KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is fresh off a 55-0 blowout win over Tennessee Tech, snapping a three-game losing streak and moving to 6-3.
The Volunteers also became bowl eligible, but they still have their sights on bigger things, as the SEC East moved back toward Tennessee after both Florida and Kentucky lost over the weekend.
Shortly, coach Butch Jones will recap Saturday’s win, as well as preview the upcoming matchup against Kentucky (noon, SEC Network).
* “A lot of young individuals gained valuable reps … we’re going to need these guys the rest of the season.” Jones specifically notes special teams management late in the game by underclassman. “That shows their maturity.”
* “Getting back and having fun.” … Laughs about tailback John Kelly picking up offensive lineman Jashon Robertson after a long touchdown.
* Kickoff returner/safety Evan Berry is out for the season with a knee injury. “He’ll be very, very missed.” … Notes his solid play recently in the secondary.
* Jones on KR replacement: “We’ve repped a lot of individuals at that position.” Names Tyler Byrd, Micah Abernathy, Marquil Osborne and John Kelly.
* Devante Brooks, now wearing No. 77, has moved to the OL. “He’s done a very good job with that. He has a natural skill-set with that position.”
* Jones on OL: “Chance Hall will be ready to go. … But everything is about matchups. We’ll put the best five out there.”
* Tennessee captains Cam Sutton and Alvin Kamara will practice today. “There’s a possibility that both of them could play. We expect Alvin to play but we’ll know a little bit more on Wednesday.” Sounds like Sutton is still at least an extra week away, Kamara questionable.
* Top recruit Nigel Warrior is competing for a starting safety spot with Berry out. “Been very, very pleased with his progress.” Jones complements Warrior’s “closing speed” and “physicality.” “We’re very, very exited about him.” Warrior led Tennessee in tackles with 7 against Tennessee Tech.
* Jones on SEC East standings: “The way we look at it is we have three 1-game seasons.”
* On added energy this week: “I think our leadership started to assert themselves.”
* Jones on Kentucky: “We’re going to be challenged with a team that plays very, very physical.” Said the Wildcats are playing “with a lot of confidence.”
* Marquez Callaway will continue to return punts.
* Jones on Kentucky’s ‘Wildcat’ offense:
* Asked about freshman linebacker Daniel Bituli: Jones notes the linebacker’s “exemplary character.” “He already has his life planned out.” … Also notes that Bituli’s mother served one of the best recruiting meals he’s ever had. “It was a 7-course meal with 4 or 5 deserts, too.”
* Vols must limit explosive runs — especially against UK’s dangerous ground game, per Jones.
* Tennessee changed its pregame routine a bit last week.
* Jones glad the team is playing “meaningful games in November.”
* On injuries: “There aren’t many teams that could overcome what we have overcome this year.” Calls the team’s resiliency “amazing.” “They’ve stayed the course.” ….”This team represents the state of Tennessee. No matter the challenges, these guys work.”
* When Kamara returns, Jones says Tennessee will utilizing both Kamara and Kelly at tailback. Play to each runner’s strengths.
* On solving injury problems: “We quality control it every week. Every season. … We look at everything. We really do.”