MEDIA MONDAY: Jones Previews Oklahoma

by UT Sports Information on September 8, 2015

in Tennessee Vols Football

Coach Jones speaks to the media at his Week 2 Monday press conference.
Sept. 7, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Head Coach Butch Jones met with the media on Monday to recap the Vols’ win over Bowling Green and preview Saturday’s match-up with #19 Oklahoma.

(Opening Statement)
“It’s good to see everyone on Labor Day. Before we get started, I’d like to say congratulations to our soccer and volleyball teams for their undefeated weekends. Coach Pensky and Coach Patrick are doing a great job and it just adds to being one Tennessee and I’m excited for them.

“Good start, obviously needed to be 1-0. We’re 1-0. However, watching the video, we need to take great strides in moving forward from Game 1 to Game 2. As we speak about all the time, there needs to be significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and that’s usually what good teams do. Obviously, the quality of opponent coming in here will be a challenge in and of itself.

“The things I did like from the game: zero turnovers, especially in the first game, that’s a very very positive thing. I thought our players did a very good job of taking care of the football. In terms of situational football, I thought we did a very good on both sides of the ball with third down and then our special teams performance sparked by very very big returns that created short field for our offense on a number of scoring drives. Red-zone efficiency, I thought we did a very good job with that.

“When you look at the significance of first games, as we said, first game is a game of the unknowns, not only from your opponent but from yourself. You know a little bit more as here’s where we’re at, here are the things we did well, here are our deficiencies and here are the things we need to work to correct and improve immediately and work to get better. It’s every player taking ownership and pride in their performance and consistency in their performance and having the mindset beginning today that we’re going to improve and we’re going to get better. The thing that I didn’t think we sustained very well in terms of sustaining blocks at all levels, also sustaining getting off blocks at the junction point. Those are things we need to do a better job of. Our style of play needs to take significant growth and steps in moving forward with just what will become our standards of expectations — I was not particularly pleased with that. When we talk about each team being different, I think everybody needs to realize that.

“One of the major differences from going from team to team to team is really the roles of players. Roles are starting to be defined on Team 119, but that’s why two teams are never the same. You’re playing young players that have never played before. Then you take another component where maybe on last year’s team and individual was a role player and all of a sudden their role on Team 119 changes. They’re a little bit more of an every-down player now, so not only are they just a role player on special teams, but now they’re playing significant playing time on offense, defense, coupled with special teams as well. That’s a situation that’s different in and of itself. So for these young players and for these players taking on new roles, every situation is a new situation. There’s no baseline level of play. They’re creating that baseline style of play. They’re creating that on every single rep and we have to aggressively pursue that baseline style of play, that baseline level. So, every trip out of the tunnel is a new experience.

“There’s so much to learn from game to game, from down to down and we must learn from those lessons and we must apply those each and every week. Again, we have a number of players who were role players and now become every down players on this year’s football team. How do you handle that? What you did last year to prepare is not good enough. It has to be that much better. How are you elevating your game? How are you elevating your style of play? How are you elevating your performance? How are you elevating the work that goes in your preparation, in your consistency? All of that goes into it. Our players understand we need to make significant growth and development moving forward. But I do think there were a lot of positive things as well.

“Now we all also understand that the team we are about to face here in less than a week, I believe is a top 5 football team and a top 5 football program. I have a lot of respect for Bob (Stoops). I think he illustrates the difference between building a team and building a program. His administration and his fanbase has stood with him through of the trials and tribulations, and they’ve developed one of the best programs in all of college football. They’re a great football team. I think they’re one of the most underrated football teams in the country and you can tell they have a quiet confidence about themselves. They’re very very skilled, they’re physical, they’re tough. And they’re a complete football team in all three phases. So it’s going to take anything and everything that we have to be able to compete with them on Saturday.”

