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Everything Josh Heupel Said On Monday Of UConn Week

Photo by Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel met with the local media on Monday afternoon to open up UConn week. The Vols picked up their first road win of the season last week at Kentucky before their final non conference matchup of the season.

Heupel discussed the Vols’ passing success against Kentucky, UConn’s personnel and much more. Here’s everything Heupel said Monday.

More From RTI: Pair Of Tennessee Football Players Earn SEC Weekly Honors

Opening statement

“Players were in this morning. We had an opportunity to watch the tape. There was a lot of good, but a lot of things we can learn from too. Looking forward to this week. We are continuing to get better. We are looking forward to Homecoming week here. I know it’s a noon kickoff, but I expect our fans to show up and show out in a great way and create a great environment. It’s a great opportunity to welcome back so many of our alumni here, so looking forward to that. November is also Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and we have a unique opportunity to honor the legacy of Pat Summitt. We’ll be doing that at the game with our uniform (accessories), but we’ll also be doing that with a commemorative cup that everyone can purchase. All of that will go to UT Medical’s research on Alzheimer’s.”

On how Dont’e Thornton Jr. graded out against Kentucky

“Dont’e had a really nice performance. I thought he did a really good job with the ball not in his hands. When the ball came his way, he made plays. He was comfortable and performed extremely well.”

On why he takes so much pride in treating the younger fans with class

“For me, as a young kid who grew up around the game, I know how influential any and all of those moments were for me in my life. I grew up a fan of a lot of major colleges, NFL and professional sports. I had an opportunity to meet a lot of those people. My uncle lived in the twin cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), and he took me to a lot of those events. Those moments all mattered to me. I just remembered how I was treated in those moments by those players, both good and bad. You just try to make an impact and be present in that moment when you can.”

On Kamal Hadden’s injury and how the secondary played without him

“Extremely disappointed for him. That’s a young guy who came into our program and has continued to grow on the field and off the field. He was playing his best football. You just hate seeing that the season ends up being taken away. That’s hard for those guys emotionally. They miss the opportunity to be in the locker room and be with the guys. Your heart goes out to them. I thought the guys that had the opportunity to play stepped in and did some really good things. We’re going to need to continue to grow there to continue to perform the way that we want to down the stretch.”

On Jaylen Wright’s ability to gain yards after contact

“He’s playing exceptional football. Big, strong, physical, and has the last gear to take it the distance when he gets into the open grass. His efficiency in what we’ve done, just understanding the schemes against the defensive looks that he’s getting. Being able to press it, hit the holes at the right time, and he’s been a really special player. Really proud of how he’s grown. I think I said it earlier in the year, but as a young guy with great physical traits who wanted to run around everybody, (he is) learning how to actually play the position. He’s done that with the ball in his hands, everybody sees that, but he’s become a really good football player without the ball in his hands too. You look at him in pass protection, he’s done an elite job.”

On where he sees the progress of Joe Milton III coming from

“Continued growth. There’s been a lot of moving parts in front of him, there’s been a lot of moving parts out on the perimeter. Just continued growth throughout the season, getting comfortable being in sync with those guys and the fine details of it. On Saturday night, we created explosive plays on scramble drills. We hadn’t done that in a long time, and maybe since we have gotten here, at that level. Wide receivers breaking off their routes and doing the right thing when Joe breaks contain. Joe was uber-efficient, great with his eyes, good fundamentally and extremely accurate with the football. It was a really good performance by him.”

On how he assessed Joe Milton throwing out of the pocket

“I think fundamentally he has gotten better over his time here. Everybody being in sync and breaking off gives him the ability to make some of those plays. Being a guy who is more comfortable when he breaks contain of not just being a run-first guy, but keeping his eyes down the football field allows those things to happen too. Being able to get into a good fundamental position when he had time to. When you’re on the run, there’s going to be times where you’re not too, so those awkward throws, he’s continuing to improve upon.”

On Keenan’s Pili’s recovery process

“Keenan is not ready to go in this one, so we will continue to monitor his progress and his ability to get back on the field here late in the year. Keenan has a lot of good football ahead of him. He will have to make a decision on what’s best for him and his family.”

