Tennessee coach Josh Heupel met with the local media on Monday afternoon to put a bow on the Vols’ blowout loss at Missouri and to begin previewing this week’s showdown against No. 2 Georgia.
Heupel discussed the status of a number of Tennessee’s injured players, the Vols’ third down defensive issues against Missouri and much more. Here’s everything Heupel said.
“Some of the things that we talked about going into the game, we didn’t do. We’ve got to play smarter football, in particular on the offensive side of the football. You look at the drives, most of them end with a major penalty that puts you in second-and-extra-long, first-and-extra-long. And the turnovers on plus side of the territory as well. So lots to learn from.
“At the same time, you gotta watch it, whether you win or lose, and you gotta move on to the next one. We got a great opponent coming to town this week. You look at Georgia, they play extremely well. Smart football, physical football, all three phases of the game. They got dynamic play makers in all three phases of the game as well. So a huge test for us and we gotta have a great week of preparation to get ready for these guys.
“I think it’s the first time we’ve been back home for an SEC game inside Neyland Stadium in over a month. Looking forward to our fans, seeing them there on Saturday. Need a great atmosphere. Dolly’s gonna be there as well, so my mom will be excited about that one.”
On how Tennessee can play smarter and how the Vols can fix their penalty issues
“Yeah, well some of it (is) personal accountability. Some of it, you look at it, some of the penalties on the offense side of the football, the playing penalties comes down to fundamentals and technique and body position. You do those things right, you have an opportunity to not have some of those things happen. Gotta be smart at the end of play as well.”
On Tennessee having officials at practice and how much scrutiny is placed on officiating in a practice
“I mean, they pay attention to everything that’s going on. They’re there for a reason. The way you finish plays and practice isn’t necessarily the same as a game.”
On how Tennessee can get the run game going again against Georgia
“Yeah, part of it’s the way the game ended (against Missouri) and the type of scenario that you’re playing out. But a bunch of it is, you know, us doing a great job, communication, fundamentals, running backs pressing the hole, doing a good job of reading things too. It was a combination of all those things the other night.”
On Tennessee’s decision-making process on when to call for fair catches and when to attempt to return kickoffs
“We have an idea of what we’re doing before we go out there. But then based on the kick too, there should be a decision that’s made during the course of the play as well.”
On if the opportunity Tennessee has against No. 1 Georgia on Saturday makes it easier to move on from the Missouri loss
“Yeah, I think no matter what you do the previous week, you gotta put the game behind you. Certainly we understand the quality of the opponent is that’s coming to town this week. Our guys understand who they are, what they’re about and the way that they’re gonna play. Will be a great test for us.”
An injury update on Tennessee’s Dont’e Thornton and how the other receivers played at Missouri
“Dont’e will be out for the remainder of the regular season,” Heupel said during his weekly press conference to start Georgia week. “We’ll see where we’re at as we get into postseason play. Young guys (at wide receiver), there were some real positive things that they did during the course of the game. Chas (Nimrod), Kaleb (Webb), all in all, like a majority of what they did.”
On what they need to do scheme wise to help the young receivers
Well, you’re always going to subtly change your scheme based on what you’ve seen structure wise and personnel wise. On the other side. You always try to put those guys in a position where they can go win and in this one there’s a bunch of one-on-ones. It’s gonna be tight, contested coverage out on the outside. At the end of the day, they’re gonna have to go win some of those battles.”
On Elijah Herring against Missouri
“The other day I thought he got his eyes just caught in the wrong place on a couple of his reads. Missed a couple open field tackles, but he did some good things as well. He’s a young player that’s gotta continue to grow, need him to play extremely well on Saturday afternoon.”
On how Georgia compares to last year’s Bulldogs team
“They got really good players across the board. Defensively, big, strong, athletic upfront. They can run. They cover extremely well on the back end. They don’t miss tackles. You see ’em in in close quarters and in open space. They tackle extremely well. Offensively, they got dynamic playmakers. A few of those guys are just getting back and getting truly healthy right now. But the quarterback’s playing extremely well, really efficient and accurate. He’s done a really nice job.”
On if Dolly Parton being in attendance adds more pressure
“*Laughs* Anytime Dolly’s gonna be around it certainly adds pressure, absolutely, to our performance. For Tennesseans, that’s, you know, one that everybody will enjoy seeing.”
On Tamarion McDonald’s status and how Jourdan Thomas performed replacing him
“I thought Jordan did some positive things. Was destructive and made some plays out on the perimeter. TMac got nicked up early in the football game. Do believe he’ll have an opportunity to be ready for this one.”
On the third down defensive woes against Missouri
“Inability to get off the field. Part of that was quarterback extended and making plays with his feet running and also scrambling and getting outside of the pocket. For us, you gotta do a good job of applying pressure to him too. You can’t let him sit back there all day, but he broke contain on us. That was disappointing. Some of our twist games, our contain player didn’t get there. He (Bady Cook) got out up through the middle of the football field once or twice too. We gotta do a better job. That’ll be big in this one too. We gotta match things out on scramble drill.”
On what he meant postgame when he said he was disappointed with how the team finished
“The last couple of drives, you know, going back and watching it a lot of them did continue to play hard. I just didn’t think we played very smart at the end of it, so I’m disappointed in that.”