Sept. 30, 2013
HEAD COACH Butch Jones
"Good afternoon, thanks for coming out. To start off where we are at program-wise, a little bit about last week and then moving on this week against Georgia. I think everyone needs to understand, I think we do, but when you are building a culture, when you are building an environment, when you are working on changing habits, it takes time.
"We talk about playing disciplined football, we talk about learning how to play winning football. I think before we really get started there is an inordinate amount of positive things that are going on in our football program right now. I think in the world that we live in today everyone wants to focus on negativity, but let's focus on the positives, I call it `Positive Monday.' First of all Rajion Neal had the most yards rushing by a running back at Tennessee since 2009, he had 169 yards. This football team, Team 117 has had three 200-plus yard rushing games. We had three combined from the span 2010-2012. We currently lead the SEC and we are eighth in the country in fewest penalties, a little over three penalties per game. We lead the SEC and we are fourth in the country in fewest penalty yardage. We are tied for number one in the country for interceptions with 11. We lead the SEC and we are third in the country with 15 forced turnovers. We lead the SEC and we are tenth in the country with points off of turnovers. Our first two touchdowns on this past weeks game were scored by two true freshman, both making their first career touchdown receptions. Right now we have played a total of 14 true freshman and 22 freshman overall.
"As we continue to progress, the evolution of this football team is understanding what it is to compete for 60 minutes. It is a 60-minute game. I spoke to our team about this, there is a different between playing the game and competing. We are searching for competitive greatness. High achievement takes place in the framework of high expectations. We have extremely high expectations for every member within our football family and our football program, from the coaches to the players to the support staff. It is our players understanding that every play has a life of its own, you have to play that play to the best of your ability and then snap and clear. But you must have that mindset that every play has its own life. That is part of that mental conditioning, that snap and clear mentality that we talk about all the time. We talk about playing winning football. I understand that that is a very broad term, a lot of things go into it. Our players are responsible for getting themselves ready to play, week in and week out. We live in a society where everything is based on productivity but everyone in our program and everyone in our football organization is going to be held to the highest standard. It is that high level of accountability that we talk about.
"Right now we have some major depth issues and I think it is starting to be revealed, I think it is starting to show itself. We had two individuals who had monumental games for us, A.J. Johnson took 83 snaps at linebacker, Dontavis Sapp took 82 snaps at linebacker plus 12 snaps on special teams. Every single rep you take accumulates over time throughout the course of the grind of along season. That is where we are at and we have to continue to recruit and develop depth upon our football team. We have too many individuals playing way to many reps. Both our starting corners were in the high 70s in the terms of repetitions on Saturday. And again throughout the course of a long season that can't happen.
"I thought we had some tough circumstances Saturday, a lot we created for ourselves. At the end of the day our players made the plays that they needed to to win the football game. We had a game winning stop defensively. We had some red zone stops prior to that. We had to run the clock out running the ball, we were able to do that. I thought we had some individuals really give tremendous effort, the first individual that comes to mind is Corey Miller. I thought he played his best, most complete game since we have been here, his effort was outstanding. We have to be high achievers, we have to be overachievers. We have to have '63' effort and strain. I thought the first half we had that. I thought we played pretty well in the first half and then I thought we got sloppy as the game wore on. That is illustrated by the way we played in the third and fourth quarter. We can't do that. Our players have to learn what it takes to play winning football for 60 minutes. I have said it, we are going to be a disciplined football team, I think those are illustrations on how far this football team has come.
"I liked the work ethic, I liked our mentality of our players, I like everything that we are doing but we just have to continue to progress. One of those areas is, we cannot turn the football over. It is inexcusable, that is making good choices and good decisions with the football. I think that has been the one area when you look to in terms of being a disciplined football team where we have to take great strides and continue to move forward. We have been careless with the football when we throw it and we can't continue to have those catastrophic mistakes as we move forward with this football team.
