Quotes: #15 Vols Turn Page To Akron Prep

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With a home non-conference tilt against Akron on the docket this weekend, the 15th-ranked Vols hit the practice field Tuesday morning to begin implementing the game plan for the Zips’ visit to Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
 
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks, offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Alex Golesh and select players met with members of the media after practice to discuss UT’s win at No. 17 Pittsburgh and the upcoming matchup with Akron. The group touched on mistakes from this past weekend that have been addressed in film study and on-field work early in the week, as well as maintaining a consistent approach as the squad prepares for another non-conference night game (7 p.m., SEC Network+/ESPN+).

“I think just being able to be consistent in everything that we do,” Banks said of his defense’s preparation for Akron. “We don’t want to be a team that’s high one week and low the next week. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s the first game, second game, third game, we want to have the same approach with our process, how we prepare and how we get ready for these guys. I’ll be extremely disappointed if we didn’t uphold our standard in terms of how we prepare. It obviously started yesterday and bled over into today, and then we’ll need another good day of work tomorrow. I think right now, just understanding what our process is and holding true to it is the biggest thing I want to make sure those guys are accomplishing.”
 
Redshirt-senior linebacker Solon Page III reiterated the team’s emphasis on consistency and shared that the regardless of the opponent, the team prepares with the same intensity and attention to detail each week.
 
“They have a really good quarterback. They have a really good offense. They have guys on scholarship too. Like I said, stay consistent. We do not overlook anybody, so we are going to go out there with the same work ethic. We are going to go out there and prepare for them just like we prepare for anybody.”
 
NEYLAND AT NIGHT
A day prior to the Akron game will represent the 50th anniversary of the first night game in Neyland Stadium. On Sept. 16, 1972, No. 7 Tennessee topped Joe Paterno’s No. 6 Penn State, 28-21. The matchup saw the Vols jump out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter, with junior tailback Haskel Stanback punching in a pair of rushing touchdowns for UT. Stanback’s third rushing score of the day with under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter all but sealed the deal in Tennessee’s first victory under the lights.
 
Complete transcripts of UT’s coordinators and select quotes from Tennessee players can be found below.

Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks

On the number of tipped passes against Pittsburgh…
“I like to think it’s emphasis. We’ve been working really hard since camp. Obviously, we’d love to be able to hit the quarterback as much as we can, but there’s going to be opportunities where we can’t get there, but we still can get our hands up. I thought for the most part the front did a good job getting their hands up, and even some of the pressure guys that were blitzing getting their hands up. We like to think some of the habits start to show up in the games based on what we have been doing since fall camp.”
 
On if they count the number of tipped passes there are in games…
“Oh absolutely. We keep track of that now. A lot of the defensive linemen feel like they’re defensive backs in terms of their PBUs, so they’re taking a lot of pride in it. Obviously, you love to be able to pressure the quarterback, but if they’re getting the ball out in a hurry, we still got to have the ability to affect them. One way to do that is by getting their hands up.”
 
On QB pressures and how the team goes about pressuring the QB…
“We always want to be able to apply as much pressure as we can, regardless of opponent. We obviously felt good. It wasn’t always just blitz, sometimes it was just our four-man. Everything we do starts with our get-off up front. Obviously, the more we can get to the quarterback, the more we can get him off his spot, the better it is for us in the long run. I thought the d-line did a tremendous job of understanding that. We talked about the tipped balls, obviously affecting them that way. There’s still the balance of bringing some pressure when need be. We thought we had a pretty good idea of what we were going to get and I thought the guys executed the game plan extremely well.”
 
On the pride the defense takes in succeeding after offensive struggles in the second half Saturday…
“I’m going to be really honest and try not to give you any coach speak, I didn’t even realize what the point (total) was. We feel like we got a job to do, and that’s to go out there and stop them every chance we step on the field. I’m very rarely on Twitter that way. I don’t read those things. I really talk the same way to the defense. We have one of the best, most prolific offenses in the country, we know that. We obviously have a lot of pride in what we do on defense as well. We don’t get into how many points they scored or didn’t score or things of that nature. We know any time we get a chance to have a positive impact on the game, that’s what we’re trying to do. We were obviously fortunate enough to have a positive impact this Saturday.”
 
