Quotes: Vols Go Through Second Scrimmage, Kickoff In Less Than Three Weeks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee football wrapped up another four-day block of preseason workouts with its second scrimmage in Neyland Stadium on Sunday morning, and head coach Josh Heupel said the Volunteers executed at a higher clip on both sides of the ball.

“I thought there were a bunch of positives today in the scrimmage,” Heupel said. “We played cleaner on both sides of the football. Executed. I thought alignment, assignment, eyes on keys, being lined up and ready to go on the defensive side of the football, tackling in space. I thought we did a much better job in those areas than we did in the first scrimmage.”

Tennessee worked close to 100 plays with the first-team offense going against the first-team defense, as well as the second team and third team seeing action against each other.

The Battle For Left Tackle

Senior Jeremiah Crawford and redshirt sophomore transfer Gerald Mincey continue to battle it out for the left tackle position with veteran Darnell Wright having solidified right tackle. Wright enters 2022 having made 29 career starts with 1,851 offensive snaps in his three previous seasons. Crawford played in 10 games in his debut season, while Mincey joined the squad in January after two seasons at Florida.

“It’s been back and forth a little bit through training camp,” Heupel said. “Both of them have made a bunch of progress from spring ball, and really since the beginning of training camp, in understanding what we’re doing offensively. In the run game, playing with better pad level, being able to create some movement up front. Both of them have taken major strides in the pass pro side of it, too. I feel like those guys are continuing to progress as they should.”

Depth at Cornerback

Despite the departure of NFL second-round pick Alontae Taylor to the New Orleans Saints, Tennessee finds itself in a positive situation at cornerback with plenty of depth. Senior Warren Burrell is a starter for the third straight year. Junior college transfer Dee Williams, redshirt junior Kamal Hadden, redshirt junior Brandon Turnage, sophomore Christian Charles and sophomore De’Shawn Rucker are vying for the starting rotation.

Warren Burrell has had a really steady, good camp,” Heupel said. “(De’Shawn) Rucker coming back healthy, feel like he’s playing his best football right now, as well. There is a ton of competition right there at that position. That’s some young guys that have gotten here, guys that have been around this program for a couple of years, too.

Family Day/On Deck  

Heupel invited players’ families to the scrimmage on Sunday. It was their first taste of Neyland Stadium this fall, which will seat 101,915 after upgrades to two areas—a lower-west premium club and upper south end social deck. Families then had the opportunity to eat lunch with their sons inside the practice facility.

The Volunteers will have two off days this week—Monday and Thursday—while practicing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Kickoff for the Sept. 1 season-opener is nearly two weeks away.
 

Head Coach Josh Heupel Press Conference
August 14, 2022

 
Opening Statement…  
“A great day. Always good to get inside of the stadium here. First of all, it looks great. But a big day for our players and staff. A great day, too. We had a bunch of families that were here to share in the scrimmage, and they’ll get an opportunity to spend some time with their kids here this afternoon, too, before we come back in the building this evening. Excited about them getting a chance for myself and my staff to see them as well.  
 
“I thought there were a bunch of positives today in the scrimmage. We played cleaner on both sides of the football. Executed. I thought alignment, assignment, eyes on keys, being lined up and ready to go on the defensive side of the football, tackling in space; I thought we did a much better job in those areas than we did in the first scrimmage. Offensively, at times we were efficient and played with great pace and handled the communication side of it at a really high level, too. So, a bunch of positives. I know there will be a bunch of things we’re going to need to clean up, too, when we go back and watch the tape this afternoon.” 
 
On the competition at left tackle and how it is progressing… 
“It’s been back and forth a little bit through training camp. You guys have heard me say this. At the end of the day, we’re going to need both of them, all of them. You experienced last year, injuries. That’s true at the tackle spot. It’s true at all five spots. Those guys are continuing to compete. That’s not going to stop after today. That’ll happen all the way up until kickoff. Anticipate both of them (Jeremiah Crawford and Gerald Mincey) playing during the course of the football game throughout the season, and certainly in week one. Who gets a majority of that or what the percentage breakdown is, we’ll continue to evaluate as we go through. Both of them have made a bunch of progress from spring ball, and really since the beginning of training camp, in understanding what we’re doing offensively. In the run game, playing with better pad level, being able to create some movement up front. Both of them have taken major strides in the pass pro side of it, too. I feel like those guys are continuing to progress as they should.”

On the play at left tackle ensuring Darnell Wright’s spot at right tackle… 
“Yeah, at this point. We plan to keep Darnell at the right side.” 
 