"I think we all know what we are up against with the Georgia football team coming in here Saturday at 3:30. Extremely, extremely talented. Their quarterback is as good as any quarterback in the country, he is a Sunday quarterback, he can make all the throws, very skilled on the perimeter. Big physical offensive line with two, really three, running backs. I look at their football program, they have tremendous depth in all three phases offensively, defensively and special teams. It is going to be a great challenge for us, just like every week. It is another opportunity. We said we needed to have win three, we got win three. We are 3-2 and there are a lot of positive things moving forward and we just have to continue to get better and work on being a much more disciplined football team especially in the areas of taking care of the football."
(On Devaun Swafford only playing the first quarter)
"No, we had some things in terms of matchups and mental errors. So JaRon Toney is another illustration of an individual who has been a walk-on in our football program, has earned a scholarship and he came in and was with Coach Martinez all week wanting extra film study, preparing. We have been on him exceptionally hard and we thought he played his best football to date, he really helped us with win that football game."
(On wearing the Smokey Gray uniforms against Georgia)
"I think a number of things. I think it was time. First of all it is an opportunity, national television, CBS, 3:30, against a great opponent in Georgia. Obviously, recruiting, players look forward to see the different uniforms. I think it is something that our fan base has been waiting for. Our know our players have been looking forward to wearing them. That makes no impact in the outcome of the game. We have to play the game, the game is won between the lines. We just thought the timing was appropriate."
(On managing the team with snaps)
"That is a balancing act and that is where we come in a coaches. You have to be cognizant of every single snap that they take in practice. We need quality reps. We need quantity too to develop the fundamentals. That is the thing, football is a fundamental game, body position, being able to take in space, blocking, everything is body position. The route running, the small details, I thought in the second half we lacked the small details and that lends itself to big details. It is a balancing act. We need quality repetitions this week and we have to make sure we really map out the repetitions, which we do every week, that they gain in practice. How did they perform? It is developing our other players.
"Quite simply we need some other players in the program to step up. Every player has an opportunity to perform on Saturday based on their performance in practice. That is part of developing a winning culture, that is part of the standard and expectations that we have set in place in this football program. There is absolutely zero entitlement. If you don't practice well in practice, you are not going to play on Saturday. I have never been around what they call, `gamers,' when they just show up and perform at their highest level on game day. The great players have a great, high standard of consistency and performance each and everyday in practice and that in turn lends itself to playing well on game day. Every individual every week has an opportunity to play in the game, it is what they do with those repetitions in practice."
(On second half sloppiness)
"I wouldn't say fatigued football team. I would say learning what it takes to play sixty minutes of football and that focus and that concentration and turnovers. Turnovers can change the complexion of a game. We're down right before halftime going in with the ball on the two or three yard line. We come away with zero points. Then we continue to have turnovers and you can't turn the football over.
"Any time you turn the football over it lends itself for the other team. They have the opportunity to get back in the game. I just think it's taking care of the small details. You treat every play as though it's going to be a game winning play. Who would've known? I thought one of the plays of the game was on the field goal that went wrong. They do a great job of advancing it and the effort by Corey Miller to get the ball carrier down is outstanding. They came away with zero points. They missed a field goal. Little did Corey Miller know before the start of that play, if somebody would've said, "Hey, run that guy down, this is going to be the difference between winning and losing." That's the mindset that we're building.
"Sometimes a game can come down to two to three plays that directly impact whether you win or lose. But, you never know what plays they are. That's why you treat every play as though it's a life of its own. That's the mentality that we're building. Creating those habits are exceptionally hard to do and you're either creating good habits or bad habits. I thought a lot of guys, when we got into the game and it was 31-7, we reverted back to some old habits, which cannot happen. You just have to keep grinding and our players completely understand. We showed them already the video clips of three or clips that they had no idea that would be the difference between winning and losing. All of the clips were effort clips. So again, in order to overachieve and keep getting better, it starts with effort and the fundamentals, the small details."
