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Everything Josh Heupel Said After Day One of Camp

Despite talking to the media on Sunday, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel stood atop the stage for a press conference on Monday as well. Although, this time, Heupel was talking about Tennessee’s first practice of fall camp.

The Vols officially took the field for the first time this fall on Friday as the team headed out for fall camp.

After practice, Heupel opened with a statement before fielding questions from the media. During this portion, Heupel hit on several topics including player safety, the wide receiver room, the offensive tackle battle, Kelsey Pope’s adjustment, and several players by name.

Below is everything that Josh Heupel said on Monday after Tennessee’s first fall camp practice.

Practice Observations: Tennessee Fall Camp Notes And Observations: Practice One
Practice Highlights: WATCH: Tennessee Football Practice Highlights – No. 1

Fall Camp Press Conference | Aug. 1, 2022 

Head Coach Josh Heupel 

Opening Statement 
“It was great to get out on the field today. It ended up being a beautiful day. The weather held out, so it was great for us to get outside. We’re really excited about being able to get out there. The challenge for us, as players and coaches, is don’t make the same mistake twice and continue to grow. I love the energy and enthusiasm. On day one, that’s really easy. We have to continue to have that type of focus and energy every single day. I believe this group has the ability to do that. Our practice habits are so much cleaner. Communication, efficiency and just moving around the practice field were all really good. I’m looking forward to watching it this afternoon with the guys and our staff.”

On if Hendon Hooker can afford to take more risks passing the ball this year… 
“Do not turn the ball over more than we did last year. Let’s take care of the football in everything that we’re doing. The ball matters. For Hendon, and I’ve said this to him, this year is not about stats, touchdowns—interceptions matter—or yards. It’s about wins, so managing all of those expectations and just focusing on doing your job at the highest level is the most important thing for him. We have to take care of the football. (Turnovers) happen for a lot of reasons. We can take care of the football in the pocket. Pass protection is a part of that. Wide receivers winning on time. Wide receivers being where they’re supposed to be is part of the interception game, and coming down with the ball when it’s in their hands. There’s a lot of things that factor into that. We want him to be decisive. We want him to take care of the football. When it’s not there and the opportunity presents itself, we want him to use his feet to continue to move the ball for us.”

On if he believes the team is more athletic than last season’s squad… 
“I think we’re deeper, with some of those transfers and the young guys inside of our program. With the people that we’ve brought into the program, I think we’ve added athleticism, speed and the ability to move and be in functional football positions. What our strength staff and nutrition staff has done … Coach (Kurt) Schmidt and his strength and conditioning staff, Ethan Bauer and his nutrition staff, we’ve dramatically changed the bodies from when we first got here, but even as we finished last season. Last night, in our team meeting before we got out on the grass today, the opportunity to showcase some of the dramatic improvements that our guys have made was a lot of fun. Certainly, with the skill spots, that’s absolutely true. The jumps that Trevon Flowers and even Cedric Tillman have made in their body and how they can functionally play. Then, when you look at the line of scrimmage, you look at Elijah Simmons and what he looks like. I’m really proud of what the guys did since January 24 when they got back.”

On Cameron Miller’s ability to play multiple positions… 
“From the time that we recruited him, viewed him as a football player. That’s how he views himself too. He doesn’t really care what he’s playing. As we got through spring ball, it just felt like him, his skillset, opportunity to compete and make an impact was probably on the other side of the football here the earliest. His attitude and want to are unquestioned by anybody—players in the locker room and our staff. We’re excited to see him grow here during the course of training camp. It’s his first time playing that position. A lot of things are happening. It’s different, but he has been really diligent in the building. He spent a bunch of extra time this summer learning what we’re doing schematically.”

On the team utilizing Guardian Caps on helmets during fall camp… 
“You talk about concussions and repetitive hits, I think player safety is at the forefront now of what the NCAA is trying to do and what everybody is trying to do across the country. The NFL as well. We’ve been doing it here for a long time. We’ve been fortunate that at the end of a training camp or at the end of the season, we always go back with our medical and strength and conditioning staff to look at the injuries. Concussions are a major part of what we look at. How do we prevent, and how do we put them in a position to stay healthy in the immediate, but long term too? Our medical staff does a fantastic job. I wish I was smart enough to recall every stat on that. I can’t, but there is a dramatic improvement in keeping kids healthy from the concussion side from those caps.”

On how much Jalin Hyatt has improved since the end of last season… 
“Even in the middle part of last year, his focus and attention to detail, he understood that it needed to change. He started making those changes. Dramatically different from the time that we got back in January. We talked earlier about guys who have changed their bodies. He has added a ton of size, strength and maturity to his frame. I think that’s gained a lot of confidence for him and how he plays with a physical presence. That can be in 1-on-1 matchups. It can be blocking on the perimeter. It can be the way he presents himself and finishes plays when he has the ball in his hands, too. All of those factors give him the ability to have a big year for us this year.”

On if Jacob Warren or Princeton Fant could be used in the backfield to assist with pass protection in certain situations… 
“Not right now. The running backs that we have on campus and the guys that have been spending time, we want to develop them here through training camp and give them the opportunity to showcase that they’re going to play at a really high level and earn trust from our coaching staff and from the players around them in pass protection, and when the ball is in their hands. Today, on day one, without watching the film, I thought the two young running backs—Justin (Williams-Thomas) and Dylan (Sampson)—had a really good day. There are some things that they did that popped out to me as a coach. Some of that was with the ball in their hands, and some of it was without it.”

