There will be no overlooking Western Kentucky.
That much was made clear Monday afternoon.
Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones gushed about the Hilltoppers’ talent and raved about their coaching behind a podium at the Stokely Family Media Center.
“They’re an extremely, extremely talented football team,” Jones told InsideTennessee. “We knew that in the summer and everything has been confirmed through video evidence. All you have to do is watch a few clips and they get your attention. They have SEC talent.”
The Vols know they will have their hands full Saturday. But they also know they can improve in several aspects of the game following a 45-0 blowout of Austin Peay.
“I think the biggest development in the season comes between Week 1 to Week 2,” Jones said. “We wanted a very clean game (against Austin Peay). We got that for the most part. But no one should be satisfied. We have a long ways to go.”
Updates and notes
Defensive lineman Trevarris Saulsberry was the first name Jones mentioned when asked who jumped out to him most when watching the Austin Peay game film. Jones said he is impressed by Saulsberry’s motor off the edge.
When asked what makes Western Kentucky a dangerous team, Jones said the Hilltoppers have “NFL personnel,” play with “swagger,” and have great team “confidence.”
There is still no word whether the Vols will be with defensive lineman Jacques Smith and linebacker Curt Maggitt this Saturday. Jones said the two will be evaluated later this week, adding each “continues to make strides.”
Twenty-three players made their Tennessee debut against the Governors last Saturday.
Junior guard Marcus Jackson did not play against Austin Peay. Jones said the decision was made to get younger players “rare” and “valuable” reps. Jones also noted that depth at the offensive line is a “concern” after this season. The Vols will likely lose all five starters. There is a possibility that Jackson could be redshirted.
Jones said defensive lineman Maurice Couch needs to improve his conditioning. Jones said Couch needs to be able to provide more valuable reps in order for the defense to succeed.
“See a little, see a lot.”
The phrase is hollered multiple times throughout midweek practices.
The idea is simple: read your keys and only your keys in order to get to where you need to be. Don’t let your eyes wander.
Tennessee’s young secondary had multiple cases of wandering eyes against Austin Peay.
“I wasn’t particularly fond of our eye discipline,” Jones said. “There was a real lack of discipline.”
Jones said freshmen corners Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman were often glancing into the backfield, which resulted in several blown assignments.
Jones and players alike noted that the young Vols can’t afford to make the same mistakes against Western Kentucky. They won’t be so forgiving.
Byron Moore remembers the thrashing the Vols took from the Bobby Petrino coached Arkansas Razorbacks in 2011. He knows Petrino’s teams do an excellent job of creating mismatches in the secondary and creating confusion with pick-routes and crossing routes.
But, Moore is confident Sutton and others have the tools to learn and improve.
“(The young corners) know they have a target on their backs,” Moore said. “But they welcome the challenge. They have tons of confidence.”
Strong side linebacker Brent Brewer parroted Moore’s words.
“They’re confident and want to learn,” Brewer said. “I can see it in their eyes.”
More room to run…
Tennessee rushed for 315 yards last Saturday against Austin Peay.
Rajion Neal exploded for a career long 47-yard score, racking up more than 100-yards before halftime.
Marlin Lane plunged into the endzone twice.
Those statistics appear to sparkle and shine. But not to Jones. He sees room for the running game to improve.
“No, I wasn’t,” Jones said when asked if he was pleased with the ground attack. “I thought we left a lot of yards out there.”
Jones said Tennessee tailbacks bounce outside too quickly and the offensive line didn’t finish blocks at the second level.
The subtle errors, Jones said, are the difference between six-yard runs turning into eight and eight yard runs turning into 20.
Veteran tackle Ja’Wuan James agreed with the headman’s assessment.
“He’s right,” James said. “We need to work on our technique and finishing our blocks. Maintaining and straining, as we like to say, and not letting guys get off blocks.”
James said the lack of finishing could be due to first game rust, but he’s not using that as an excuses.
“You can say its first game rust. I mean, we only played a half and normally at halftime you can make adjustments. But we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to focus on correcting the running game this week and I know we will.”
Don’t blame Worley…
It’s easy to blame the quarterback.
When a ball is thrown short, the quarterback must have under thrown it.
When a pass is intercepted, the quarterback must have made the wrong read.
That’s not always the case. Jones said Saturday was an example.
“Obviously, Justin would have like to have those back, they were thrown behind the receiver,” Jones said. “Everything is about rhythm, timing and spacing. It was actually a young receiver not running the correct route most of the time. That is what threw the timing and rhythm off. On a couple of those the receivers ran the wrong depths.”
Overall, Jones said he was very pleased with Worley’s performance.
“I thought he played winning football for us,” Jones said. “I thought he was in command of the offense, I thought he managed it well. I thought there was a couple of times when he was challenged with the decision making process, when he had to make a quick game time decision.”
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