Butch Jones covered a wide variety of topics in his two pressers this week at Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio. Jones covered injury updates, recapped the disappointing loss to UMass, called out Knoxville media and provided insight into Tennessee’s vital game against Georgia this week.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from Jones’ weekly press conferences.
1. Bulldogs stout offensive front
Butch Jones was quick to praise Kirby Smart’s development of the Bulldogs offensive line so far this season.
“One of their biggest improvements in their football program is their offensive front,” said Jones on Monday.
Georgia returns three starting offensive linemen from last year in Isiah Wynn, Lamont Galliard and Kendall Baker. However, the newcomers, Andrew Thomas and Soloman Kindley, have been the glue of the offensive line.
“They’re physical, they play with really good pad level and they’re able to protect the quarterback,” added Jones on Wednesday.
2. Georgia has a stable of backs
The talent and depth for the Bulldogs at running back will surely be an issue for Jones and the Volunteers on Saturday. “There’s never any drop off,” said Jones about Nick Chubb, Sony Michele and D’Andre Swift.
Chubb himself has logged 371 and six touchdowns on the ground, with Michele and Swift tallying a combined 400 yards as well. Sophomore backs Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield have also registered over 30 carries combined in the run-heavy Georgia scheme. “They’ve got 18 running backs that can run the ball,” joked Tennessee defensive lineman Kendal Vickers on Monday.
3. Volunteers defensive line improvement
The Tennessee defensive line has shown solid week-to-week development since the start of the 2017 season. After recording just three sacks in the first three games of the season, the Volunteers defensive line manhandled the UMass offensive line for 3.5 sacks and seven total sacks.
“They’re one of the strongest leadership groups on the team,” said Jones on Monday, but he expressed his concerns with the depth of the corps on Wednesday. Jones commended Kyle Phillips and Kendal Vickers on their production on the defensive line since the start of the season. “I was frustrated just for the fact that I know how much better we can be,” said Vickers about last week’s game.
4. Tapping into depth
Tennessee fans were able to get a healthy dose of two players that have been absent in the early weeks of the season in Tyler Bird and Shaq Wiggins. “I thought it showed when (Wiggins) had his opportunity in the game. I was really pleased with the play of Shaq… It was great to get Tyler involved,” Jones said.
The Volunteers will also look to get more reps to the young running backs on Saturday. “It all starts with John Kelly, but we need Ty Chandler to be involved, (Tim) Jordan as well,” Jones said. With previously injured players now healthy for the Georgia game, Tennessee looks to tap into more depth on the defensive side as well.
5. Knoxville media “overwhelming”
After being questioned multiple times on the details of defensive tackle Shy Tuttle’s undisclosed injury, Jones ripped into the local media. “The injury was caused not by a teammate, he (Tuttle) landed on a helmet. That’s the truth,” said Jones, “I’m friends with a lot of you guys in the room and I appreciate. But also, there comes a time when enough is enough.”
It appears that Jones has been feeling the pressure from both the media and fans over the past couple of weeks. Pretty intriguing, especially considering that Jones reiterates that he and his players “don’t listen to outside noise.”
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Ben McKee