Tennessee Volunteers Press Conference Cliff's Notes

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

On Vanderbilt, bye weeks, quarterbacks, defense, special teams, etc.

If you've been following these all season, you pretty much know what Butch Jones has to say. He's changing the culture, instilling discipline, toughness, etc. And we'll not rehash all the things he always says. But if you're looking for particulars, here you are (as always, live blog in the comments here):

  • (On Vanderbilt): They have a lot of toughness, effort, and confidence. They have a very talented secondary and don't give up big plays. They're opportunistic (16 turnovers forced in four games) and don't miss tackles. They're well-coached and challenge your eye-discipline on offense with plays out of the Wildcat. Jerron Seymour is playing at a very high level (Jones coached his brother at Central Michigan and loved him), and Jordan Matthews is as good as any receiver in the country. He's a play-maker and can play the slot or outside. He can adjust to the ball in the air. He's explosive and has great confidence. Also, we expect to see Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback.
  • (On quarterbacks): We'll call more run plays as Josh Dobbs progresses mentally and physically. Who's the backup quarterback? Well, if Josh's helmet comes off, Nathan Peterman is going in.
  • (On senior day): Often seniors get emotional. They can't be emotional, they have to be passionate. They'll have time to reflect on everything in February. Saturday they have to play. The seniors have been through a lot, but they're resilient and will have to be resilient again this week. And Ja'Wuan James is a great resource, a great competitor, a consistent player, and has a great future ahead of him.
  • (On Pig and North): They've both improved drastically. Alton Howard is like a different player from August, although he still has to work on day-to-day mental intensity, from practice to sleeping enough and eating well. Marquez North was a high school running back, we've had to develop his instincts, but he absorbs everything we say and has enormous drive to be the best. He puts more pressure on himself than anyone, and those guys can do anything they set their minds to. In big games that we've won, North has been key.
  • (On bowl games): It's a superficial measure. Priority #1 is instilling the kind of standards we need. That 4-8 season at Cincinnati was the hardest season I've ever been a part of, but we laid the foundation for a team that won double digits each of the next two years. Right now, I'm as encouraged as I've ever been, even if the little stuff doesn't show up on the scoreboard. And we have to win five before we win six.
  • (On recruiting): It's going extremely well. People see what we're building. But we have to build on it.
  • (On tight ends): We'd like to use them more, but we don't have a lot of depth. We're recruiting it, but we'll play to our strengths. At Cincinnati, we had a 3rd round tight end the last year that we used a lot. Before that, we were receiver oriented.
  • (On DL productivity): We need more explosiveness, coming off the football, use of hands. We had some depth issues there, but we have to produce, have to stay in our gaps. If we miss one gap with our three-tech, it sets the whole defense back.
  • (On the secondary): Jones and Foreman are about the same. Cam Sutton continues to progress. His maturity and confidence is great to see, but he'll have another tough matchup on Saturday.
  • (On the bye week): Every bye is different. It's about seeing what the team needs, balancing hitting with lifting with rest with working on the details. We've had a grind and a lot of players needed maintenance time (mentions Tiny specifically).
  • (On injuries): Marlon Walls will play this week.
  • (On special teams): We're getting A.J. Johnson and Dontavis Sapp some more reps, but we have to balance getting our best eleven out there and making wholesale changes with guys who haven't practiced there all year. Also, we have to balance defensive and special teams reps. A.J. and Sapp are playing too much as it is. We did well until Auburn, but we had a couple guys get outside their lanes, lose one-on-one battles, and Auburn's speed made us pay.
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