On Brandon Turnage and Christian Charles lack of playing time at Pitt…
“It wasn’t necessarily the goal not to play those guys. We felt like the corners that were in were doing a pretty good job. In hindsight, you would’ve liked to have gotten (Christian) Charles in maybe a couple more snaps just because of the amount of snaps we ended up playing at the corner position. But the reality of it is, I’ve said since day one all those guys get what they deserve. (Brandon) Turnage is working extremely hard, but so is Kamal (Hadden), so is (Warren) Burrell. All of those guys are working. The thing we talk about a lot is just being ready when your name is called. I know those guys will be ready when the opportunity presents itself.”
 
On balancing players that don’t give up big plays versus players who are more aggressive and make big plays…
“It isn’t just the secondary. We balance that all over the defense. Everybody has a job to do. We talk about earning trust, playing with great continuity and consistency. The reality of it is, we want guys to make plays, we want guys to be aggressive, but not at the expense of doing our jobs. We think you can do both. We think you can have it all. The guys that are showing the ability to do that are the guys that will get the lion’s share of the reps.”
 
On Aaron Beasley’s growth and the linebacker play so far…
“I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence. I know I’ve said this before, be he was new to it. He wasn’t really on our radar, so to speak when we took the job last year. He ended up being a starter for us. We thought he got better as the season progressed last year, and we thought he picked up where he left off. He just has a lot more command of the defense at this point. He’s playing extremely aggressive. He’s being physical at the point of attack. I really can’t say enough good things about him. I really like the direction he’s headed. (Jeremy) Banks is obviously a guy who’s a high energy guy who plays extremely hard. He’s still continuing to work through the details, which I know is important to him. I think you’ll see him start to ascend too as the season starts to go on.”
 
On what he has seen from Wesley Walker and how he pairs with Tamarion McDonald
“Yeah, I think it’s good. We definitely have a pretty good 1-2 punch there between those guys. Wes (Walker) is pretty savvy. He’s a guy who’s played some football coming from his previous spot (Georgia Tech). He’s smart (but) he’s still learning the minor details within our defense. The moment is not too big for him. He plays good in the run game, shows the ability to go out and cover. We feel like between him and T-Mac (McDonald), we have a really good set of guys there that can help us win.”
 
On how the front and back ends of the defense are blending together…
“It’s a two-game sample. We’ll obviously continue to work through it. I thought we were better than we were the game before (against Ball State). We like to think we’ll be better going into game three. There’s always room for improvement, but I think at the end of the day, the tighter coverage you can play, the better you are upfront. The better you are up front, the tighter the coverage will be. All of those things go hand-in-hand, but our identity obviously is that we are a pressure team. We’re going to continue to pressure, whether it’s bringing five or six, whether it’s three-deep, whether it’s man, etc. Obviously, we can expect the ball to come out quicker against some other opponents and with that being said we got to obviously be able to take advantage of that with tighter coverage.”
 
On the biggest difference in the first two games between getting to the quarterback…
“Every game is a different game. Every offense has a different approach. I said it earlier (when) you guys asked, the ball came out extremely quick against the first opponent we had (Ball State). These guys wanted to push the ball down the field a little bit more, so they held it. But they obviously mixed in some three-step (drops) as well. It’s just depending on who you’re playing and what their philosophy is. Ours isn’t going to change. We’re always going to try and apply pressure with every point we can, now how we do that is subject to the game plan. At the end of the day, we want to apply pressure every chance we get and based on schematics and what they’re trying to do, sometimes it’ll show up a little bit more on the stat sheet.”
 
On what area he’s looking for his defense to grow in this week against Akron…
“I think just being able to be consistent in everything that we do. We don’t want to be a team that’s high one week and low the next week. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, whether it’s the first game, second game, third game, we want to have the same approach with our process, how we prepare and how we get ready for these guys. I’ll be extremely disappointed if we didn’t uphold our standard in terms of how we prepare. It obviously started yesterday and bled over into today, and then we’ll need another good day of work tomorrow. I think right now, just understanding what our process is and holding true to it is the biggest things I want to make sure those guys are accomplishing.”
 
