KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, redshirt junior defensive lineman Kendal Vickers and junior safety Todd Kelly Jr. spoke to reporters at Tuesday’s press conference in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio.
Dobbs, Vickers and Kelly discussed several topics, including how the No. 18/18 Vols (5-2, 2-2 SEC) spent their bye week and what the team has seen so far on South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC) in film study.
Tennessee takes on South Carolina on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium with a 7:15 p.m. ET broadcast on ESPN2.
Joshua Dobbs | #11 | Quarterback | Senior
As one of Tennessee’s four speaking captains for Team 120, Dobbs could stand as the lone Volunteer in game uniform during Saturday’s coin toss at South Carolina. With the loss of Cameron Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin due to injury, Dobbs will also be joined by Alvin Kamara in travel gear this week, as Kamara has been granted more time to return to 100-percent physical strength following the Alabama game.
“Alvin is definitely a tough loss. He brings a different dynamic and we see what Alvin can do when he has the ball in his hand. But the expectation is for, of course, Jalen Hurd to play at a high level and John Kelly to come in and pick up the slack and also play at a high level as he did in the Texas A&M game. We are thankful to have several dynamic running backs to continuously come in and make plays for us and we’ll be very happy to get Alvin back when he’s healthy.”
Todd Kelly Jr. | #24 | Defensive Back | Junior
Tennessee and South Carolina have a history of close calls between the schools. Since 2000, no SEC series has a slimmer average margin of victory than the 7.3 points that have separated UT-USC. Kelly has been a part of the past two contests in a series which has seen the last four games decided by no more than three points.
“With the talent they have, the margin of victory is probably going to be small. It’s at their stadium, night game, sold out, they are trying to get bowl eligible. With all that being said, it’s going to be a tremendous game, we know they are going to bring their ‘A’ game, every team we have played this year has brought their ‘A’ game to us. With that being said we have to be prepared and ready to go.”
Kendal Vickers | #39 | Defensive Lineman | RS Junior
Tennessee’s depth along the defensive interior has been tested this season, a strain that grows no less burdensome with last week’s announcement that sophomore DT Kahlil McKenzie will miss the remainder of the season due to injury. With Kyle Phillips and Quay Picou now getting additional reps at the DT spots, Kendal Vickers — now the elder statesmen among the Vols’ healthy and available interior lineman — noted the particular challenges that face young players along the interior of the defensive line.
“It’s just a different mentality to play inside. You’ve got to get low and you get double-teamed a lot. You’ve got to make sure your technique is right, you’ve got to make sure that you’re on your assignments because if 3-technique gets blown up then that’s a five-, six-, seven-yard gain and you get exposed on national television. You don’t want that to happen. It’s just a different mentality to play inside. I think it’s one of the toughest positions to play. Not everyone can play it and I don’t expect everyone to be able to play it. It’s just a different position.”
More Sound Bites
Senior Quarterback Joshua Dobbs
(On whether Tennessee’s last win at South Carolina helped propel the program to where it is today)
“It definitely led us down the right track. You know, I remember coming into that season that our goal was to make it to a bowl game and get Tennessee back to a bowl game. Then, we wanted to continue to grow the program from there. Obviously, we had six regular season wins that year and that was definitely an important one to get there and accomplish that goal. It was a stepping stone in the right direction and we’ve only continued to grow since then.
(On potentially having the offensive line starters back this week)
“Any time you have those guys back from injury, it’s always a good sign. So, we expect those guys to play at a high level and any person whose name is called, when they come in the game we expect them to play at a high level. We definitely hold each guy to a high standard. With each guy, they realize that and when their name is called, they have to make the most of that opportunity in order to help us be victorious.”
Junior Defensive Back Todd Kelly Jr.
(On the young players increasing their playing time)
“I think it’s big for the young guys to step up, mainly on special teams. I know my freshman year I played every special team: kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. So during this bye week the freshman really focused on improving their fundamentals, not just on defense or offense but also on special teams. I think that’s huge for the freshman to step up in that aspect of the game.”
“I love Quay. He comes out and works hard every day. That’s all you can ask for. We’re going to need him to step up this week and for the rest of the year. That’s what I expect from him; I’m going to be hard on him. I know what he can do and I know what he can bring to the table. He’ll be alright.”
(On how close the South Carolina games have been in recent years)
“We look at this kind of like a rivalry game and rivalry games are supposed to be close. But we’ve just got to go in with the mindset that we’ve got to work this week and go out there and execute. It’s just like Florida and Georgia—those games, it seems like every year, come down to the wire. So the team that executes the best at the end of the game will win.”