Tennessee Volunteer head football coach Butch Jones—as well as captains Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Reeves-Maybin— spoke to the media on Monday at Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio about the team’s performance against Appalachian State last Thursday evening.
“There were a lot of things to build on from Thursday’s game,” Jones said. “But we found a way to win the football game.”
According to Jones, many of the mistakes made by Tennessee were “uncharacteristic”, such as the ineffectiveness to create big plays.
“We thought we left about five more opportunities out there for explosive plays,” Jones said.
Another unusual flaw that Jones noted was the ineffectiveness of Tennessee’s offensive line, a unit on the team that has experienced arguably the most scrutiny in the days following Thursday night’s highly anticipated season opener. Jones called the line play inconsistent and that the primary focus in practice this upcoming week will be to focus on “continuity and consistency.”
Perhaps the most puzzling inconsistency the Vols experienced against the Mountaineers was a lack of ball protection. Tennessee turned the ball over twice, but also coughed up a couple of footballs they were fortunate to bounce on.
First down play: Jones and quarterback Josh Dobbs noted the inability to gain yards on first down. “We had way too many negative yardage plays [on first down],” said Jones. According to Dobbs, first down play is huge for the team and said that they need a “high level of execution” in that area.
We talking ’bout depth charts: Jones reiterated how unimportant depth charts are, saying that he “doesn’t get caught up” with them; “In today’s world of football, it’s all about how many reps you play,” Jones said. He also noted that tight end Jason Croom is healthy and back on the depth chart and will practice with the team this week.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s targeting penalty: Both Jones and Jalen Reeves-Maybin noted how odd the targeting call was. According to Jones, the returner called for a fair catch as soon as the ball was kicked and Reeves-Maybin “never knew” he called a fair catch. Jones proposed a rule change that referees should signal for the duration of the play that a fair catch has been called so that members of the punt team do not pursue the returner. Reeves-Maybin, despite being ejected on that play, says he plans to continue to play on special teams. “I don’t see myself coming out [of special teams],” Reeves-Maybin said. “…I love playing it.”
Remaining positive: Despite playing poorly, Jones and the team captains maintained a positive tone throughout the press conference. “We suffered as much adversity as you could in a first game to come away with a win,” Jones said. “We didn’t play our best football and we found a way to win the football game… At the end of the day, 1-0 is 1-0.” Dobbs reiterated that thought, saying that the team was “excited for the win.” Reeves-Maybin chimed in as well, stating that “it’s good to know that we got a win, even though we didn’t play our best.”
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Ruth Dudley, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics