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Everything Josh Heupel Said In Final Availability Before Texas A&M Game

Josh Heupel
Tennessee HC Josh Heupel. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel met with the local media Thursday morning in his final media availability before the Vols kick off against Texas A&M at Neyland Stadium.

Heupel discussed his team’s week of practice, honoring Eric Berry at the game and much more. Here’s everything Heupel said ahead of the integral SEC matchup.

More From RTI: Texas A&M Beat Writer Travis L. Smith Previews The Aggies Trip To Tennessee

On his team’s week of practice

“Practice has been really good. They’ve been locked in. They’re excited about this one. They understand the type of opponent that we’re playing. Preparation has been really good. For us, the timing of the bye week I think came at teh right time for us with where we were at. It’s been good.”

On what he’s seen from Texas A&M giving up big plays in the passing game

“Not a ton (of opportunities). Alabama hit some big pass plays. In this football game, the line of scrimmage is going to be critical. People get caught up, from their defensive perspective, the amount of sacks and that is true but they’ve been really good against the run too. All of those things play off of each other. They’ve forced teams into a bunch of third-and-longs. Line of scrimmage is going to be critical. Maintaining some sort of balance in this one. Then out on the perimeter we have to go make plays in one-on-one situations. All of those pieces have to come together.”

On Texas A&M DT Walter Nolan and his impact against the run

“Their entire defensive line is big, strong, physical and has the ability to bend. They’re athletic. They’re violent, disruptive in the run game and they have the ability to get after the quarterback. They’ve done that with pressures and they’ve done that with their front four as well.”

On his memories playing against Texas A&M as a player

“First one that comes to mind just as a player is they have a good atmosphere there at Kyle Field. (I) Had a lot of battles with them. Typically they show up and are ready to play. In this one, anticipate it being a great environment here in Neyland Stadium and we need our fans to show up. I hope they enjoyed their bye week but they better be ready, rested, recovered and ready to roll in this one. Need them to be a factor in the football game so looking forward to seeing them in Checker Neyland here on Saturday afternoon.”

On his memories of Eric Berry as a player, whether he’s talked to him much since he (Heupel) got to Tennessee

“Memories as a player, whether he was in college or he was in the NFL— dominant, dynamic playmaker that changed the way the game was played in the middle of the football field. He played violently, he played downhill. Just one of the best to ever play the position. I feel that way in college but also at the next level.

“Haven’t had a bunch of opportunities to have a lot of interactions with him. I’m really excited to get a chance to spend some time with him here on Friday. He’ll be with us tomorrow and certainly on game day too.”

On if he still anticipates Doneiko Slaughter and Dont’e Thornton being available

“Yeah. The guys that have been nicked up have all had good work. We typically wait until Friday or pregame warmups to make the final determination from our medical staff and the player himself but we anticipate those guys being ready to roll.”

On not only getting Eric Berry back on campus but his dad James and brothers Evan and Elliott Berry who also played at UT

“People that have had a huge impact or left a huge footprint on this program. Left it better than where they found it as they came through here and (have) great legacies inside this program. For Eric— his whole family— to be here, to have a chance to reconnect with this current program and current staff I think is huge and, again, he’s one of the best that’s ever done it. For us to have an opportunity to celebrate that is huge.”

On if any receiver has specifically stepped up in practice this week

“Chas (Nimrod), Kaleb (Webb), Dont’e (Thornton) being back. All of those guys have stepped up and done a really nice job. Anticipate all those guys playing at a really high level and their football journey is only going to continue to grow but believe those guys will play really well in this one and down the stretch for us.”

On if Joe Milton is closer to 100% physically after the open date

“For sure, Joe’s been tough and (has) weathered through every nick and bump that he’s had throughout the course of the season. Bye week was good timing for him too.”

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