Everything Josh Heupel Said to Kick-Off Vols’ Georgia Week

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    Tennessee Josh Heupel

    Tennessee HC Josh Heupel met with the media on Monday before the Vols take on Georgia this Saturday on Homecoming.

    Week 11 has officially begun around the college football world, which means the Tennessee Volunteers and head coach Josh Heupel went back to work on Monday morning. After a thrilling upset victory of No. 18 Kentucky, the Vols’ road ahead does not get any easier. Tennessee will host No. 1 Georgia (9-0, 7-0 SEC), on homecoming, this upcoming Saturday in Knoxville.

    After the win in Week 10, the Vols are sitting at third in the SEC East. Tennessee is behind Saturday’s opponent in Georgia and Kentucky (6-3, 4-3 SEC).

    To kick off the week, Heupel met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss his reaction to the weekend and preview the upcoming week. Heupel spoke about several topics including individual Tennessee players, his thoughts on some of the key plays from the Kentucky game, and what Tennessee will be doing this week to prepare for Georgia.

    Additionally, you can watch Heupel’s press conference in full here.

    Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel – Nov. 8

    Opening Statement

    “Great having the guys back in the building, obviously a lot of excitement. From players to staff, huge week right here. Great opponent in Georgia. Excited to get going with these guys. Defensively, Georgia is playing as well as anyone in the country. Personnel is really strong. All three levels of the defense and offensively, playing really efficient football. Quarterback is making plays. Play action pass, got to do a great job of having your eyes on your key. They are extremely physical up front and can run the football. Huge test for us and one that we are very excited about. Great to be back home, been a long time since we’ve gotten a chance to play inside Neyland Stadium. Expect a great environment back home. Looking forward to the opportunity to play well and go compete together.”

    On the balance between sticking with your game plan and trying to add some different elements each week…

    “We change every week based on what you see from the other side of ball. Personnel matchups, put your kids in the best position, you prepare in a great way, have a great week of practice and finish it the right way and then let it go play on Saturday. You play every game 10 times, it unfolds differently every single time. So, prepare in a great way and react to how it’s different. I thought last week, there were some things in our game plan that were different, our kids adjusted extremely well in all three phases of the game. There are lots of things we could do better from last week, too. Georgia is a great opponent, our guys are going to be ready to go compete for 60 minutes, I have no question about that with this group. I love competing with this team.”

    On the school’s internal investigation ending…

    “For our staff and players, I’ve said it from the time that I’ve gotten here, really believe that this was just going to be a speed bump for our program. Kids that are here, and kids that we recruit are going to have a chance to go continue to compete for championships and I fully believe that. I think it’s really unique that our university found out about what was going on, reported it, and has been transparent from the very beginning. For our kids, I think it’s really important that we are able to move forward.”

    On time of possession…

    “I think you care about time of possession in the situations where it matters. When it’s time to drain the clock it’s important that you’re able to do that and play situational football at the end of halves, the end of ball games. The score predicated that you continue to play the way that you’re able to play. The other night, just a really unique way in which the game unfolded. Two touchdowns in four plays maybe, huge play down the sideline with Jalin (Hyatt) on play six I think and ended up fumbling the ball. Just the way the game unfolded for us offensively was really unique. I think with all the explosive plays that quickly in the football game, and vice versa defensively they were pounding the football and getting small chunks, threes and fours and fives and converting on third down where the time of possession just became what it was, in the first half in particular.”

    On what has been surprising about Hendon Hooker…

    “I just think what’s striking about him is his maturity on and off the field and just the way that he handles himself as a person. That factors into how he prepares and handles positives and negatives during the course of a given day, a practice, a game. I think the thing that’s striking to me, and you don’t know it until you are with him in those environments, is just the competitive nature of him and I think you guys can see that in the way that he plays.”

    On how transfers have carved out big roles for this team…

    “Kamal Hadden too and the way that he’s played. The guys that have come here to restart their careers in some ways have found a bunch of playing time and a bunch of success. I think it speaks to the culture that we are building with the guys that have been here the entire time, foundation of who we are and what we are inside of the locker room. The accountability and demand from each other that they are going to do things the right way. But then, I think it speaks to what we are doing schematically and our coaching staff being able to get the best out of their players and put them in a position of success.”

    On the pace of offense affecting replays…

    “If you feel like there is something that’s important and has the chance to be replayed you typically slow down in those situations to give those things an opportunity to happen. That’s guys on the field that see something, that’s guys up in the press box that see something, too.”

    On Alontae Taylor and celebrating with him after his pick-six…

    “Alontae (Taylor) got up quicker than I did and outjumped me on that one. I’ve gotten him a few times on the practice field. I think it’s important that you celebrate great moments with them. (If) you want your kids to play with great energy and passion as a coaching staff, then you better have that too and enjoy those moments. Huge play by him, changes the way the game unfolds the rest of the way. Great decision and the game within the game making it look like a soft corner then rolling late seeing the hands separate from the quarterback. Huge play by him and those are great moments.”

