KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Although Tennessee’s injury list continues to grow, coach Butch Jones “anticipates” most of the Volunteers injured starters returning to action against South Carolina next Saturday.
“We anticipate having just about everyone back for that game,” Jones said Wednesday during the weekly SEC Teleconference.
Tennessee is idle this weekend, using the open date as a chance to get healthy and prepare a number of newcomers for expanded roles the last six weeks of the season.
While a number of veterans are in the training room, the Volunteers are focusing on “fundamentals and small details” with the rest of the team.
“It may be an open week, but it’s a work week,” Jones said.
“We’re still working to win the work week. We have to get our health back as a football program. Our time in the weight room, our time in the training room is paramount.
“But it’s going to be a race to maturity for our younger guys because we’re going to have to have some individuals step up and take some very important roles for us moving forward.”
Underclassmen like John Kelly, Nigel Warrior, Jonathan Kongbo, Daniel Bituli, Marcus Tatum, Venzell Boulware and others will be under the microscope this week, gaining valuable practice experience with so many starters sidelined.
“I’ve liked our mentality. I’ve liked our work ethic and I’ve liked the way we’ve approached week,” Jones said.
“We always talk about the difference between being ready or being prepared. Everyone thinks they’re ready, but are prepared?”