KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has won 17 of its past 21 games, a mark among Power 5 schools bettered only by Alabama (20-1), Clemson (19-2) and Oklahoma (18-3).
Coach Butch Jones wasn’t patting himself or his No. 23-ranked Vols program on the back on Monday, though, as talk turned to a critical showdown against Florida on Saturday.
Jones said he was happy coordinator Bob Shoop stayed a step ahead of Indiana State’s coaching staff, holding the Sycamores to 0-for-11 on third down conversions.
Tennessee also tackled better, Jones said, after a lack of scrimmages in fall camp resulted in 18 missed tackles in the season-opening 42-41 double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech.
Still, Jones recognized that he an inexperienced program in the midst of reloading, and there’s “so much to improve upon” before the Vols are ready for championship level football.
“It starts with our overall physicality,” Jones said, perhaps harkening back to preseason criticism of the program from an NFL scout. “I didn’t think we played with the level of physicality that’s up to our standard or our expectations.”
Jones pointed out the defense did not force any turnovers “and that’s a byproduct of playing physical.”
Talented underclassmen Daniel Bituli and Nigel Warrior both brought a physical presence to their linebacker and safety spots respectively.
Tennessee’s defensive line, however, appeared sluggish. The players were likely still tired from the 96 plays —86 rushing — they endured against a physical Georgia Tech team just five days earlier.
The Vols kept their veteran linemen on the field against Indiana State much longer than expected before giving repetitions to promising true freshmen linemen Deandre Johnson and Matthew Butler.
Jones explained it’s a matter of his team needing to play football to get better, and him making that a priority over comfort level of rest.
Tennessee will likely have plenty of time to rest players against UMass the week after Saturday’s Florida game — a contest which might ultimately decided the SEC East Division.
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones press conference
Tennessee coach Butch Jones Monday press conference
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Monday, September 11, 2017