Quotes: Defining Success by Wins, Heupel Leads Vols into Akron Matchup

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Readying for a return to Rocky Top, the 15th-ranked Tennessee football team completed its Thursday walk through at Anderson Training Center in preparation for its Saturday night showdown against Akron, beginning at 7 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.

As kickoff approaches, excitement for the Volunteers mounts following the ranked road victory last weekend in Pittsburgh. Combine that with the No. 15-ranking in the Associated Press poll and a night game, the contest has the making for an exciting night filled to the brim with Big Orange. Head coach Josh Heupel is making sure his team is focused on the field and the task at hand with the Akron Zips coming to town.

“Look at the college football scores across the country last week, and you can see that the goal needs to be to win first and foremost,” Heupel said in his Thursday media availability. “Want to see our kids play smarter, more efficient and play with relentless energy and passion during the course of the football team.”

Relentless energy and passion has been a pillar of Heupel-coached teams, and the joy the Vols have played with has been on full display through two games. Images of Heupel joyously leaping into the arms of his student-athletes filled the airways. But with last week gone and another day of practice to go, the team is focusing on the details and continuing growth going into game day.

“It’s been a good week up until this point and we want to finish it the right way,” Heupel added.

Director of Athletics Danny White announced on Twitter that only 1,000 tickets remained for the matchup with Akron. Limited seats are still available and can be purchased at AllVols.com.

A full transcript from Heupel’s Thursday media availability can be found below.

Head Coach Josh Heupel  

On second quarter success so far this season… 
“We’ve executed during the course of those quarters. It is something that as a program we talked about in our offseason dating all the way back to January, placing a point of emphasis on that. I know from (the media), our second quarter not being as good as it needed to be last year was a point of emphasis from you guys too. (The success comes from) our kids just executing.” 
 
On how he defines offensive success… 
“It’s defined by wins.” 
 
On his assessment of the running game… 
“I thought week one, really solid. Last week, at times efficient, (going against) a really good front and structurally what they did. At times last week, there were some ways that we could’ve finished some blocks. That includes tight ends, that includes skill guys on the outside too, that have an opportunity to create bigger plays than there were. We have to continue to get better in that area.” 
 
On the improvement of Joe Milton III’s decision making…  
“When he got an opportunity to play week one, I thought he did some really good things in the run game. There are decisions that our quarterbacks are making on every play, and continuing down that path of making the right decision, having your eyes in the right key, and taking care of the football is something that is a point of emphasis for him all offseason and something that we will continue to stress. We trust him in what we are doing.”  
 
On the young players earning playing time in the coming weeks…   
“Guys earn it every week by what they do every single day. Every game is going to unfold differently; you play the same opponent on the same day ten different times, it is going to unfold differently every single time. Even though we may have plans going in, how you are attacking or how you rotate, some of those things change within the flow of the football game. Guys have had a good week of practice, and hopefully, we will have opportunities to get a bunch of guys in here during the course of the football game.”  
 
On Christian Charles and Brandon Turnage…  
“They have had good practices, and I expect those guys, when given the opportunity to play, to play at a really high level. I expect those guys to be really good in the way that they finish their preparation here this afternoon and through the course of Friday and the lead-up to kickoff. I trust both of those guys.” 
 
On preparation last week compared to this week… 
“Just on the offensive side of the ball, I didn’t think our Friday was as clean as most of our Fridays are. Some things early in the football game that showed up that way. It’s been a good week up until this point and we want to finish it the right way.” 
 
On Juwan Mitchell and Dee Williams’ status… 
“Hopeful that we will have both of those guys on Saturday. We will see tomorrow and Saturday where those guys are at in their availability for the football game.” 
 
On what he’s looking for from the team against Akron… 
“Look at the college football scores across the country last week, and you can see that the goal needs to be to win first and foremost. Want to see our kids play smarter, more efficient and play with relentless energy and passion during the course of the football team.” 
 
On correcting special teams errors… 
“Coaches and players together, starting with me. Put our kids in a position to be successful, they have to go out and execute over the course of the football game too. We’ve continued to grow here in what we’ve done Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and through today too. Finish our on-field prep tomorrow. We have to be dialed in to our assignments, handle their adjustments, communicate adjustments from the coaching to the players when they’re on the sidelines and then go execute during the course of the game.” 
 
On Chase McGrath’s 51-yard field goal against Pittsburgh… 
“He’s been really, really solid. He’s put them between the uprights. Huge kick, tough situation, went out there and drained it. I didn’t get him on the field real early. There was a little bit, not rushed, but there was some urgency that they had to have to get lined up and get ready. Snap, hold and kick were as good as it gets.” 
 
On stressing ball security to Jaylen Wright… 
“Yeah you guys have seen our practice. We start with ball security every single day and paying attention to the details of it. Securing it will be critical for him, it’s critical for us. The ball is everything. We have to go get it when we don’t have it. I’m talking about defensively, on special teams. Offensively when you have it, you have to take care of it with everything that you have. Expect him to do a much better job here as we go through the rest of the season.” 
 
On if being absent in fall camp affected Jaylen Wright… 
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the things that you are concerned about as you get ready for a guy that hasn’t had a bunch of physical contact during the course of the lead-up into the first ball game. Some things that we did in game week that a lot of our other skills guys did not do, trying to help them prepare for it, but there is nothing real until it is live. He’s played a lot of football for us and done a really good job of taking care of the football at times. Expect him to do that the rest of the way home.” 

-UT Athletics

Jeremy Banks & Josh Heupel / Credit: UT Athletics

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