On Trevon Flowers’ growth as a player…
“I think it’s a sign of maturity because there were – just like there are in life – there are going to be some ups and some downs, and how you handle it will determine where you go from there. I thought he didn’t panic, he didn’t drop his head, he stayed the course, and he obviously made some key plays down the stretch in order to give us an opportunity to win.”
 
On Tennessee giving up a big run, but also how good the run defense played for the rest of the game…
“We just had a misfit. That’s typically how it always is (on a big play). Very rarely will teams just beat you, usually you just beat yourself, and unfortunately, we beat ourself on that particular play. But I think at the end of the day, as much pressure as we want to be able to inflict – which is in our DNA – also being able to stop the run, you have to be able to make teams one-dimensional as much as you can. How you do that, whether it’s games, whether it’s pressure, etc., we don’t want to allow guys to run the ball, so we’re going to do everything in our power to try to negate the run game and we’re very fortunate to be able to do that last week.”
 
On if they change their defensive approach depending on who’s playing quarterback…
“The core values of what you want to do, whether it’s stopping the run, how we want to pressure doesn’t change, but the reality of it is, what kind of quarterback is he? What does he do well? Our scouting department does a tremendous job of preparing us and going through their personnel week-by-week. What we can expect when this running back is in the game, what can we expect when this tight end is in, and the quarterbacks are no different. We have a thought process and what we think his strengths and weaknesses are, and we try to attack him accordingly.”

Offensive Coordinator Alex Golesh 

On his evaluation of the run game through two games… 
“Unique. The first week against Ball State, we got something that we anticipated but didn’t truly prepare for in terms of a total ‘drop eight’ game. I thought we ran the ball pretty well. We got a bunch of guys in. I think we played five running backs in that game. We ran it pretty well minus the turnover on the fumble. This last week, we knew exactly what kind of game it was going to be in terms of what Pitt is defensively and how they are built. We knew it was going to be tough sledding running the ball. We also knew that the quarterback run game was going to be our best run game in terms of being able to actually have everybody up and forcibly run the ball. How Pitt is built, they are really, really sound. They are going to force you to throw the football. I think for what was presented, which is what we prepared for, I think we ran the ball okay. We put a ball on the ground in short yardage. That is two weeks in a row. That is beyond disappointing and, in a lot of ways, unacceptable. If I lose sleep about anything, it’s that. We can’t win games if we put the ball on the ground like that. We got away with one there, whether it was the football gods looking over us or maybe we are just that good of people. It turned out in our favor, but you can’t put the ball on the ground in tight games like that. I don’t know if you are asking for a letter grade, but I think it is a work in progress and is a huge point of emphasis for us. I think the offensive line is playing extremely well. We have some backs that we are confident with. We have to hang on to the football. It will just keep coming as the season goes.” 
 
On his assessment of Gerald Mincey’s performance… 
“That’s a good question. I think Mince did a really good job. He’s been a pleasant surprise a little bit probably just because you didn’t really know (what his performance would be). We knew he was just learning through spring. He was just learning through fall camp. He was really good in the pass protection part. He’s naturally gifted, super athletic, really long. I think he has really learned better than you could ask a first-year guy to do so. Really pleasantly surprised and honestly needed it to happen in terms of him or J.J. (Jeremiah Crawford) or both being able to hold it down over there. Really proud of him. They will keep competing just like every other spot. That’s not a coach cliché answer either. How you practice is how you play. Those guys have to continue to practice their tails off. Through two weeks, he’s done a really good job.”  
 
On having a short wide receiver rotation against Pitt… 
“I think how guys practice, and again, this is not a coach answer, you are going to play the guys at the current moment situationally that give you the best opportunity to win. That is our job. That game was so unique in how we knew we would get defended. We knew that we were going to have to win the game on the outside. There wasn’t going to be a whole lot in there in terms of running the football down to down. For eight years, people have not been able to run the football on Pitt. For us and our best chance to win, it was going to be on the outside in a lot of ways. We didn’t hit them all, and we left some out there. I think the guys who left some out there were severely disappointed, but I think they’ve also moved on and learned from it. We have a long season with some really good defenses ahead of us. I absolutely hope that more guys can play. At the end of the day, I don’t think any of us are going to apologize for playing situationally the guys who we thought were going to win us the football game.” 
 
