2013 SEC Media Day Quotes

July 18, 2013



(Opening Statement)
"Well, thank you and good afternoon. Before I start, I know most of the coaches have said it and I'd be remiss if I didn't say it, but I want to thank you for being here. I want to thank you for everything you do for the greatest game, that's college football. I want to thank you for what you do for the Southeastern Conference, for what you do for our programs, our student athletes, and the University of Tennessee."

"Probably the most asked question so far has been, How has your first SEC Media Day been? I'll say what I always say. When the SEC does something, it's truly something special, it's a spectacle. That's what makes the SEC what it is today, the best college football conference in the country."

"We talked about building a championship culture, working to get Tennessee football back to its rightful place back among the elite of college football. We talked about doing that brick by brick. That's not a fancy slogan, we really meant that as every brick is symbolic of every individual in our football family and our football organization. It's having clearly defined and articulated standards, expectations and values that are going to guide you on a day to day basis."

"I talk to each player about they were responsible for building their own identity. They were responsible for taking ownership in their own self determination, for their self improvement. That would lend that self into building their own identity. We talk about that championship mindset that you must have to be a championship football program."



"At a relatively early stage, about a month and a half into it, our football team lost over 260 pounds of fat and regained that about 230 pounds of muscle mass. That led me to believe right away that these players are hungry and that they want to win."

"Then you couple that up with the most successful semester that we had in recent times of Tennessee football in terms of academics. We had 46 individuals with a 3.0 or higher. We had a cumulative GPA of a 2.82. That's very important because academics are the forefront of our football program."

"Before we could ever think of being a championship football team, our team had to be comprised of individual champions. That's the way they conducted themselves, the way they were champions in the community, the way they went to class, the way they performed in our off season strength and conditioning program."

"Moving forward to spring football, the biggest thing I thought that we need to improve on was our overall toughness. We call it mental conditioning, the mental conditioning for success that it takes to play at a very, very high level."

"Being in the SEC every day is a grind, every game is for a championship. So we talked about that toughness. We talked about having a style of play. Every great football team has a unique style of play. We talked about now taking that identity that they were building off the field and applying that to their football identity with the effort, the competitiveness that they had, the ability to retain information, the way we were going to play."

"Really we focused on the small details of what it takes to actually play winning football. We really focused on that process. I thought that we left spring football obviously a much better football team."

"But I think the challenge of being a first year head coach in a program is, every day is a learning opportunity. You're learning more and more about your football program, your football team. It's very hard to come up with a total style of play in 15 practices, really 12 practices with the three non padded practices. Obviously as we continue to move forward, August camp obviously is going to be critical."

"What I told our football team is we have to focus on the process. We can't worry about the end result right now. We have to focus on the process. We have to be a better football team and a better football program minute by minute, hour by hour, day to day, month by month. If we just have that focus throughout the course of a long season, we'll like our body of work as the season concludes."

"Two things right now, then I'll answer any questions that you have that's going on with Tennessee football. First thing is focusing on our current team. Making every player on our football team a better person, a better football player, a better student. Just total improvement in every aspect of their lives. Again, our players have answered that challenge."

"The next phase is continuing to recruit a high caliber character student athlete. I think that's critical for the long term success of Tennessee football. Having individuals that understand it is a responsibility that comes along with playing football at the University of Tennessee."

"So we look forward to the challenge of this upcoming season. Very proud of what our team has accomplished in a very short period of time. But moving forward, obviously August camp is going to be critical as we continue to create our identity for Team 117."

(On the process of a first year head coach)
"Well, the circumstances are different. The situations are different. But I think the process and how you develop your football team doesn't change. I think that's been the great thing. Not only for myself but our entire staff, this is the third time of taking over a football program. So I think we've really aided and benefited that. I think that's why the transition has been extremely seamless."

"When I look at it, I didn't have to coach a coaching staff. They understand the values and the beliefs and the principles that we're going to abide by. Right away they could work on earning the trust of our current team and really developing them."

"I think the transition has been seamless and I think we have relied upon those experiences that we gained in the other two places we've been."

(On the 4-3 defensive scheme)
"I think the 4 3 defense fits our personnel and our football program. I think obviously everyone understands the SEC is a line of scrimmage league. You win championships by playing great defense and stopping the run."

