KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team turned its focus towards its first true road game on Monday as the Vols prepare for a trip to Athens this Saturday to take on No. 2 Georgia in Sanford Stadium.
Despite last week’s disappointing loss to SEC East rival Florida, UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt said that he saw a lot of Vols play their best game this season in terms of effort, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“I saw guys trying to find a way, and that is really positive for me,” Pruitt said. “For me, you find out a little about yourself when adversity hits, and I thought some of these guys were trying to find a way. A lot of these guys played their best football Saturday.”
Players Organize Sunday Film Sessions
Since last spring, Pruitt has been insistent that the players need to take more of a leadership role among themselves. Sunday was another step in the right direction in that aspect as there were a handful of player-led film sessions throughout the afternoon on the team’s off day.
“I’m walking through the offices, and our offices are littered with our players watching tape,” Pruitt said. “I had no idea they were up there. There’s a group of guys that had them in there, talking about players and being leaders. I guess they organized it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that, but I saw some ownership during the game the other day that excites me about moving forward.”
When asked about Sunday’s player-led film sessions, senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips said he sees the leadership among the players improving each and every week.
“It’s better,” Phillips said in regard to players stepping into bigger leadership roles. “We’ve definitely improved that. At first, kind of a little tough going in the first [game] of the season, but I think that each game we’ve pretty much been building off of the leadership. I think we’ve been getting better each and every game. I think we’ve just got to keep improving, especially me as an older guy, to keep on pushing our teammates.”
Buchanan Looking to Build Off Strong Showing against Florida
One of the players Pruitt was impressed most with on Saturday was junior cornerback Baylen Buchanan.
“I thought this was one of Baylen’s better games,” Pruitt said. “He’s one of the guys that I saw that I felt like answered the bell a little bit. He played a lot of press coverage and guarded guys really well. Baylen has talent, and he’s gaining confidence, so that’s a good thing.”
Buchanan tied for the team lead with five tackles and was solid in pass coverage on Saturday night against the Gators. The Georgia native said he looks forward to playing in his home state this weekend.
“It’s always fun coming back home to play, especially being from Georgia,” Buchanan said. “You always want to play well, that’s every game, but it does add a little more excitement just because you’re coming back to your home state.”
Doyle Filling Big Shoes Left by Trevor Daniel
Redshirt freshman punter Joe Doyle had some big shoes to fill with the departure of three-year starter and UT career punting average leader Trevor Daniel. However, the hometown kid has performed extremely well one quarter of the way through the season, averaging 40.6 yards per punt while pinning nine punts inside the 20, which is tied for first in the SEC.
“Growing up in Knoxville, this has always kind of been the dream for me,” Doyle said about playing at Tennessee. “I was nervous at first when I stepped on the field, but after I got a couple punts away, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and hopefully I can contribute the rest of the season.”
Doyle was also asked if it was intimidating to follow in the footsteps of Daniel.
“You’d think that, but me and Trevor are really good friends,” Doyle said. “Over the summer, we both trained with the same guy that I worked with in high school, Gerald Robinson. Watching Trevor punt—you see a lot of what he does—you can see that when I punt too, so it wasn’t too intimidating because I know I can do it too.”
Saturday Broadcast Info
Saturday’s contest will be televised nationally on CBS at 3:30 p.m. ET as the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst) and Jamie Erdahl (sideline) will have the call.
Vol fans can also listen to the game live on the Vol Radio Network (FM 107.7) or on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 125 (XM Channel 381).
Sophomore OL Trey Smith
On what the offensive line needs to improve to get better:
“We need to getter better from a toughness standpoint and just finishing through blocks. We need to sustain ourselves the whole game and getting that job done.”
On preventing a tough loss from affecting the rest of the season:
“We have eight more games left this season, so that is eight more opportunities to present ourselves in a better fashion. We just have to keep going. We can’t do anything to affect what happened Saturday night. Unless we have a time-travel machine, I would go back right now. But we just have to keep going and do what we do.”
On if it helps that Georgia’s defense is similar to UT’s scheme:
“Absolutely. We have practiced against that same style of defense and front every day. Obviously, there would be a lot of similarities in between and the same coaching philosophies as well. I believe it will help a little bit.”
Junior DB Baylen Buchanan
On how to make sure the team doesn’t allow the Florida loss to affect their play moving forward:
“We just got to get in the film room. We’ve got to build every week. We’ve got to learn from last week, we’ve got to take it, got to live with it, we can’t get that game back. It’s just important that we just learn from our mistakes and come to practice today.”
