Before the Tennessee Volunteers take on the eighteenth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday night under the lights, some of the Vol players met with the media towards the beginning of the week to discuss the game. The media availabilities included three offensive players, RB Jabari Small, WR JaVonta Payton, and TE Jacob Warren, along with two defensive players, DB Alontae Taylor and DL Omari Thomas.
Between all of the players, there was a large range of topics discussed over the course of Monday and Tuesday. For instance, Payton and Warren gave their thoughts on Harrison Bailey’s decision to enter the transfer portal. Additionally, Taylor and Small spoke about what it means to be a Tennessee player playing against Kentucky, and how the team is looking to correct last year’s loss to the Wildcats.
Although they didn’t have a game, neither Payton nor Taylor could fully stay away from the game of football. Both players went to see their families play in different college games across the southeast.
Below are some brief quotes and the full video for each of the Tennessee players that met with the media to kick off Week 10.
Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC) will travel to Lexington this Saturday night to take on No. 18 Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC) under the lights at Kroger Field. ESPN2 will have the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. ET.
In addition, video highlights of Tennessee on the practice field this week can be found here.
Tennessee DB Alontae Taylor
“It means a lot,” Taylor said about the importance of Tennessee’s game against Kentucky. “One thing I came in [and heard] is that you don’t lose to Kentucky. We didn’t have that happen last year. But, I was watching the video last night when we had the goal-line stop against Kentucky, at Kentucky, and it kind of gave me chills. I was like, ‘That’s who we are.’ So this game is personal.”
Tennessee RB Jabari Small
“The world,” Small said about what quarterback Hendon Hooker means to Tennessee. “He’s a great player, great leader. He’s playing very great right now. We just want to continue that, and we’re locked in behind him. He’s a great leader.”
Tennessee DL Omari Thomas
“Matt Butler is a really great teammate,” Thomas said. “He is always putting other players before himself. He is always looking to help others, whether it is in practice or outside of practice, he is always helping you be a better you. I feel like Matt Butler is really showing up and keeps doing big things. It has been really great for me, just coming in and him taking me under his wing has been really good for me. I think he is going to keep improving and keep doing what he is doing.”
Tennessee WR JaVonta Payton
“I most definitely think that everybody is feeling pretty good,” Payton said during his appearance Monday. “Those few off days that we had, everybody being able to go home, get their rest, hang out with family, do what they got to do on Halloween, it was pretty much a good two days that we had and I’m pretty sure everybody is back and ready to get going.”
Tennessee TE Jacob Warren
“Hendon is a guy that has always played with confidence and his confidence radiates,” Warren said on Monday. “It is not really cockiness, but he knows his preparation is right and he does things the right way. I think that it has just grown ever since we have seen him blow up in all these different games against these different opponents. He realizes that he is what everyone is trying to say he is, he’s a good player and he knows we trust him. He’s getting a lot of experience under his belt. I know at VT (Virginia Tech) he played a lot, but with this squad, I think he is really starting to settle in.”