"Obviously I think for us and our personnel going back to a four man front, but we'll be extremely multiple. You'll see us in three down in different situations. I think that's the beauty, the multipleness so to speak that we'll be able to have in our defensive scheme, being able to play three down, four down. It starts with playing great defense and it starts up front."

(On Coach Fulmer and Coach Majors)
"I tell you what, Coach Fulmer and Coach Majors have been a tremendous resource. Coach Dickey, as well. We get back to a pride of who we are. They're Tennessee football. The more I can speak with them, the more they can come around, the better."

"But we developed great relationships with Coach Majors, Coach Fulmer, and they've been great. They're the ones who have really laid the foundation. You look at our tradition, General Neyland, so on and so forth, moving on. They've been a great resource for me. I'll tell you this, I've taken great advantage of speaking with them and building those relationships."

(On the SEC experience on his coaching staff)
"Well, great value. One of the things is, of putting the staff together, I wanted individuals who understood what it was to recruit and compete at a high level in the SEC. So these individuals have brought a lot to the table."

"Obviously Willie being a former defensive coordinator in this conference, having great success at Georgia. John being a co defensive coordinator at Georgia, as well. Then the other individual has been Tommy Thigpen who was at Auburn before."

"I think being able to rely on them, them to mentor the staff on what it is to recruit at this level, but also the daily grind that it is, competing at this level, they've been a great resource for all of us."

"Then obviously Robert Gillespie as well, a new addition at our runningback coach. He has been a tremendous addition to our football staff. Having played in the SEC, coached in the SEC, he's brought another dynamic to our staff, as well."

(On the strong strength of schedule)
"Well, you approach it one game at a time. Not to sound like coach speak, but you coach it one day at a time, one game at a time. That's why we have to focus on the process."

"It's going to be a great challenge for our football team. It's also going to be a tremendous, tremendous opportunity as well."

"But that's why this summer, our strength and conditioning area has been big. That's why I've been stressing depth, individuals stepping up. Unfortunately, the situation we're at at Tennessee, we're going to be forced to play some true freshmen. They're going to have to grow up in a hurry."

"The big thing again for us is constant and never ending improvement. We have to be a better football team week one, two, three. Those steps may be small, but we have to continue to progress. That's where your leadership kicks in. We're very fortunate to have a very strong senior class, high in numbers as well. So we're going to look to them to provide leadership and depth as well."

(On fifth year seniors playing for their third coach in five years)
"Well, Marlon Walls is a great illustration. They've done everything for us. We always talk about it's better to be a player coached team than a coach coached team. You want your group of guys that are going to hold everyone to that high standard of accountability, that mental effort and intensity that it takes to perform at a high level each and every day."

"Our senior class, especially or fifth year seniors, have done a great job. Right from day one, I sensed a hunger about them. They're very prideful individuals. Our football program is very prideful. They've really stepped up and taken great ownership in our football program."

(On how he is as a head coach)
"Well, I'm an offensive coach by nature. But I like to look at myself as a CEO. I'm responsible for the vision, direction of the entire football program. The way our players play, the way they represent themselves on a day to day basis, I try to be involved in much."

"I'm not a micro manager, I let them do their job. I'm going to be animated, involved in practice. I want our players to feed off of our energy and our passion. I don't think you can hide that."

"We practice in what we call controlled chaos. I think kids enjoy that. I want them to look forward to coming to practice. I had a great friend, Pete Carroll, that used to say when I was reading his book, that practice is like recess. There's so many things that are going on in our practice, that's where your toughness is born, that's where your leadership is born. You try to simulate so many game conditions as possible."

But, you know, I'm hands on, I'm involved. I've hired an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, and they have a job to do."

(On the uptempo offense)
"The mark of a good football coach is they're able to mold their personnel into what they want to do. I think our offensive system is extremely flexible. I think that's been proven over time."

"We won our second consecutive championship last year at Cincinnati. We had a dual threat quarterback. Mid season we made a quarterback change. He was a drop back passer. We're very multiple on offense."

"There's some things we won't compromise. We do want to play up tempo. In order to play great defense, you have to protect your defense. If that means slowing the tempo down, we'll be able to do that. Like we tell our players, if you practice speeding up, it's very easy now when you slow down."