On a lot of the guys coming in to watch film on Sunday:
“The DBs, we came together – I can’t speak for the other position groups – but I know the DBs after the game, we talked, and we said we were going to get in the film room and watch the game as a group, and that’s what we did.”
On what they say on film as a position group:
“I don’t think we played terrible, but we still made mistakes. I think we got to clean up some technique, especially when the ball is in the air.”
On all the Georgia guys on the team being able to play in their home state:
“It’s always fun coming back home to play, especially being from Georgia. You always want to play well, that’s every game, but it does add a little more excitement just because you’re coming back to your home state.”
Senior DL Kyle Phillips
On recovering the fumble on Saturday:
“Really, I didn’t do much. My teammates did a great job. I think Alontae Taylor had a big hit and I just got the ball and tried to recover it, scoop and score. It’s one thing we always practice, forcing turnovers on defense and when you get an opportunity with the ball on the ground, don’t fall, try to get up and run with it, so that’s what I did.”
On positives from the defense’s performance against Florida:
“I think each and every game, no matter what the outcome is, you always can take some positive out of the game, some positive and negatives. I think the defense did—Overall, I think we did okay. We did pretty solid, but I think we should have handled some situations a little bit better especially with the turnovers. I think we should have handled them a little bit better. I wish we could have held them to some field goals on some touchdowns they scored on the goal line. I think we should do a better job, a little bit better job than that.”
On the team being in the complex yesterday already working:
“I think this team gets that. We’re not quitters and I think every game we’ve been building off of the little things that we’ve been doing well. I think for me and for our team, we just have to keep on working. I think good things will eventually start happening. We had a tough run Saturday with too many mistakes, but I think if we keep on working and eliminate some of those mistakes, we’ll be a pretty good football team. I think this team’s not giving up, we just have to keep on working.”
On the team becoming leaders and initiating the film session on Sunday:
“Yeah, I think so. It’s better. We’ve definitely improved that. At first, kind of a little tough going in the first [game] of the season, but I think that each game we’ve pretty much been building off of the leadership. I think we’ve been getting better each and every game. I think we’ve just got to keep improving, especially me as an older guy, to keep on pushing our teammates.”
Redshirt Freshman P Joe Doyle
On how the season has gone for him so far:
“Growing up in Knoxville, this has always kind of been the dream for me. I was nervous at first when I stepped on the field, but after I got a couple punts away, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and hopefully I can contribute the rest of the season.”
On choosing to come to Tennessee as a walk-on:
“Like I said, I grew up in Knoxville, always kind of been the dream for me and I was willing to do whatever to represent Tennessee and play. That’s always been the dream so I’m just happy I could do it.”
On if it’s intimidating to follow Trevor Daniel:
“You’d think that, but me and Trevor are really good friends. Over the summer, we both trained with the same guy that I worked with in high school, Gerald Robinson. Watching Trevor punt—you see a lot of what he does—you can see that when I punt too, so it wasn’t too intimidating because I know I can do it too.”
On advice Trevor Daniel has given him:
“Out of high school I felt like I was pretty knowledgeable in punting. I felt like I was pretty—like I know what I was doing. Trevor definitely helped in a college aspect, getting your op time faster and what it’s going to feel like in a game and all that stuff because I’ve never felt that experience before. He’s definitely helped with that.”
Redshirt Senior LS Jesse Medford
On being a captain versus Florida:
“I was told during pregame about how I was going to be a captain. It was kind of sprung on me. Coach Fitz [Craig Fitzgerald] came up to me and told me that I was going to be a captain. It’s been a progression for the past five years. It has been challenging, but it has been good.”
On the development he has seen from Joe Doyle:
“Joe is a hard worker. He has learned a lot from his predecessor, Trevor Daniel. They worked really well together in prepping for each week last year. This year, Joe has kind of taken his own job into his hands with his preparation, technique and everything that goes into having a job as a specialist.”
On his relationship with VFL and current NFL long snapper Morgan Cox:
“He comes back every summer to help with specialist camps, and after the camp, he will stay and work with some of the guys who are here at UT now. It’s cool to have the knowledge and expertise come back. There is that, and then a lot of (former pro specialists) will come back on the sideline. They will say, ‘Hey man, you’re doing a good job.’ They will help critique you if you have any questions.”