On the gradual process of growth in transfer receivers

“I think it’s a gradual process no matter what, in becoming as efficient and effective inside of any offense, but our offense as young players. Typically, from year one to year two, the jump wide receivers make is pretty dramatic in what we do. Dont’e’s growth and journey is a little bit different. I say that because he missed a majority of spring and training camp. He is still really early in the process of playing within what we do. I thought the other night, he was comfortable and was really good at the line scrimmage and down the football field. I believe we need him to continue to excel and play really good football here down the stretch.”

On how important it is for the coaches to continue to believe in Dont’e Thornton Jr

“I think that that is true for all of these guys. You have to point out the things that they need to get better at. You have to give them a plan to do that on the field, off the field. They have to understand the journey, but you also have to be somebody who speaks life and belief into these young players. I think that’s really important, that you balance all those sides of it.”

On John Campbell Jr. winning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week and what he has done on the field to solidify his position

“He’s smart. He cares. He works at it. He came in wanting to be a great teammate. He brings energy to his teammates every single day. That’s in the locker room, it’s in the meeting room, it’s in the weight room. He is very consistent in his work habits. He demands a lot of the guys around him. He is not afraid to speak up, and that’s in the offensive line room, that’s in the offensive unit room, that’s inside of our team setting too. In all of that, I think has parlayed itself into him being really integrated into the team really quickly. As he’s grown through the season and he’s continued to improve, named Offensive Lineman of the Week, that is great recognition for him on how he played this week and also on how he has played throughout the course of this season. He plays extremely physical. He finishes. He looks and plays the part of a Tennessee offensive lineman.”

On what stands out on UConn’s offense and defense

“I think again, the line of scrimmage is going to be important. We can’t let them have balance offensively. We have to disrupt the line of scrimmage. We have to get off the field on third downs. We have to do a great job of applying pressure to the quarterback. We haven’t gotten home here much over the last couple weeks. That will be important. Special teams are going to need to be solid, and I think last Saturday, our specialists did a great job. You look at Charles Campbell and the performance that he had. Josh Turbyville on kickoff, Jackson Ross. We are going to need that from those guys this weekend and throughout the course of this season. Offensively, we are going to need to have balance on this one. We have to be able to run the football, and we have to go win on the outside. The story doesn’t change a lot week-to-week but within that, the matchups are going to be critical.”

On how the perimeter blocking has been since Bru McCoy’s injury

“It’s been pretty good. They’ve played with great effort. Haven’t won in every one of the matchups, but they’ve been physical and played hard. We didn’t have a lot of perimeter touches last week, some of that was by design, but those guys have done what has been asked of them out on the perimeter. Bru is a special physicality out on the perimeter too.”

On the impact of game performance when evaluating players who filled in due to injuries in the offseason

“It’s how you base moving forward. Every Sunday you look at that, your personnel, how you think you want to play, and injuries play a part in how those reps are divided up. When you finish the season, there’s a baseline of this is who he is, this is where he’s at. There’s a long journey before you get back on the field for a game. I call it a journey a lot, you guys hear me say that, but it really is. There’s such a difference from year to year with players. You have a real medium of this is who you’ve been, here’s how you have to change on and off the field, in the weight room to become the player that you want to and the player that we need you to be. You have to let them go through that process, too. You have to evaluate young people for who they are today, not who they were yesterday.”

On how Dylan Sampson has continued to be a guy they rely on late in the game

“Consistency in who he is. The energy, the focus, the work habits, the practice habits, it’s who he is every single day, so you know exactly what you’re going to get on gameday. The model of consistency is what you need to become the player in every moment that you want to be. He’s been that. He’s been a great leader, you guys have heard me say that. He’s continued to grow. Dynamic in his playmaking ability. That can be out of the backfield catching the football, that can be him running the football. You saw him run through tackles the other night, you saw him bounce off people and extend and make plays. He was really good in pass protection, too. He’s becoming a complete football player, and we have great trust in him, but we have great trust in all those backs, too.”

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