"We'll mix the tempos. We want to be an up tempo team. People nowadays, I haven't quite understood the term 'spread offense.' Everybody has their own definition of what the spread offense is. Does it mean you're in shotgun all the time? Does it mean you're not in 21 or two back personnel? We're a multiple, up tempo offense."

"I think a lot of times when you hear the element of the spread offense, you think of finesse, and we're not going to be a finesse style football team. We're going to be a physical football team. We're going to run the ball first."

"We think plays instead of players. I think that's where coaches get into trouble, is we want to put the ball in the hands of our play makers. It's plays versus play makers. We want our play makers catching the ball. That's why building our identity as we move forward in August camp is going to be critical as we continue to define who our play makers are. Whatever it takes to get them the ball in space, we have to do that."

(On ending losing streaks against Tennessee's rivals)
"Hear it all the time (smiling)."

"Obviously being at Tennessee, we have a lot of rivalry games. I've heard that about Florida, obviously. I've heard that about Alabama. In order for us to make those rivalry games, we have to get back to being relevant and winning those football games."

"Obviously those are tremendous football programs with Coach Muschamp and Coach Saban. Obviously they've done a tremendous job. I hear that all the time."

"Our fan base is very prideful, so I'm reminded of that quite a bit."

(On being one of four new coaches to the SEC this season)
"You know, not really adjustments. You're still dealing with 17 to 22 year old individuals that you're molding into being great student athletes and football players, earn their college degrees, play with toughness and win football games, let them be better people because they're part of your football program."

"Everyone asks me, What's it like to be in the SEC? My constant phrase is, The best analogy I can give you is every day in the SEC is it's like fourth and one for the national championship. It doesn't matter if it's practice, recruiting, game time which I'll experience soon, the competitive structure of this football conference, the difference between winning and losing is very slim."

"We always talk about in terms of inches make the champion. You're looking for those inches. Everyone is looking for that competitive edge. Everyone is making commitments to their football program."

"That's what makes this the best football conference in America."

(On the offensive line)
"Well, it's critical. Like I said, you win games up front. Obviously to have a returning offensive line that we have is very comforting. They have a lot of expectations going into this season, rightfully so. They have to obviously continue to develop on their pad level of coming off, playing with a greater sense of physicality."

"But they've done a great job and they've been great ambassadors for our football program. I'm more concerned about our depth at that position. I want to know by the end of camp who's going to be our number 6 0 lineman, our number 7 0 lineman."

"Then there's the responsibility of those older players up front to really mentor our freshmen, so when they leave the program that they understand the standard and expectation that it is to play offensive line at the University of Tennessee."

(On entering the year at UT without a clear cut quarterback)
"Each situation is different. Dan LeFevour is different because he played one year. He still had a lot of developing to do."

"We go to Cincinnati, Zach Collaros, it was his first year of being a first time starter. There's a difference. When you become the full time starter, your life changes. You have to block out the clutter, the distractions, all the things that are associated with being a starting quarterback at a very high level in a program that everybody watches."

"I always say, Praise and blame, it's all the same. It's the responsibility of command that comes with the head football coach and the quarterback position."

"So moving forward with our situation, with Justin Worley, Nathan Petermen, true freshmen, we have to continue to develop those people. Our quarterback position is no different than any other position on our football team. We're going to put the best people in those positions that give Tennessee the best opportunity to win on game day."

"I like the progress that Justin has made and Nathan has made. I'm excited to see what the two freshmen bring to the table when we start camp August 1st."

(On Tiny Richardson)
"Absolutely. I think when you want to be the best, you always think about one or two plays that made a difference. Tiny talks about that play all the time. I'll tell you this. Is there anybody more in the country than Tiny Richardson that he has the respect he has for Clowney. Very rightfully so. He can change the complexion of a game in one play as we've seen throughout the course of a season."

"Tiny wants to be the best he can possibly be. He's driven by that, talks about it. We talk about that mindset of a champion, having that championship endurance."

"One bad play can be the difference between winning and losing. So we talk about that all the time. I think that's added to just his overall development as a football player. But Tiny wants to be the best that he can be."