On if he likes for wide receivers to have a level of swagger and big-time mentality… 
“Absolutely. I think they should have swagger and confidence. You earn the right to be confident. Cedric Tillman continues week to week to prepare like that, and he’s earned the right to be confident. There are a bunch of guys in that room who have earned the right to be confident. I don’t necessarily want us to be arrogant about it, but there’s a standard from the day we got here and from the day we met when everyone returned at the end of January that the standard here is to be the best offense in the country. We can say it, or we can work like it. There are a handful of guys who work like it. There are a bunch of guys who are learning to work like it. For us as coaches, that is our standard to ourselves and to the players and to this program and to this place. Our standard is to be the best offense in the country. If we fall short, we continue to work. If we have a great game, we continue to work. For Cedric to say that jokingly or not, I hope they are the best at their position in the entire country. We need them to believe that. He’s certainly really good, and you could make an argument that he is the best in the country. For us, it’s important that all of those guys continue to get better. Big-time players do make big-time plays in big-time games. He certainly did there, so did Hendon Hooker, so did the five guys blocking their tails off, so did the guys next to him, so did the running back who picked up the protection and so did the coaches who helped prepare them. I am totally open to answering questions about that game. It was a really good testament to our guys continuing to plug. It didn’t start well, but it ended on the right side of things. For us, we harped on it Sunday and Monday, drilling home what was bad and drilling home what was good. We reiterated our standard as we do every week that we are going to work our tails off to be the best offense in the country, and we have to take care of the football and be better situational football. We were not good in those things, but it panned out at the end. Again, credit the football gods or the fact that we are really good people.” 
 
On Jaylen Wright’s struggles with holding on to the football… 
“I think it’s the way we practice and continue to reiterate it and harp on it and pointing out when there could be ball security issues and harp on it. I’m sure it probably didn’t help that he was out most of fall camp, but we believe in Jaylen. He was running his tail off at that point. It can’t happen, but it does happen. It’s not acceptable. We have to continue to coach it. Jaylen is a great player and will continue to be a great player as he grows and understands the importance in those situations of putting two hands on the ball, securing it and squeezing the heck out of it.”
 
On having confidence in Chase McGrath to make field goals…
“It’s been awesome. He’s played a ton of football and he is super confident. Big credit goes to him hitting there at the end. We’ve always had confidence in Chase. He made a ton of big-time kicks at the previous place he was at. He is phenomenal. His mindset is awesome. From high school to playing at USC, he has played in some big-time games. I know our guys believe in him and he believes in himself. He’s phenomenal.”
 
On what was going through his mind when Tennessee started slow on offense…
“The only thing that was going through my head is the next drive, and how do we get the next drive started. When we get a drive going and pick up the first first-down, we are generally in a good spot. Those two drives, along with a handful in the third quarter, were all execution, in terms of just not executing. They weren’t missing assignments, they weren’t guys running free and hitting the quarterback, it wasn’t anything catastrophic. It was simply execution, and that comes down to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the preparation going into that game on Saturday. I know a year ago how it was. This is not a year ago, this is this year with a different group of guys. It didn’t start that way, but purely execution, and as you could guess the first thing we looked at Monday morning when we met as a unit was the execution. Why not? There is a myriad of different reasons, but the execution part. You earn the right to be confident. You earn the right to start fast by the way you prepare Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We did not do that. Credit to our players and really 100 percent to our players, to continue to wipe it off and just play the next play. I’m sure if you talk to the players after the game, they will tell you that’s what we tell them. Just continue to play the next play. Give them a ton of credit; they played the next play over and over again because it was the same situation in the third quarter. We just could not execute to get it going. Again, credit to the kids. They did a phenomenal job of just bouncing back. We as coaches cannot overreact to it either, and we didn’t. Those guys on the sideline did a great job.”
 
On being handcuffed on play calling because of bad performance on early downs…
“It’s tough when you’re in second and long. That was the biggest thing we talked about going into the game, is you do not want to be in second and long forcing yourself to be in third and long. Those guys (Pittsburgh) on third and long are dangerous. It was that way a year ago. You do not want to be stuck in third and long, so you’re just trying to find a way to get into third and manageable when you couldn’t get anything on first down. Once we got that going on the fourth, fifth and sixth drive where we scored touchdowns on all three, it was pick up the first first-down and get going. So, it was tough because we were trying to stay out of third-down with a dead ball where they could get all their pass rushers in, and then it becomes what we don’t want it to become. So yes, you felt a little bit handcuffed in that regard because you couldn’t get it started. Again, credit to our kids for bouncing back and going on drive four, fix, six and scoring, getting us back into the football game. Credit the defense for getting us the ball back on all three of those drives. Those guys played their absolute tails off.”
 