(On how Coleman Thoomas looked in the season opener)
“Well, Coleman is an individual that has continued to progress and get better and better and center is his natural position. His athletic ability and with him being able to pull and get out on the edge — whether it was blocking a corner or linebacker, he at the point of attack blocked for two of our touchdowns, he was directly responsible. I thought he managed the game in terms of calling out the fronts, getting us in the right blocking schemes. He’s very athletic and he has some size. For him making his first career start at center, we thought he played really well.”

(On how the rest of the offensive line did)
“Everything is about competition and as we’ve come to know in the world of coaching, when you put the video on, it’s ever as bad as it seems and it’s never as good as it seems. We have to take our mental growth up front in sustaining blocks, blocking at the second level and just our our overall level of communication with all five. But that’s at every single position and lthat’s the nuances of playing in the first game. But we’ll continue to compete. It’s like I told our football team this morning, football is humbling game and when you think you’ve arrived, you can be humbled in a hurry. You have to earn your job and earn your spot. You have to earn your reputation every single day that you play football. What you did last year has absolutely no bearing on this year. It’s all about creating an identity. When we started to create our identity, are we pleased with that identity? If not, we need to change it. We need to continue to progress and move forward. That’s what makes football special. That’s what makes football different. It’s a physical game and you have to work and you have to create your identity each and every week.”

(On Todd Kelly Jr.)
“I do [think he will be healthy enough to start]. Todd brings a calming effect. It’s just like Brian RandolphBrian Randolph puts his time in. He’s one of those individuals who has a base line level of performance. He can make checks. He puts us in the right calls. He’s a problem solver. TK is that exact same way. You could see the defense kind of, not relax, but have a calmness about themselves when TK entered the game because he works at it. It’s important to him. He understands the nature of the safety position and what it means from a communicative aspect. He’s 100 percent. We expect to be ready to go against Oklahoma.”

(On preparing for Oklahoma’s offense)
“Well, we need to get better in a hurry. We have a football team coming in here that’s skilled. A very big, physical, imposing offensive line. Three running backs that I would argue would be as good as any three running backs in the country. Not a tandem, but they have three. They complement each other just like Jalen (Hurd) and Alvin (Kamara) do. We need to get better in a hurry, but I think, with a naked eye, everyone wants to point towards the secondary. That’s not how pass defense works. It’s all 11 individuals, and it starts up front. It starts up front with generating a pass rush. It starts up front with our get-off, off the ball, [and] the use of our hands. It starts with the second level, with our linebackers, and then the third level is our secondary. We did not play well defensively at all in the game [against Bowling Green.] We had some individuals do some uncharacteristic things, but again, it gets back to that base line performance. Our players take pride in their performance. They understand that, and the great thing is, we can work to correct the problems this week, but it wasn’t just the secondary. In football, it’s played by good players. They’re going to throw the ball up, a 50-50 ball. That’s why they’re called 50-50 balls. They’re going to make plays, everybody’s on scholarship. I don’t have a problem if you’re in man coverage and the opponent makes a great play, and it’s a great throw, and it’s a great catch. It’s football. It’s sport. You line up, and you compete, you snap-and-clear, and you play the next snap. If we have a mental error, if we have lack of effort, lack of fundamentals or technique, that’s where we have the issues and the problems. It’s a combination of both. Sometimes it was a really good quarterback making a great throw, and the receiver making a great play. Other times, it was maybe us not generating a pass rush. Playing great pass defense, there’s a lot of working parts and pieces and components. Everyone wants to look at the secondary because that’s what they see. They see the end of the play, but there’s a lot of things that go in at the beginning of the play as well.”

(On importance of the Oklahoma game)
“Well, I know John (Adams) will love this, and it sounds like coach-speak, but it’s the truth. It’s the most important game because it’s the next game, that’s it. Every single game is critical. That’s what makes college football special, is one bad day can take you away from all your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Every game is important, but it’s like I talked about, the base line experience. Every time they run out the tunnel, it’s something new. For a lot of these individuals, it will be their first game in Neyland Stadium. A lot of these individuals, it will be their eight game playing in Neyland Stadium. You just have to keep it in perspective. I think the biggest storyline is the quality of opponent. We’re playing a great, great football team.”