On what Bru McCoy could bring to the team and what Squirrel White can provide for the team… 
“(Squirrel) is not slow, that’s for sure. Squirrel is competitive, really smart and mature in the way that he handles himself in the building, in the meeting room and physically taking care of his body. His ability for the game not to be moving too fast—really almost from day one—in the way that he has handled what we do offensively. He needs to have a great camp for us and I believe that he will. He is truly fearless. He’s not the biggest guy, but he is fearless. He is going to stick his face in any physical situation that he needs to. Bru is big, strong and long out on the perimeter. He’s learning how to play in our offensive system and how to play from the whistle of the previous snap to the snap of the next one. For him, I think he has gained a much better understanding of that throughout the course of the summer. The first couple of weeks of June are so dramatically different than by the time we got to July with him. He is a guy who has played college football and competed at a high level. That maturity is something that is an advantage for him in coming here and transitioning to our football program.”

On what he needs to see on film to deem day one of training camp a good start… 
“Some of the things that you see out on the practice field are efficiency, the ability to take coaching, the ability for players to coach each other and some of the intangible things that we have spent so much time on. Those things showed up and they showed up today in a really big way. The small things add up to the big things that everybody sees, so I like a lot of what we saw. Some of that, I won’t even be able to see on the film as we go back. We’ll go back and watch the film, the X’s and O’s, the fundamentals and technique. You’re going to see, hopefully, a growth from where we finished in spring ball to where they are now in understanding how to play. That’s different at every position. You want to see functional movement improve, and I thought we saw that. In year two for us as a program, our players know the standards and expectations. You can hear them talking about it and coaching each other up. I thought just the overall practice flow, the efficiency of everything that we are doing, from coaching staff to medical staff, was good to see.”

On what he saw from Wesley Walker and Andre Turrentine on day one of training camp… 
“I think both are very coachable. They have a high care factor. They have a good football IQ and understanding. Wesley, with the amount of time that he has been in college football, is able to take a scheme that he’s ran before and transition it into the verbiage that we have. In that way, it’s been not a seamless, but a fluid transition for him. He made a big play out there today. We want to see those guys compete in every area. That’s special teams, that’s on the defensive side of the football. There is a lot of opportunity to earn reps on the defensive side of the football. You heard me, you heard Coach (Tim) Banks yesterday talk about us having to play more guys to have competition. We need more guys to show that they’re going to play at a championship level. Those two guys bring some of the football movement that we wanted, and they have a high care factor.”

On Joe Milton III sticking with the program and his relationship with Hooker… 
“It’s a great lesson for everybody in our program. We talked about that. You want to be ready when your opportunity comes and prepare that way to take advantage of it. I think it speaks to their unique relationship that exists in that quarterback room. I believe that it exists in all of our position rooms. To be able to compete fiercely with somebody, but also be great friends outside of the game, speaks to their maturity. It speaks to Joe. I think it speaks to the culture of what we have inside of the building as far as a full team inside of that locker room. It speaks to what we’re doing offensively, and him believing that he can grow in our system and put himself in the right position long term. It speaks to his maturity as well that he is willing to look at the video and have a true sense of, ‘Here are the areas that I have to get better in order to maximize my talent, and put myself in a position to be the best player that I possibly can,’ and being able and willing to go through that process. You have seen guys that stuck around a year ago with the transition of our football staff. You look at Theo Jackson a year ago, who hadn’t played anything but special teams for five years, that stays the course, invests and then cashes in on that investment on the backend of his career. It’s a great testimony to those types of individuals, and it’s a great lesson to everybody inside of our program.”

On the offensive tackle competition… 
“We have great competition. Everybody that is competing there is long, they’re athletic and their best football is in front of them. They’re in a race to get there as fast as they can. At the end of the day, we believe that the depth of that position is going to be important. We’re going to need all of those guys. That showed up a year ago too, just as we go through the season.”

On how different wide receivers coach Kelsey Pope is compared to in the spring… 
“In the meeting room and on the field, I don’t think anybody would say he is much different. Does he grow and get better every single day? Yes, absolutely. Who he is, how he communicates and how he handles himself, that hasn’t dramatically changed. That is a big reason why we hired him. He was without a doubt the right guy for the job. On the recruiting side of it, we didn’t worry about that. Recruiting is about relationships and being able to show kids that you can help them achieve all of their goals and dreams on the field and off the field. There is nobody better suited in college football than him to do that at the wide receiver position.”

On how Jeremy Banks has developed since last season… 
“We talk about accountability. It’s one of the core beliefs in any relationship that we have and who we have to be, from coaches to everybody in the building—players included. He has grown a bunch in that. Along with that, I think just the trust of our staff, the process that we’re taking him through, him understanding the ‘why’ of what we are doing. Those are all big factors to creating buy-in with him. As he continues to grow through this training camp, and he has played a lot of football, but there is still a ton of room of growth for him to maximize his talents, and be in the right place at the right time to make the play when it presents itself. We’re excited to see his development and growth here during the course of this training camp.”

*Transcript provided by the University of Tennessee Athletic Department*

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