Heupel Quotes: Running Backs Shine In Vols’ Second Spring Scrimmage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee running backs Dylan SampsonCameron Seldon and DeSean Bishop paced the Vols’ offense in the second scrimmage to wrap up the third week of spring practice on Thursday in Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee went through its normal pregame warmups before scrimmaging for close to one hour and 30 minutes.

With starter Jabari Small sidelined all spring from an offseason surgery, Sampson and Bishop notched big touchdown runs on Thursday morning. Sampson is entering his second season after rushing for 397 yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries last season. The local running back Bishop joined the program this semester after a prep career at Karns.

“I thought the running backs as an entire group were extremely positive today,” head coach Josh Heupel said. “Dylan Sampson made some people miss and did a great job pressing double-teams. Cameron Seldon did a really nice job running the football. Great job taking good care of it, DeSean Bishop. There were a lot of really good things from those running backs.”

The Vols will practice three times next week—Tuesday, Thursday and Friday—prior to next Saturday’s Orange & White Game. They will treat Friday’s practice like a normal game week “Fast Friday.”

“Next week is a huge week for our development as a program, in every phase, at every position with every guy on our roster,” Heupel said.

Admission to the Orange & White Game is $5 for non-premium seats, and all proceeds will count as a contribution to the My All Campaign. All seats can be secured now at AllVols.com or by calling the UT Athletic Ticket Office at (865) 656-1200. All open sections of the bowl of Neyland Stadium will be general admission seating.

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel
April 6, 2023 

On what offensive players stood out today…
“I thought the running backs as an entire group were extremely positive today. Dylan Sampson made some people miss and did a great job pressing double-teams. Cameron Seldon did a really nice job running the football. Great job taking good care of it, DeSean Bishop. There were a lot of really good things from those running backs.”

On if offensive line had an even better day today than on Saturday…
“Watching the video over will tell the story. I did think, in general, they did a good job on the first and second level and created some space. All those pieces play off of each other. The offensive line, take on double teams, good in their identifications. I thought the tight ends did a really good job on some of the second-level things that they were asked to do, and the running backs ran hard and they ran with good pad level.”

On if what DeSean Bishop has done has been surprising to him…
“Not surprising what DeSean has done. I say that, he’s handled the transition into college football extremely well. We thought he was extremely athletic, he had a great vision, pace as a running back coming out of high school. He’s done a really good job of handling the communication system and not being too big for him since day one. Really proud of him.”

On if anything jumped out to him from the wide receivers…
“There were some positives, some big plays, a couple of drops in the middle of the football field that had the opportunity to make a play too. That group’s got to continue to grow in their understanding, operating efficiently. I think that’s an area that that group will continue to get better at. They’ve been highly competitive, been physical and done a really nice job all spring.”

On if defense was as good as they were on Saturday…
“I didn’t think the tackling in the open field was as good and consistent as it was the other day. Gave up a couple of big runs. Got to have gap integrity and you got to tackle well. There were times (that) it was really efficient, really good on the defensive side of the ball. There were a couple of big plays that we gave up that we can’t do.”

On how the quarterbacks looked in the scrimmage…
“All in all, I thought they operated really well. We’ve put them in some situations, game management, for the win situation at the end of the game. There are a lot of things that we can learn in with those first two scrimmages. I think there are some things that we can get better at in that. Taking care of the football, being smart decision makers, handling communication, handling pace. Everybody has done a really nice job.”

On Nico Iamaleava’s development…
“He’s continuing to grow, he’s a long way away from being where we need him to. That’s understandable. Where he’s at this part of spring ball, really happy with what he’s done, his work ethic, attention to detail, ability to rebound and how intentionally he is in the way that he works. He’s continued to get better every time that he gets on the field, which is what you want to see from the young guys.”

On Cameron Seldon
“I thought today – the last couple of practices have been really solid from him. He’s ran with good pad level. He’s transitioned from playing a lot out in space to being in the running back position really full-time . He’s continuing to grow in his understanding of how to press the line of scrimmage and understand how things are going to be brought from some different fronts. Took good care of the football today, he got pad under pad, he finished plus-two, a lot of positives.”

On what he sees differently from a scrimmage in Neyland compared to a normal practice…
“I think coaches being off on the sidelines, the players being able to handle, solve problems while they are out there. They have to do that on their own. They have to handle being able to reload from one play to the next, handling game situations, continue to drive the football. It’s a drill, it’s going to be up until we get to kickoff in Nashville next year.”

On where they are at offensive tackle…
“Great competition up front. Guys that are continuing to compete. We’re deeper in that room, so much deeper than we were when we first got here, and last year too. There’s really good competition and that ties all of us to get better. Each of them have a little bit different skillset, but at the end of the day feel like all of them could be really efficient, effective in the run-game and have done a nice job with pass protection throughout the course of spring ball.”

On if there was more of an emphasis on the line of scrimmage during today’s scrimmage…
“There was a heavy emphasis on being able to be efficient in the run-game. Some of the situational football dictates if you want to be able to run the football. We are talking about the four-minute situation at the end. For us, we want to maintain balance in what we do, as the line of scrimmage is extremely important. We have to dominate that on both sides of the line of scrimmage, defensively and offensively.”

On if the younger running backs are hoping to make an impact during games this fall…
“We are going to need them all. There are times where you stay healthy for a long period of time. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. We are going to need all of these guys throughout the course of the season. With competition, iron sharpens iron. We are going to need that. Everybody on this roster better believe they will have an opportunity to play next fall and continue to sharpen their skills. It’s fundamentals, it’s technique and it’s understanding what we do offensively, defensively and on special teams. Being able to be a mature competitor and handle everything that comes at you.”

On the freshman linebackers…
“I’ve seen a lot more from those guys as we get a chance to sit in and evaluate the tape. Are their eyes in the right keys? Are they playing over the top? Are they being disruptive and disrupting blocks? I really like that group as a whole. They’re smart, they’re competitive and they’re great teammates. They’ve been nothing but intentional in the way they’ve worked every practice out on the grass. They’re athletic and they have a great ability to move. They should be able to help us on (special) teams. I’ll see how they played today when we get a chance to watch the tape.”

On if he was able to get more of a look at transfer wide receiver Dont’e Thornton 
“We did not get a ton of work with Dont’e. We had some yesterday out on the practice field. He has a lot of skillsets that we are looking for. In the back half of spring ball, we will continue to develop him.” 

On Joe Milton III understanding the run game…
“Our guys control everything. I don’t think there is anybody in America that puts more on their quarterbacks. There’s a lot of run checks, pass checks, loading the boxes, alerts and kills. They have to do it all. He’s highly instrumental in the efficiency and effectiveness in our run game.”

On the progression of Joe Milton III understanding the run game this spring…
“I think he has really good command of what we are going at the line of scrimmage, out on the perimeter and his eyes being in the right place to identify his keys and take it to the next progression. It’s in the run game and the pass game too.”

On the message to the team going into the final week of spring practice…
“At the end of the day, you have to reset and reload. When we come back next week, you control it. You have to win each rep, each period and each day. This has been a great group. Their consistency, and that’s in the meeting room, how they have been physically and mentally out on the practice field, has been awesome. I expect that in the backend of spring ball. Next week is a huge week for our development as a program, in every phase, at every position with every guy on our roster. They’re going to finish the day early around noon and have a chance to be with their families and enjoy the weekend. If they’re not going home, they can spend time with us as a staff. On Sunday night, we’ll have a team meeting and be ready to roll Monday morning.”

-UT Athletics

Vols RB Dylan Sampson / Credit: UT Athletics


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