"First of all I would like to say thank you to our student body, all the student tickets are sold out for Utah State. We talk about being One Tennessee and when most places, their student attendance, their student ticket sales are down at Tennessee we are selling out our student section. Now we need to make this a regularity within Neyland Stadium. But I want to say thank you to them. I really appreciate all their support and look forward to this season venturing onto this journey with them.
(On the tempo and energy level at practice)
"I was very pleased. I thought the last two days we have come out with a focus, with a purpose. That just hasn't started once we have hit the field, it has also been in the team meetings, in the position meetings, so I like the way we have approached the week. Everything you have to deserve victory, you have to earn victory, great practices, when we talk about championship teams have championship practices, now you have to be able to take the practice to the field and execute. I like so far this week of preparation. I think our older players have done a tremendous job of really mentoring the younger players of what it is to be in season and the intensity that it takes to prepare yourself to play winning football on game day."
(On Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson's leadership)
"It has meant a lot. The great thing is now other leaders are starting to come into play because they have kind of set the tone. So they are bringing others along with them. That is the form of leadership."
(On Utah State's Kyler Fackrell)
"Many challenges. Really, really good football player, very active, physical, can play sideline to sideline. They have a lot of players who have gained a lot of notoriety and a lot of national attention and they deserve that. They have my respect."
(On Utah State's defense)
"I think they run a scheme that you don't see very often, with the three down and the shades and the different things that they do, some of the different schemes that they do on third down. They are going to challenge us and we understand that. We have to prove that we can handle that. They are very active, they have very good team speed and it is not just the scheme. But I think it is the scheme coupled with the quality of players that they have make them extremely difficult."
(On the offensive line responding to Utah State's defense)
"It is the five coming together but it is more than just them. The sight adjustments but the wide receivers, calling out the hots, it is the tight ends, whether they are in sight adjustment more or they are in pass protection and the same thing with the running backs. It is all 11 being on the same page, thinking together as one."
(On the building a new identity)
"Always the first game it is a new identity a new football team, new leadership, but you always rely on your past experience. We are going to be playing upwards to 28 true freshman and that is true freshmen, individuals who just concluded their first week and a half of school. Again, communication is going to be at a premium, understanding what they have to do. They are also very talented and they are excited. So I am looking forward to seeing how they perform Sunday night. It has been a long time waiting, I am sure Utah State feels the same way, you get to a point now where you just, you are ready to play."
(On talking with Curt Maggitt about controlling his emotions for his first game back)
"No, not really. Curt understands, he is mature beyond his years, so no we haven't had to have that talk. He is a very steady individual."
(On the 28 true freshman playing Sunday)
"Sunday, we have reviewed the roster, 28 means special teams all over. Will 28 play? I can't answer that right now, but right now there could be as many as 28 that actually play Sunday."
(On the true freshmen)
"A couple of them know but some of them are walk ons that are playing at a scholarship level right now. Again, it is what it is, that is where we are at in the program."
(On how little he knows about the team due to the number of newcomers)
"Well, you learn as time goes on, and when you have a veteran group you're through a year or two with them. You have spring football. With this football team, half of them, 14 of them came in January, so you have 15 practices with them. That's all. More than half of them came in June of July. Again, you go through training camp, so we'll have had about 26 practices with them, with this football team. So much Is team chemistry. I believe this is one of the closest knit groups I've been around in a very long time. We talk about team chemistry and all those things that go into it, but with this football team there's so many new faces. And again, I'm excited to see how they perform when you turn the scoreboard on and it's for real."
(On a plan for the team)
"Well you always have a contingency plan and answers and all that. But yeah, you can't assume anything. I said it when we started training camp, with this team, we're teaching this team, and you can't assume anything from how do they run out of the 'T,' which sideline do they run to. They've never done it before. So as a coach, you can't assume anything. You have to put them through anything and everything, but really when the ball is kicked off and it's for real, you know you do what you do. You play football. You rely on your instincts and your training and you go with it. You have to rely on your discipline."
(On if having so many newcomers can be a disadvantage to Utah State
"Well, I'm sure they have a great coaching staff. I'm sure that they've done their due diligence. The thing I like is we have a fresh football team. They don't have past experiences in mind. They came here to win football games. They came here to be a part of a great turnaround and get Tennessee football back to its rightful place, and it's going to be a journey. They came here to venture on a journey, and be a special group because they're going to be the ones that lay the foundation for future successes. So they don't have any past experiences. Their love for Tennessee. We talk about loving the orange. We talked about what they represent on a day-to-day basis of being a Tennessee football player from the great state of Tennessee to our faculty , to our alumni, to our administration, to our student body, to our fan base. There's a lot of owness on them. That's the reason that they came here. They have a passion for Tennessee."
(On Barnett facing off with Keeton in first action) "Well, it's going to be a great challenge, not just for Derek Barnett, but everyone. He's one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country, and he'll play on Sundays. Again, everything is about impacting and containing the quarterback. But let's make one thing clear, it's not just Chuckie Keeton. There's a reason why they've won the amount of games that they've won. They're talented across the board. They're defense is a really good defense. They're tough, they're physical, they run to the football. They play angry. And offensively, they have a lot of weapons. You look at their special teams, I always look at the special teams game first. They have dynamic returners, again, they're very skilled on special teams- fundamentally sound. So, yeah, Chuckie Keeton's a great football player, but they're a very, very, very good football team.
(On Jalen Reeves-Maybin)
"I think Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a great illustration of how you want to develop players in your program. Jalen played for us as a true freshman, but he played very limited on defense. But, he was one of our best players on special teams, and there's usually a hierarchy. There's usually a progression of a young player and how they develop. He gained tremendous confidence last year because he excelled on special teams. Now, his role has even grown. Now he's a starter on defense, as well. But that's how you develop players, and special teams are absolutely critical. You watch, starting tomorrow, and you watch throughout the course of the weekend, of how many games, first games, that will be decided by turnovers, by penalties, which is discipline, and special teams. Special teams will be the great equalizer, will be the difference maker, in a lot of these games this weekend."
(On Reeves-Maybin's "football mind")
"We always talk about being a student of the game and football intelligence, and he's really improved that. He's spent a lot of time on that. It's the ability to take the classroom to the setting. We talk about functional intelligence, and he has that and he's done a good job. There's still a lot of room for improvement, of really learning the little nuances of playing linebacker, reading your keys. Football is really a reactionary game. There's a lot of individuals that are very smart, but they can't translate it from the classroom to the field. They can get all the answers right in a classroom setting, or a walkthrough setting, but when you get on the field and you have to make quick-second decisions, then you put the velocity of the game, and the violence of the game, and the physicality that's required to play the game. That's a whole other deal in and of itself, and Jalen's done a great job with that."
(On Evan Berry impersonating Keeton in practice)
"Well, we've had a lot of people, and it's hard to impersonate him, but Evan's done a great job. Evan's one of those individuals where every practice he continues to get better and better and better. I was driving home last night thinking about the 32 signees and how much they've progressed. They're going to be a special class, and like I said, some are ahead of others at this particular moment, but every individual is different. But I'm as encouraged and excited as I've ever been about our future and where we're going."