Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel answered questions from the regional media on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday.
Here’s everything Heupel said ahead of the road trip to LSU.
Heupel opening statement: “Hope everyone is having a great day. Everybody in the program is excited about the challenge ahead of us. Early part of the week practices have been good. (LSU is a) Really good football team. I think they continue to get better as the season’s gone on. They’re obviously more comfortable on both sides of the football just in what they’re doing and their ability to operate within it. Really good on the line of scrimmage of both sides and they always have really good skill players. It’s a great test for us on the road and one that we’re excited to get to on Saturday.”
Question: How much have you hard about the uniqueness of this matchup with this being Tennessee’s first trip to Baton Rouge since 2010?
Answer: “I haven’t heard that much about it to be honest. Obviously as this league has changed and broken up into divisions some of the games— with more teams within the conference— it just hasn’t happened. For us, this is a big game because it’s the next one on the schedule. Playing down there is always difficult. It’s a big challenge for our program.
Q: With the league expanding and opening up opportunities for these types of matchups more often, do you prefer an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule?
A: Man, I’m going to be honest. That’s something I haven’t thought about here in a long time. Just being in the middle of the season. I don’t get a chance to make that decision either so I’m sure our league will do what’s best for the entirety of the league.
Q: How do you feel about Hendon Hooker’s ability to handle crowd noise on the road?
A: Handling crowd noise, that’s important for the quarterback and it’s really important for all 11 in particular our guys up front and in the box. Something that we practice. Everybody in the country does. We’ve been able to, since Hendon has been our starting quarterback kind of handle it in a fairly positive way and be pretty efficient with it. That will be a big part of the game and a big challenge for us on Saturday.
Q: Do you like the progress the receivers besides Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy have made?
A: Yeah. Continue to get better. The way we practice I think gives all our guys an opportunity on both sides of the ball to continue to develop through the course of the season. Everybody has to be prepared. You never know when your opportunity is coming. When those guys have had opportunities they’ve continued to show growth in being able to handle what we’re doing. We have great trust in those guys.
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Q: What can you say about Hendon Hooker and Jayden Daniels still haven’t thrown interceptions this season?
A: It tells you that they’re seeing things and operating, being really efficient. It tells you that they’re being accurate with the football. They have some maturity and some ability to take care of the football too. Obviously turnovers in this game will be huge. LSU, defensively, has done a great job of causing that. I think they might lead the country in that stat. It will be a big part of the game this Saturday too.
Q: Hendon Hooker faced Brian Kelly while at Virginia Tech. Have you talked to him any about his experience in that game?
A: Obviously, the (defensive) coordinator is different. Where he’s come from, schematically, there’s some things that are different that you have to prepare for. One of Hendon’s great abilities is to try and focus on just the week and understands that the preparation is going to be critical for him. Our football team knows that you have to play for 60 minutes. These guys have been down multiple scores in games and found a way to win a ball game ta the end or make it extremely difficult at the end. You have to play for 60 minutes against this football team. They compete. They have confidence and they have good players.
Q: How would you evaluate your offensive line and where would you like to see improvement?
A: There’s some things in the run game we can clean up and be a bit more efficient in, but also if we’re cleaner up front in the way we’re finishing things we have a chance to create some bigger runs too. Still, there’s a lot of things that they’re doing really well but certainly we can be heightened in our technique and since of urgency at times to be more efficient.