On how far he would go down the depth chart at running back this season… 
“At times, we had to play five last year. Everybody has to be ready to play. As we continue here on the back half of training camp, and even before we get to game week and game week itself, those guys proving that we can trust them. That’s certainly with the ball in their hands, taking care of the football. It’s in understanding what we’re doing offensively, delivering blocks and hitting the right holes. A big part of it is understanding pass pro, too. The two young guys in particular (Dylan Sampson and Justin Williams-Thomas), I think have grown throughout the course of training camp. Just where their eyes are at, understanding protections and being able to handle the football game as it truly gets played out in a live situation. We’re going to need a bunch of guys at that position. Just the nature of football. It’s the nature of that position, it’s the nature of playing inside of this league. (it’s) an extremely physical league.” 
 
On the depth at wide receiver and if he knows how many guys he trusts at that position…
“Not yet. I thought there was some real positive things today. Bru McCoy did some really good things out there inside of the stadium. I thought he handled and operated really well. He was physical with the ball in his hands. Jimmy Holiday made some plays today, made some competitive catches and then run after the catch. Walker Merrill is a guy that’s had a really good training camp, much better football player and understanding of what we’re doing from where we ended spring ball. I think he’s made strides, and he’s done that offensively, he’s done it on the special teams side of it too. So, there’s still a ton of competition. We’ve had a couple guys that have missed a day or two here and there through training camp. This next block will be important to see those guys function and operate and handle the totality of what we’re doing offensively and ultimately prove that they deserve to be on the football field and play. That’s a Jimmy Calloway, it’s Squirrel (White), in particular those two guys.”
 
On Joe Milton III’s growth and how he’s looked in practice and scrimmages…
“Through practices he’s been a better decision maker. (He has) a better command of what we’re doing offensively, strides that you would hope and think he needs to take and is capable of. He’s taken better care of the football. A lot of things that we’ve asked from him, just growing up and becoming a mature person and player that we need inside of that room and in that position inside of this program. He’s taken some of those strides. There’s a bunch left out there for him. You guys know he has the arm talent to make some really special throws. But I think in all, in the two scrimmages he’s had really good command and presence in what we’ve done.”
 
On if there is any update on Bru McCoy’s eligibility status…
“Don’t have an update on Bru.”
 
On his assessment of the linebacker group…
“We are deeper because of the young guys that we have added inside of our program and the health of Juwan (Mitchell). The continued development of the guys that were playing last year makes that unit a deeper unit. In year two, like a lot of our positions, I do think they have a better understanding of what we’re doing defensively. We’ve been better in our gap fits here the last four-day block. In particular, I thought the one defense today, for the most part, did a really good job. I think they’ve tackled well. That second level has tackled well here as of late. Juwan being back adds experience, adds playmaking ability. Jeremy (Banks) has continued to grow. We’ve talked about that. (Aaron) Beasley and (Solon) Page III, those guys have taken major strides in the offseason too, and they’ve shown that through the majority of training camp.”
 
On the cornerback position overall and Kamal Hadden’s status…
“I want to view the tape for me to make a comment on how they played today. Overall, I think they’ve done a better job on 50/50 balls down the football field. Being calm, not panicking. Playing the football and the wide receiver. They’ve done a good job in their fits and some of our pressures and things that we’ve done.
 
“Kamal (Hadden), I anticipate being able to get some reps here over the next four-day block. It will be good to see him back on the field for us. He’s handled himself in a really mature way while he’s been nicked up and hasn’t been able to be on the field. Been purposeful in the way he’s approached meetings and practice. Essentially, has a plan of coaching guys up during the course of the practice. I think his engagement has allowed him to continue to grow. Obviously, you want those real reps. Anticipate being able to get those in this next block with him. Warren Burrell has had a really steady, good camp. (De’Shawn) Rucker coming back healthy, feel like he’s playing his best football right now, as well. There is a ton of competition right there at that position. That’s some young guys that have gotten here, guys that have been around this program for a couple of years, too. I’m excited to see that to continue to play out and obviously I want to see the tape for most guys, too.”
 