    On Velus Jones Jr. on kickoff returns…

    “Combination of both (green light and fair catch). The depth of the kick is going to matter too in the decision of when you’re bringing it out. I thought Coach (Mike) Ekeler and our special teams, our return unit did a great job of adjusting to a guy that I think 91 percent of his kickoffs have been touchbacks. We were able to create a big play with Velus (Jones Jr.), get the ball out to the 50 with the penalty. Then Jimmy (Holiday) and our front line do a great job of adjusting to a sky kick and he brings it out to the 50. Those were huge momentum and field procession plays in the game and talked about it with our guys today.”

    On the health status of running backs Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans…

    “I think the guys that got nicked up during the game, Jacob Warren too, we’ll find out more as we go through the week, but I feel like those guys will be in a position to help us on Saturday, but we’ll find out more as the week goes on.”

    On defensive execution at Kentucky and if guys were in the right place to make plays…

    “Majority of it was missed tackles. Some of it’s those guys pushing and falling forward. Hitting them at two and it being a five, six-yard gain. Their offensive line, their tight ends, extremely physical. Their backs ran with great pad level too. We got to do a better job this week.”

    On Georgia’s defensive scheme on tape and challenges for offensive line…

    “It starts with their personnel. They’re big, long, physical, athletic. They play with speed. They do a great job of retracing on perimeter screens. You see that show up, when you think you got space it closes down pretty quick. I don’t care if that’s in the core or out on the perimeter. They’re able to rotate a lot of guys too. The depth of their football team is a big part of their success. Being able to play guys essentially almost in fifty percent of the ball game and rotate through. For us, we’ve got to do a great job of getting hat on hat. We’ve got to be physical. That’s on the perimeter, that’s in the core. We’ve got to do a great job of communication too in their third-down package.”

    On if Georgia’s first down defense plays a big part in their success…

    “That’s a huge part of any defense, right? Where you’re playing on your terms in third-down in particular and you know what’s coming. You got a chance to pin your ears back and get after the quarterback. They’ve done a great job of creating havoc and flipping the way the game is played. You look at the Florida game, it’s 3-0 with two minutes to go in the second quarter and it’s a 21-point burst of points by them (Georgia) in the last two minutes.”

    On how much of Hendon Hooker’s success is contributed to Cade Mays’s job on Saturday…

    “If a quarterback is playing well, there’s 10 other guys around him doing their job at a really high level. It starts with the front five. Cade (Mays) has continued to get better in my opinion as the season has gone along. I know he missed a couple of weeks in the middle part of it, but he continues to get better and better every single week. Getting him back last week was a big part of our success. Congratulations to him on the individual recognition, well deserved. At the same time, I think Hendon being decisive, understanding your reads, getting the ball out on time, you get a chance to help cover things up too when it’s not right, and some of his scrambles. So, those two things play off of each other. “

    On Georgia quarterbacks in the run game…

    “On the tape that I’ve seen Stetson (Bennett) can get out and make plays with his feet too. End of the day we got to do a great job of pressing the pocket. Got to have lane integrity. Our defense will be confident going into the football game.”

    On describing Hendon Hooker’s personality off the field…

    “I know this, when he’s in the building – because I’m not with him a ton outside of it – in the building he’s highly competitive, is a great leader for us. I think his personality probably comes out a little bit more when he’s outside of the building and away from football. Super engaging with his teammates in everything that I have been able to see.”

    On JaVonta Payton getting less touches as the game goes on…

    “Just the way it unraveled, the way the game ended up being played. That first play, that’s a great play by JaVonta. Making the guy miss in space and taking it the distance. Showed that to the team today. Princeton Fant and Velus Jones Jr., the perimeter blocking, the strain, not just being a hat on a hat but straining and creating that space gives JaVonta the opportunity to make the safety miss. It creates the space that’s needed there. JaVonta did a really good job the other night and will continue to. He’s a guy that’s not getting balls in the third quarter or fourth quarter on purpose, it’s just the way the game has unfolded. Some of that’s just coverage and where the ball’s predicated to go off of that.”

    On challenges of going against Georgia’s offense and the possibility of facing two quarterbacks…

    “It starts for me and for them up front. Physical tight ends, physical offensive line. Really good depth, athleticism and physicality from the running back position. Their tight ends, being able to be a big part of the passing game and the play action pass. Good perimeter players too and their quarterback is playing super efficient. You got to defend it all, it’s not just one thing. You got to be able to hammer the run game and get them off schedule and get off the field on third down. “

    On what it meant to have Elijah Simmons back on the defensive line…

    “Great to have him back in a position where he can go play. For him, when he’s able to go, he’s got the ability to dent things, in particular on first and second down and change the track for the running back and change the line of scrimmage. You saw that during the course of the ball game when he was in there.”

    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.