(On the importance of student attendance)
“[It’s] imperative. The student body means everything to us, and that’s why I’ve been so proud of our student body. They’ve been with us every venture of the way, and the greatest illustration is what you just spoke about, [13,000 students] needing a ticket. When most universities are having problems getting students to the game, and getting them to come early and stay until the end of the game, we have not had that problem here at Tennessee. Our student body has been exceptional, and we’re part of them. We’re part of that. We’re they’re peers. I’m part of them. I’ve just been grateful for them, and we’re going to need their support not only for Oklahoma, but the entire season.”

(On the status of Justin Martin)
Justin Martin’s reps are going to increase this week. We’ll see how much the knee can handle, not only the physical repetitions, but the mental repetitions. How can he handle, now, a little more volume of special teams? How can he handle the volume defensively, just from a mental perspective, let alone a physical standpoint, as well? We’ll increase his repetitions, and we’ll see how that goes throughout the course of this week of practice.”

(On Cameron Sutton covering Sterling Shepard [Oklahoma WR] the entire game)
“The problem with them, is that they don’t only have Shepard, they have a corps of receivers that are very, very talented, and very, very elusive. They do a great job of getting the ball to their [running] backs and creating space. They’re an up-tempo offense. Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma offensive coordinator) does a very good job, and they create mismatches. Again, we have to do a great job of moving our personnel around. They do a great job at tempo. I think that’s the thing that people need to realize. When you play up-tempo offenses, the situational part of defense, the sub defense, the match-ups, the personnel, you’re not able to do that because of the tempo. There’s a lot of communication that goes involved in lining up and playing fast, so that’s why it’s important that your players are locked in. You don’t have that luxury of facing a huddle team, where you’re able to match players on players, and do some different things that way because of the tempo.”

(On if the OU game will teach him a lot about his team)
“You’re exactly right. I was thinking about that today, we’re playing the best of the best. Again, they’re a top-five football team, top-five football program. We’ll know a little bit more of where we’re at after the game from a competitive standpoint, from a physical standpoint, from everything. I think it’s great preparation when going into our conference play is we’ll know a little bit more where we need to go. And obviously, Bowling Green was a very, very good football team, very good offensive team, but now when you’re playing the Oklahomas you know exactly where you’re at. If you have any deficiencies, they’ll be exposed.

“So we’ll know a little bit more, but I’m very encouraged by what I saw Saturdaywith this football team. I thought they showed resiliency, I thought they showed some grit, I thought they showed some heart, and I thought they showed some maturity by the way they handled themselves with the lightning delay. We had some adverse situations occur, some we created for ourselves. But the way they handled it showed me a lot. And I’m excited. Today I saw a team that was hungry to get back to work and improve. If you have that and you’re willing to work, you can do anything you put your mind to and I see that in this football team.”

(On what he’s seen from freshman DL Kahlil McKenzie)
“Kahlil is working his way back into the rotation. Him missing about a week to a week-and-a-half really set his development back just in terms of football stamina, technique. He’s a youngster. Again, he has no baseline, he has no baseline level of performance. He’s working to that. Kahlil is a very, very hard worker. It’s important to him and just like we talked about Justin Martin, his reps will increase also in practice this week and we’ll see how much of a volume of a defense he can handle from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint. But I was encouraged by the things I saw at the end of the game and those live game repetitions, those are invaluable. So to be able to get some of those individuals those reps and get that on film so you can teach them off of video, that was big for us.”

(On Oklahoma’s offense under QB Baker Mayfield and OC Lincoln Riley)
“Well Baker, first of all, quick release. He can spit the ball out there exceptionally fast. He can deal it out there, quick release, sprints to the football to get the offense lined up. I can tell that he plays with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. Strong arm. And he’s comfortable. I think he’s running an offense that fits his skillset and he has a lot of weapons around him with a very big, imposing offensive line.

“In terms of their offense with Lincoln Riley, they have good balance in terms of formations. They can run the football, they do the gamut of screens, pushing the ball down the field. Throw game. And they couple that with an up-tempo package, which is very, very hard to prepare for.”