(On social media training)
"We have a character education program that's very, very extensive. It's just like educating your children. My six year old walked in the room yesterday and he wanted to go on Twitter. I'm like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's wait a little minute."

"We bring a lot of people in to really train them. One bad tweet can change everyone's opinion of you. Basically the common rule we use is if you can put it in an email to your mother, grandmother, significant other, whoever is important in your life, if you can send that in an email to them, you can push send."

"We talk about the one second rule. In one second, your life can change. That's the world we live in today with multimedia, Twitter, Facebook, everything."

"So we spent an inordinate amount of time of really monitoring that process and trying to educate our players. It can be a positive if you allow it to be a positive, just like it can be a negative. But we monitor that and take great pride in that."

"That's part of the things of being a part of these players' lives, is mentoring them outside the realm of football, but life in general as well."


(On facing Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina)
"I'd like to think of myself as the ultimate competitor, a true competitor. It's in my blood, it's the way that I was raised. Jadeveon Clowney is a great player. He has all the physical intangibles that you could ask for. To be able to run a 4.6 40 at 270 pounds, that's amazing, but I'm ready to go up against him."

(On the offensive line being leaner and meaner)
I think it's going to help everybody, especially on the offensive line when we have to move in the no-huddle.

(On Coach Butch Jones)
He's very personable. He's always trying to build a person relationship with his players and when you have a coach like that, it's going to make you want to run through walls for him.

(On the progress of the offensive line)
It's been three years of hard work, just grinding, grinding, grinding. Two years ago, they were saying that we had the worst line in the country, now they are saying that we are one of the best, so it just shows how hard we've worked as a unit.

(On what to expect from the defense)
"You're going to see a defense that is much more confident. They're moving back to the 4-3 and the defensive coaches are always boosting their confidence. We have good players on our defense and you can expect these guys to be much better."


(On expectations for the season)
"It's definitely the most exciting season that I've been looking forward to, especially as a senior. We just have to keep our momentum going and keep preaching it to the younger guys when the grind of the season hits."

(On the schedule)
"Personally, I want to win them all and I believe we can with the effort level we're trying to play at. We're just going to go out each game and play as hard as we can. Coach Jones preaches to us about focusing on the process and not the end result. If we just keep focusing on the process, the end result will take care of itself."

(On Butch Jones)
"Since Day One, he's brought passion and excitement to the game. He's making the game fun again. In our spring game, we had DJ's out there just trying to keep us pumped up. At the same time, he's serious when it's time to be serious and he's overall a great person."

(On senior experience)
"We are the group with the most experience and I like that. The young guys can look to us and it's on our shoulders to build confidence in them. I've been trying all offseason to build the confidence in the younger guys, and they've been doing a good job of maturing and stepping up. Their opportunity is now and I think they're ready to go out there and prove it.

(On expectations for the offensive line)
"Two years ago, everyone was talking about how bad we were, giving up 45 sacks in a season. (But) we've worked hard and the effort has been instilled in us. We just have to continue to work hard and keep doing it through the season."


(On new head coach Butch Jones)
"It has been the easiest transition out of all the coaches that we've had. Coach Jones made a genuine introduction of himself. He got off the plane, walked into the team room with his family and introduced his sons and his wife to the team. It was quite an impression that stuck with every single player."

(On Jones' expectations for the season)
"I'm confident in his effort. The man is on a mission. I really wish I had three more years with him, but I only have one left, and I can't wait to play it."

(On expectations for the defense)
"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder, but with the new defense that Coach Jancek has set, it will play into our favor, and we're all excited to play."

(On seniors leaving on a high note)
"It's very important and I'm sure it's imminent to every senior. I know it's a goal of mine and I'm sure every senior wants to win. With the situation that we're in, winning would be the best thing ever and if we lost, it would be terrible. (But) there's no choice, we are going to win, and when we do, we're going to be marked as the class that changes this Tennessee program. Expectations are high, and if we're expecting high things, the outcome is going to be great."

(On trusting the offensive line)
"If your offensive line isn't the most trusted part of your offense, then you're going to be failing. I think our offensive line is going to be the best in the country. We have a number of guys that start and in depth that have experience. You have to have experience in your trenches, or you're going to lose."



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