On Bru McCoy’s role within the offense…
Bru McCoy, week one, we got a little taste of it, felt like with the ball in his hands, he is really powerful, really dynamic. Last week, he showed that he would go track a ball and go get it. He’s practiced that way. He’s been similar to (Gerald) Mincey. With more video tape evidence coming in, he’s been a really pleasant surprise, but to his credit, he works like that. That kid is a complete, 100 percent worker. It’s all about how he comes in. His mindset, his attitude, his effort, he is a worker; and he pulls others with him. He has been an incredible addition for us, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. For him to really appreciate the opportunity to be here. He’s one of the kids that’s beyond grateful to be here, beyond grateful for this opportunity. He’s having so much fun and we are lucky to have him here.”

Junior WR Jalin Hyatt

On the number of targets he had against Pittsburgh…
“It felt good. The second half, we came and changed some things as far as what they were running on defense. Doing it for the team, that’s the first goal. Whatever I can do for the team, I’m going to do it regardless, every time.”
 
On the mindset of having the best offense in the country…
“That’s every day, every time we come into the facility and every time we meet. That’s the standard. We want to be the best offense in the country, and it starts every day in practice. It starts every time we prepare for anybody we’re playing that week. That’s the mindset and standard every day.”
 
On the talent level of Tennessee’s receiving corps…
“I think we’re the best receiving corps in the SEC. To do that, we have to keep doing what we are doing and keep making explosive plays. When (Hendon) Hooker throws it up, it’s not a fifty-fifty ball. We have to come down with it every time to be the best receiver corps in the SEC. I feel very comfortable with the guys we have, especially with (Hendon) Hooker being the quarterback. We have to keep going every day.”

R-Senior LB Solon Page III

On the defense’s confidence against Pittsburgh..
“I feel like we played with a lot of confidence. Considering what happened last year with Pittsburgh, we kind of felt like we owed them one. Last weekend, we felt like we went out there. We did not execute the best that we could have, but we did enough to come out with the win. It ended up being good enough.”
 
On his impressions of Akron…
“They have a really good quarterback. They have a really good offense. They have guys on scholarship too. Like I said, stay consistent. We do not overlook anybody, so we are going to go out there with the same work ethic. We are going to go out there and prepare for them just like we prepare for anybody. Like I said, we are not overlooking anybody.”
 
On coming back to win at Pitt and the progress Tennessee Football has made…
“As far as progress is concerned, it is leaps and bounds from what we were last year. Last year, we probably would have held our head down. We would have let the early lead affect us all throughout the game. We came in there at halftime, we had a little bit of a lead going. So we were like, you know what, we have to double down. We have to make sure we are consistent. We have to make sure we clean up the things that hurt us in the first half. Make sure we do not have the same mistakes we did affect us again. That was the main thing. The attention to detail in this team this year is way different. Like I said, leaps and bounds beyond what were last year, and that gave us the edge to win the game.”

Junior OL Javontez Spraggins 

On the challenge of trying to run against Pittsburgh’s defense… 
“It depends on how we game plan; it’s not too hard, it’s just all about hand placement and where you put yourself. The way we block, we block always for position. We position block so we can get in our spots and get the ball moving. It’s not really too hard, it’s just knowing where to win and where to lose at.”
 
On the team’s belief in Hendon Hooker
“Just knowing that guy in practice, no matter what, he is going to keep a steady hand and always move forward. The last few plays, it does not matter, just move forward every play. Ever since spring and fall camp, we have just trusted him to do that, and it has not been a problem. He knows to take steps forward and not stay in the same place.”
 
On how to reset after a big win… 
“The game comes and goes. We played how we played, and it is time to fix it and not make the same mistakes that we made previously. So, we just fix the mistakes and play even harder.”

-UT Athletics

Vols WR Jalin Hyatt / Credit: UT Athletics

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