(His evaluation of LBs Colton Jumper and Darrin Kirkland Jr.) “The situation’s the same. I thought Colton did a very, very good job of lining us up, communication-wise, getting us in the right defenses. There’s one play we would love to have back and that’s the 4th-and-3 play, obviously. But I thought for the first game and Colton being on the field for the first game, I thought he did a very good job.

“Now, obviously we need to continue to improve and grow there with anything and everything. But I thought for the first game, I thought he handled himself very well.

“Darrin Kirkland, same thing. True freshman, again, no baseline. Every snap is a new learning experience for him and what it shows is he has the ability to be a very, very good football player. Very explosive, can run. Now it’s just the mental part of the game and getting lined up and communicating, which every true freshman goes through. But I was very encouraged by both for their play on Saturday.”

(On the stoppage in play after a BGSU lineman lost his shoe) “That kind of looked like me the other day trying to go for a walk and being out of shape. But, you know, we met with the officials in preseason like we always do and when it’s equipment [the player] has to get off the field. Obviously, it’s a fine line that puts the officials in a challenging situation with protecting the student-athletes out on the field and injuries. So they’re kind of in a rock and hard spot, so to speak, and I appreciate the job that they do. But they stopped the clock because they were concerned it could be an injury, which, you know, I agree with that.”

(On his defense’s communication against Bowling Green) “There were some. We didn’t do a very good job – individuals did a good job from a communicative standpoint but I thought as a defense in general we did not do a very good job communicating. We had too many mental errors and to play winning football you can’t have the amount of mental errors that we had. Again, first game, going fast, a lot of things happening, but that’s inexcusable. And we understand that as coaches, that’s on us. Our players understand it as well. And it’s everyone taking accountable to fix it, correct it. We’ll get it corrected, but we just had way too many mental errors. I thought we didn’t tackle particularly well in space and we didn’t leverage the football very well in space. And those are all things that you worry about going into a first game.

“These are issues that a lot of teams around the country are having with first games. And you don’t tackle as much in practice, you know, so you’re always wondering how you’re going to have live blocking and tackling for 60 minutes. That’s what we spoke about a week ago, is it’s 60 minutes. It was a combination and it’s everyone understanding their job and their job description in doing their job. I thought at times we panicked a little bit and instead of just doing your job we had some individuals try to do two or three people’s jobs and that’s when you get into trouble. And when you play collectively as a group and collectively as a unit — you play team offense, team defense, team special teams — it’s all based on the fact that you just do your job. Do your job and have all 11 – one out of 11 – doing their job and you’ll execute. A lot of times for younger players, players that don’t have a lot of experience – we talk about `see a little, see a lot’ – and we had a lot of players `see a lot.’ And that’s just part of the learning curve, that’s all growth, and that’s all positive because you learn from your mistakes.”

(On the running backs in the SEC this year)
“Well, there are a lot of talented running backs in our conference going team-to-team and obviously, we’re playing a team on Saturday that not only has two but they have three. Then they have a very good quarterback who can run the ball, can run options, can run draws, can run a zone read and understands the offense and has been brought up in that offense. So, I think on our schedule, that is one of the challenges. It’s hard to play great defense. It’s hard to play defense in today’s world with run-pass options and linemen being able to be two to three yards down the field and your reads, not being able to play sub defenses. There are a lot of things that go into it and it makes it that much more challenging.”

(On how much quicker the offense will play following the BGSU game)
“It is an aid because just like we talked about all of the problems that we have on defense with up-tempo offenses, we can create the same issues for our opponent. We would like to get faster but we also have to manage the game, as well. Sometimes the best defense is playing your defense, protecting your defense and that’s where I thought Coach DeBord and our entire offensive staff and our players did a good job with that. It’s all about the team. It’s not one side of the ball but it’s all about whatever it takes to win the football game and that’s why we don’t have a lot of goals off of the offense or defense. We have the big three and we have the things we have to accomplish but at the end of the day, it’s winning as a team.

