Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel answered questions from the regional media on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday.
The Vols head coach discussed his time as offensive coordinator at Missouri, bouncing back from the Georgia loss and more.
Here’s everything Heupel said ahead of the matchup with the Tigers.
Heupel opening statement: “Got a big one this weekend here and for us an opportunity to celebrate our seniors. This is our last time inside of Neyland Stadium, this week. Will be great to recognize this group of guys that have poured so much into this program and stuck it out during tough times and have helped this program continue to rise over the last two years since myself and our staff got here. We’re appreciative of what those guys have done and what they’ve meant to this football program and the power T over their playing careers and obviously into the future too. Playing Missouri. Good football team that I think continues to get better particularly on the defensive side of the ball as they’ve gone through this year with a new defensive coordinator. They’re physical. They run the football extremely well. They do a great job of tackling in space too. For us defensively the line of scrimmage will be extremely important in this one in handling all their shifts, motions, all their eye candy and stuff they do on the offensive side of the ball. Have to have gap integrity. Looking forward to going and competing with our guys one more time inside of Neyland.”
Question: What has impressed you about Missouri DC Blake Baker and how have they gotten so much better defensively?
Answer: “In some respects they have some personnel from the previous year just on their roster and who they’re using and where they’re using them at. Guys that were there a year ago, they’ve done a great job of really developing them. I think they do a great job with their eyes. I say that meaning they have great gap integrity. They handle everything that offenses are throwing at them extremely well. The front seven is extremely physical. It’s difficult to run the football and they’ve been really efficient against the pass as well. Defensively they’re playing at a really high level. Third downs, they do a great job of affecting the quarterback with their pressures. They’ve made it uncomfortable for everyone we’ve seen on tape, really, on third downs. Huge test for us. Have to control and win the line of scrimmage and then for us have to stay out of third-and-longs. Do a great job of being extremely efficient on first and second down.”
Q: Given all that, do you even spend time looking at last year’s game?
A: “I think both programs continue to grow and change. Defensively, with the new coordinator they’re so different. Some of your personnel cut ups you may revert back to some of the things— our guys versus their guys at certain spots where there’s carryover because they’re playing again this year but for the most part new scheme, new coordinator, new defense, new attitude and playing extremely physical so you focus on this year’s product.”
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Q: How has the bounce back from last week’s loss been in practice this week?
A: “Obviously extremely disappointing just in the outcome of the game and in a lot of respects things we did over the course of the game. It wasn’t because we didn’t prepare the right way. Reset on Monday. Opportunity to grow. Opportunity to learn. No matter whether you win or lose you have to reset. Our guys have been great within the building. Very intentional. The reason our program has climbed, particularly this year, is the consistency of our habits and how we approach every day. Our guys have been true to that. These guys are competitors and they understand what’s in front of us. The only one that matters is the one we have this Saturday at noon. They’re excited. We have to win the preparation battle in the next 72 hours. The lead up up to kick off has to be good for us.”
Q: What impresses you most about Missouri QB Brady Cook?
A: “He’s been smart. I think he has good command of what they’re doing. He takes good care of the football. I think as much as anything he’s a relentless competitor, man. No matter what the scoreboard says, no matter what the situation he continues to compete at a really high level. I think he’s continued to grow over the course of the season.”
Q: What do you remember most about your time as OC at Missouri?
A: “I think first of all you think about the relationships with players that were there and staff members. I still stay in touch with some of those guys and while I’ve been here recruiting I’ve gotten a chance to get with some of those guys that played for us. Proud of what we did, what we built from when we first got there. What the roster looked like, how we competed, how we handled every day to where we finished. Really proud of what we did there.”
Q: What stood out about Glen Elarbee and Joey Halzle then that made you bring them along?
A: “Some of those guys I knew before I got to Missouri. Some of them Missouri was our first time together. Smart, tough competitors. Guys that are great teachers. Guys that develop great relationships with their guys. Guys that can help guys reach their goals and dreams and collectively are part of the team and really selfless guys that are going to work really hard. Those are some of the attributes we saw in those guys.”