there. Obviously, offensively we were highly successful, particularly the second year. Quarterback play improved as we went.”

    On the receivers making the right reads and options in their routes…

    “I think we’ve seen steady growth. We’re not where we need to be or where we want to be. But, we have seen growth over the last four weeks. They got to understand man-zone, be able to run versus man and shut it down in a zone. Quarterbacks got to be able to read it out the same way, too. There’s just a level of efficiency that we can be can be better at. There were some really positive things from the other night. There’s growth, just not enough of it. This week will be a huge part of that too.”

    On his relationship with former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock…

    “I have not talked to him this week. I’ve talked to him a couple times during the course of the season and in the preseason. He was going through a quarterback battle too. But this week he might be wearing black and gold instead of orange and white.”

    On the development of tight end Jacob Warren

    “Yeah, I think there’s a bunch of things. Just continue physical development, lower body strength in particular for him. It’s going to help him in the run game and pass protection. He’s gaining a ton of understanding of what we’re doing, the why behind it, and being able to understand what he’s seeing on the other side of the ball and be able to anticipate what’s going to be happening there.”

    On the scripting of drives…

    “You’re trying to give your kids what you anticipate your starting being for each series. They have an understanding of what’s coming and what we’ve seen, and what we are anticipating. I think it gives them confidence in going out there that here’s what we are thinking potentially on a third down, different situation calls. Here’s our normal down package, how we are anticipating it rolling out at the beginning of a series. We do that for our first three series, during the course of the ballgame they’ll have that on Friday nights and what you think your third down and tight zone calls might be when you get into those situations right off the bat. I think it just gives them confidence and understanding that, this is what’s happening. As you come off and make adjustments based on what you’re seeing, there are a bunch of things that may be different from front, to coverage, to pressures and you’re able to get those adjustments made between the course of the drive and then move on to the next one.”

    Transcript courtesy of Tennessee Athletics.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.