“We would like to play faster but I think it’s the nuances of the game, spotting the ball, different things that can go into it. We always want to make practices faster than lives game situations.”

(On Marquez North’s limited stats in the BGSU game)
“You know, it was one of those games where that was kind of the flavor of it. We have to get the ball into the hands of Marquez. Marquez is one of our play-makers and he has worked very hard. But it was just one of those games where we had a rhythm going, we were running the football and wanted to stay to it and protect our defense a little bit. We were playing an up-tempo offense like theirs so it was kind of the storyline of the game.

“Now, this week could be different. The following week could be different too and Marquez is a team player. He wants the team to win but we have to get him the football and manufacture some touches for him like we did before, along with some of our other play-makers, as well. Marquez will get his time and he understands that. He just wants to win, which is great, but we’ll have some plays designed for him.”


Quarterback Joshua Dobbs

(On the importance of the Oklahoma game)

“It’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity, always to play on the national stage and go out and compete against the best. You come to Tennessee for games like this. You come to Tennessee to play against the best. We’re definitely excited about the opportunity we have this week to play.”

(On Pig Howard’s return to the offense)

“Pig’s an explosive player. I’ll stay within the schemes, stay within the play, reading my progressions and staying true to the scheme, but Pig’s a dynamic player. He makes plays with the ball in his hands, as we know, and having him back will be great.”

Running back Alvin Kamara

(On what stands out about Oklahoma from film study)

“They’re physical. They’re a physical team. We’ve got to prepare. We’ve got to work on our physicality and just work on our style of play, whether that be blocking downfield, using our hand violence. Just things like that, little things to by physical right back at them.”

(On Coleman Thomas’ blocking)

“Coleman is almost faster than me! Coleman, he did a great job blocking up at the second level. Our whole O-line did a great job. Coleman, he does move fast when he gets up to the second level and that is helpful.”

Offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson

(On the success against Bowling Green)

“It gives us a lot of confidence, and I think the more confidence you have, the better you play. It’s not over-confidence, by any means, but we’re happy with our performance and there’s definitely places where we can grow. We can grow in our style of play, is what we’re talking about, and being able to finish blocks a lot more.”

(On last year’s Oklahoma game being on everybody’s mind)

“I definitely would [agree.] We remember how it was last year. It’s definitely a focal point, and I think people have really been concentrating on that, especially with it being our first home game, and having it already sold out. It’s a really huge deal for us.”

Offensive lineman Jashon Robertson

(On how much he has studied last year’s OU game)

“Just in general, from last year to this year in the spring and right after the season, I sat down with Antone (Davis) and whoever I could and I re-evaluated my whole season — Oklahoma, the ins and outs of every game. Things as far as the margin of error things — hand placement, a step being shorter or longer, landmarks, second level, pull, all that kind of stuff. It will be a big factor in this game with the stakes being so high and the talent level being so high.”

Offensive lineman Coleman Thomas

(On starting at center)

“I think I played okay, but it was great getting back at center, that being my natural position. Obviously, there’s some things to improve on, watching the film. We’re going to correct those things this week and get ready for Oklahoma.”

(On helping his teammates with facing Oklahoma LB Eric Striker)

“He’s a great player. He’s obviously an elusive player with different moves, but I think [we should] just trust in what the coaches are going to teach them, and we’ll go day-by-day at that.”

Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson

(On making a statement against Oklahoma)

“Going into this game, we just treat it like any other game. We know it’s a big game, it’s our first home game of the season. We’re all well-prepared. We’ve been studying Oklahoma, so we’re just getting ready for the game, and we’re just going to go out there and do what we can do. At the end of the day, if we get the victory, then it’s going to be a big win for our program.”

(On the strategy against the Oklahoma defense)

“We’ve got to be sound in our technique. We’ve got to be on the same page with (Joshua) Dobbs. We’ve got to be able to run the ball. We’ve got to be able to pass the ball. It’s a good defense, so we’ve got to be on our A-game.

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