Tennessee defensive lineman Omari Thomas confirmed on Tuesday that the Volunteer players held a meeting following their 30-13 win over Austin Peay on Saturday.
While player-only meetings often hold the reputation of taking place during times of emergency, Thomas spoke about this meeting in a different nature. The senior defensive lineman talked about the meeting in more of a let’s-not-panic-over-this type of way.
A small few of Tennessee’s players including running back Jabari Small acknowledged after Saturday’s game that the offense isn’t quite settling into rhythm as quickly as they’d like for it to. Additionally, the same notion was brought up after Tennessee’s season-opening win against Virginia, though that game did eventually find much more synchronization than the Austin Peay game.
Either way, Tennessee understands what’s on the horizon this week with an SEC-opening game against rival Florida under the lights in Gainesville. That understanding, in some ways, is what prompted the player-only meeting.
“We did have one,” Thomas said on Tuesday. “What we talked about in there, we just talked about how we’ve just got to continue to approach the week. We can’t change our preparation, we know it’s a big game. First SEC game of the year, it’s a rivalry game. We just didn’t need to change what we do. We approach each day like we do any other day. Just come in, have fun, ready to work and that was really the main thing.”
Since arriving to Tennessee, head coach Josh Heupel has given his players the freedom to express themselves on and off the field. The Vols’ coaching staff named a handful of players to the leadership council with the goal of giving some of the veteran players extra responsibilities – including addressing the team when necessary.
“It was a great meeting for us, honestly, just because it allowed everybody to see that we all still have the same page, flush the game that happened and just let’s continue to go to work,” Thomas said.
Thomas went on to detail some of what happens in Tennessee’s player-only meetings and emphasized the “why” behind the move.
“Everyone, once we get in those meetings, we may watch a video or anything like that just to get everybody back on the same page to make sure everybody’s having fun, everybody’s enjoying the process, and just really buying into the process because we know we can’t cheat the process,” Thomas continued on to say. “We’ve got to take every game one step at a time. So we just approach the next day like every other day. That’s mainly what all our player-only meetings have been about, just always approaching each day, always having fun, just keeping the people beside you uplifted.”
This player-only meeting isn’t necessarily an aberration, either. Thomas said that the player-only meetings happen whenever the team feels like there is something that needs to be quickly addressed or put to bed.
“Pretty often, not too many times, but whenever we feel like there’s something coming up or you might see guys just kind of falling off, lacking a little bit, we just go ahead, address it right then so that way it’s not a total fallout,” Thomas said.
Florida will host No. 11 Tennessee at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN this Saturday night in Gainesville, Florida.
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See the full press conference from Tennessee DL Omari Thomas below.