Tennessee played its second scrimmage of fall camp today, and naturally it was closed to the media.
If you’re in Knoxville, or anywhere near really, you saw the conditions today — buckets and buckets of rain. From a preparation standpoint, I like the team getting some live-game reps in the poor conditions. There’s likely to be at least one game in this kinda weather during the season. Tennessee Head Coach was complimentary of his offense’s performance battling through the adverse circumstances.
“I thought the quarterbacks handled the weather (and) were able the throw the ball efficiently and effectively,” Heupel said. “I thought our wide receivers did a pretty good job. (We) didn’t have any center-quarterback issues. It was really pretty good.”
Heupel was predictably pressed about the quarterback position, but he evaded the question and took another opportunity to brag on how the guys handled the rain.
“Gameday, you wake up (and) no matter what the weather report has said throughout the course of the week, you’ve got to play in the elements that you’ve got,” Heupel said. “We will play in a rain game, so your mindset – offense, defense, special teams – got to be that this is the right weather for us to go out and execute. It has no bearing on who we are and what we do and how we do it. I thought we really functioned at a pretty high level on that side of the football.”
The THIRD time he was asked about the QBs, he reassured the media that they’d be the first to know once he and the staff has made that decision. I get it — it gets old getting the same questions over and over, but I mean c’mon buddy. He knew it was going to happen, so why not just address it in the opening statement and move on?
Okay, whatever, moving on. From reports, the defense pretty clearly won the first scrimmage, so it’s encouraging to hear the change in tone about the offense from after the first scrimmage to now. Heupel talked about the offense executing well twice, so hopefully that means it was a cleaner scrimmage on that side of the ball. That’s going to be incredibly important come start of the season as this team won’t be good enough to beat itself and the opponent real often. Still, Heupel said there’s work yet to be done on the offensive line.
“There are certain things we have to get corrected,” Heupel said. “There are a couple things that happened pre-snap that we can certainly correct. Throughout training camp though, we’ve been relatively clean there. We have officials out there every single day that are calling it like a game, and we point that out to our players every single day. They’re taking ownership in it. No, we’re never where we want to be, but we have a lot of positives there.”
Heupel went out of his way to speak highly of the running backs at the tail end of a question about the defense, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean anything special on its own, it jibes with what most folks think about the backs to this point. Even minus Eric Gray, who is going to be really, really good at Oklahoma, the RBs might be one of the best units on the team.
Terry posted about Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans as a possible formidable duo yesterday, while freshman Jaylen Wright has game-breaking, dual-threat potential as a runner/ receiver and makes a few appearances in the highlight video UT released of today’s scrimmage. Jumbo athlete and freshman Dee Beckwith rounds out the group and garnered praise from RB coach Jerry Mack recently on his ability to pass protect, which is a skill that often takes longer for young players to master.
Today’s post-scrimmage presser didn’t seem as long as the one from last time, so the topics were a bit limited, and I didn’t get to all of it here. but, a quick note about the defense — it sounds like the staff thinks the LBs may be surprisingly good.
“There’s a lot of guys who can play and can play at a really high level in that second level, that linebacker group,” Heupel said. “I think the strength of any position can never be one guy, you guys have heard me say that before. We’ve got the ability to play a lot of bodies on that second level throughout training camp, but especially during the scrimmage, and you’ve seen most guys play with great effort, great strain, speed that has shown up on the video. We’ve shown our guys a lot of that during the course of our team meetings.”