KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers return from their lone idle date of 2016, recharging before a stretch run toward the SEC Championship Game.
Tennessee will play at South Carolina on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The Vols are two-touchdown favorites.
In a few minutes, Vols coach Butch Jones will update the team’s lengthy injury report, as well as preview the matchup with the Gamecocks.
Jones is finally here. You also can watch his presser here:
* “I thought a very, very productive work week.”
* On South Carolina: “They’re getting better and better. They continue to improve.” … Jones cites USC’s defensive prowess, notes red zone efficiency, takeaways.
* “It’s going to be a great challenge for us.” … Notes closeness of the series, last four games decided by a final score late.
* “If we thought the first seven weeks were a grind, the last five weeks are really going to be a grind. … We’re playing football teams that are progressively improving.”
* “For us, it’s all about constant growth and development.”
* “These teams are going to be up to play the University of Tennessee. … South Carolina is a good football team. All you have to do is look at their defensive stats.”
* Butch straight fibbing now. Ha. “There are no off weeks in our conference. There are no bad teams in the SEC.” (***Vols play just one team with a winning conference record (Kentucky) the rest of the season***)
* After performance against Alabama, freshman OT Marcus Tatum has earned a spot on two-deep for Tennessee.
* Jones on Josh Dobbs having same number of carries through 7 games as last season … but close to 100 fewer yards: “Each season is a new season.”
* Jones gushing about South Carolina freshman quarterback Jake Bentley: “He has a live arm.” … Notes enrolling early has really helped the freshman, believes team has bought into Bentley’s leadership.
* Jones said Tennessee had a youth development practice last week, joked that it was entire starting offensive line against Alabama. Mentions “valuable reps” for linebacker Daniel Bituli, safety Nigel Warrior, corner Baylen Buchanan and offensive linemen Venzell Boulware and Drew Richmond.
* Jones says it is “realistic” that Bituli could play up to 20-25 snaps against South Carolina. Alexis Johnson remains sidelined with a hip flexor, did not practice last week.
* Freshman TB Carlin Fils-Aime “is going to have to play. We’re going to need him.” (***No mention of Alvin Kamara yet today, but you can read the tea leaves on this one. I’m waiting to ask about Kamara’s availability.)
* Jones said sophomore DT Shy Tuttle is a “work in progress,” must improve his intensity.
* Jones said he’s “very, very encouraged” by tailback Alvin Kamara’s progression. Will not play against South Carolina. But knee injury did not require surgery, expects Kamara to play again in a couple weeks.
* Jones says the bye week “came at the appropriate time.” Said he cancelled a practice last week, and took team to a movie. “This team and this football program were exhausted.”
* Jones on why the next five weeks will be harder than the first two months of the season: “We haven’t been in this position in a while, but people are circling the game against us on their schedule again.”
* On getting Dylan Wiesman back after concussion: “This will help us immensely.”
* Jones said Darrin Kirkland, Malik Foreman and other injured players will practice this week, “anticipate them” being ready to go. “We’re going to gain a lot of these players back. It’s a testament to them and their work ethic to get back on the field for us.”