On Walker Merrill and Jalin Hyatt’s comments on competitive mindset…
“It’s the truth. Jalin’s (Hyatt) comment about preseason stuff doesn’t matter. Whether that’s rankings or praise of players, whatever. At the end of the day, we’ve all got to go prove it. Gameday is approaching for us. I like the mentality that he is going to be purposeful in the way you approach it. Our team will be too. I really believe that. For Walker (Merrill), those are two great examples of guys that since we’ve gotten back from the bowl game, and really even before that. This is where I am at, this is where I need to get to. Having a plan of how I’m going to do that every single day. Those guys are pros in the way they’ve approached every day in the building. They’re competitive. They understand the plan. They have a personal plan of how they want to continue to grow. They’re extra every single day. It’s showed up in the competitiveness in which they’ve played. That’s with the ball in their hands, it’s in one-on-ones, it’s with the ball not in their hands. The way that they are blocking on the perimeter. One of the things today offensively I thought was just our perimeter screen game, which is really an extension of the run game. The effectiveness, the efficiency of that was really good to see. Those two guys had a big part in it today.”
 
On helping players avoid hitting a wall at this point in preseason camp…
“We try to do something fun every single day when we are out on the field. I think creating competitive situations is extremely important in that. It raises the level of urgency and focus out on the practice field. We pick different situations every single day. Our team meeting has structure to it but there are things that are different every day. Last night, we’ve been in a pretty good routine of what we’re doing every day. I felt like giving them a little bit of a mental break potentially if they were able to catch the football. Elijah (Simmons) is the hero, as you guys could all see. Doing something fun to keep guys engaged. That’s true during training camp, I think it’s true during the season too. You guys know, around here we try to compete really hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it too. Last night is a great example of it. Today, being different. Being in the stadium for the scrimmage, families being there. The afternoon is going to play out differently for them too. We try to keep them fresh, physically ready to compete while straining them, making sure that we’re playing ourselves in the shape that we need to (in order) to be ready to go play. You can do all those things and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.”
 
On the performance of offensive and defensive line in Sunday’s scrimmage…
“I thought we fit things with the front seven, safety fits, and the run game with the first-string defense better than we did in the first scrimmage. In some of the situational football, the one offensive line did a great job at creating movement in third and shorts and goal line situations. There were some real positive things there, too. There were a few sacks early in the scrimmage for the ones that we’ll go back and look at and just make sure we’re not just losing a battle, which is going to happen, but our communication is right too. There’s going to be a bunch of things to learn from, overall, really excited about the energy, effort, attention to detail once the whistle blows, getting their eyes back, getting lined up and getting cleats in the ground and eyes in the right place ready to go play.”
 
On how he evaluates scrimmages differently from last year…
“A year ago, it was so different. It’s the first time that we’ve gone through any of it together as an entire program, both staff and players. You don’t take anything for granted in year two, but there’s an understanding of the expectations and how we are going to play. Both sides of the football are much deeper in who we are with the number of players that we have inside of our program. How you evaluate it, I don’t know if that changed a whole lot. Every position coach is going to watch every player every single play and their alignment, assignment, technique, effort, strain and playing to the whistle. Those are the things. We want to play harder for longer inside of our program. We have to protect the ball when we have it and go get the ball defensively. Offensively, the last four-day block they’ve been great at taking care of the football. We have to create more turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. How we grade things do not change. The expectations and standards inside of our room have not changed. The perception of us outside of the building has changed, but what we believe we have the opportunity to do because of the work we’ve put into it has caused great confidence inside of this building.”
 
On Elijah Simmons’s injury and his status…
“I think he’ll have an opportunity to participate here this next four-day block. It was kind of a freak deal, but I don’t think it’s a long-term injury for him that will inhibit him in any way as we get closer to the season, but we got to get him back fully ready to go.
 
On if his injury has set him back heading into the season…
We’ll see when we get back. He’s been in great spirits. He said he’s feeling really good. We’ll figure out here as we get back on the grass here in a couple of days.”

-UT Athletics

Vols Scrimmage 2 / Credit: UT Athletics

Country News

A Wrong Shipment to Craig Morgan Meant Extra CD Sales for Adele

A Wrong Shipment to Craig Morgan Meant Extra CD Sales for Adele

If you were at the Craig Morgan concert in Aberdeen, South Dakota this week you had the chance to head to the merch table to buy…Adele‘s CD. Confused? Craig explains… The deluxe edition of Craig’s album God, Family, Country arrives on November 11th – and it includes his current single “How You Make A Man.”…

Luke Bryan Spotlights People Who “Country On” in His New Music Video

Luke Bryan Spotlights People Who “Country On” in His New Music Video

Luke Bryan‘s current single at country radio is “Country On.” Talking about the song, Luke says, “When you hear, ‘Hey Farm Boy…’ I mean that certainly spoke to me right off the bat, and the fact that we were able to put so many different aspects of the way, the country American way of life…

Weather

  • Forecast
  • Currents
  • Planner