(On Georgia's offense)
"Well, that's what makes them exceptionally hard to defend. They can run the football and then you have an NFL quarterback that can make all of the throws. But, this is a line of scrimmage league. It starts first and foremost with stopping the run and then we have to win our one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. The makings of a great quarterback, the great quarterbacks have the ability to defeat tight coverage and throw it in there. Murray (Aaron) can defeat tight coverage. That's what makes him a special player. He's poised and he's in control. Their offense, a lot of these guys are seniors or juniors, they're a veteran group. They've been in big games before and they play like it. They have a lot of confidence."
(On the cornerbacks)
"This past Saturday, Michael (Williams) and Riyahd (Jones) weren't ready yet. They just started practice. It takes time to get your skill set back, to get your conditioning levels back, your football endurance, but also your mentality, your functional intelligence. Football's a game that's played at high speed with quick snap decisions that have to be made. So, they weren't ready yet. Malik (Foreman) continues to progress and he's a freshman. They're like your own children. Each individual progresses at different paces. I love Malik. He's competitive, he's working hard to get better each and every week, but right now he needs to have a good week of preparation and I know he's looking forward to that."
(On Marlin Lane's status)
"Marlin Lane right now suffered a lower extremity injury. He's day-to-day right now, so we'll know a little bit more probably later today, and into Tuesday and Wednesday. He will not practice today and can't say enough about Rajion Neal. He stepped it up when he needed to step it up. When we needed him, he stepped it up and he played his best game to date. I think those are all great stories that are occurring and that's part of that overachieving that we've been speaking about."
(On the difference he saw in Rajion Neal)
"Attacking, decisive in his run reads, getting the ball north and south, making defenders miss. I thought he played at another gear. He showed some bursts and acceleration. He made individuals miss. Obviously moving forward against a talented Georgia defense, we're going to need his durability and we're going to need some play making ability."
(On Justin Worley)
"I think one of them, again everything lends itself to the quarterback. The quarterback is one out of eleven on the field. There's ten other players on the field. I think to the naked eye, the quarterback, you get all the blame when you lose and you get all the praise when you win. Praise and blame, it's all the same.
"The one interception we didn't do a good job in our pass protection of getting the hands of the defender down. We were supposed to be in a cut block protection. We didn't get the defender down. We're in a three-step drop and he tips the ball and they intercept. Justin made the right read. He did his job. I think it's all individuals stepping up around him. I think it's the receivers being more precise in their route running. I think it's Justin at times throwing the ball away and making good choices and good decisions with the football. I think sometimes you get into a mental route where you're saying "don't make a mistake, don't make a mistake," and you make a mistake.
"He just has to believe in his coaching, believe in his practice repetitions, and those are things that really when individuals are really starting for the first time, I know he played some games a couple years ago but he had a year off, those are all growing pains that you go through with a quarterback. Believe me there's a great sense of urgency. We have to get those mistakes corrected but it's not just on Justin Worley. We have to do a better job of coaching him and our players around him. Again, he's just one of eleven. But, all eyes obviously point to him."
(On the freshmen quarterbacks progress)
"Well, I think as the season progresses each week they are getting closer, but you'll never really know until they go into live game repetitions. I see these kids everyday. I'm in meetings with them everyday. I watch their demeanor in pregame warm-ups. It's one thing when you go into a game and you say I may play and if we get ahead, if something happens, no pressure. Then all of a sudden you can see a little bit of difference in their demeanor when they say I'm one snap away from playing and taking some meaningful mistakes. I watch all that.
"Again, these are 17-, 18-year old young adults be playing in front of 100,000 people on national television against some great defenses. As much as everyone wants to see them, it's my job and it's my responsibility to them, to their parents, and to our football program to not put them in, if given that luxury, until they're ready. In our professional opinion right now, they haven't been ready. Will that change this week? It may change based on how they handle practice. How can they handle the volume of a game plan? How can they handle the game speed repetitions? But, I'm excited about both quarterbacks, both true freshmen quarterbacks. They're great competitors, they're very good football players, and they want to play. It's making sure that we can prepare them to the best they can before they get those reps."
(On Georgia's offense without running back Todd Gurley)
"Well, make no mistake about it, he's a great player but there's no difference in their offense. (Keith) Marshall is just as good. I said, when I started the press conference off, they have depth. Coach (Mark) Richt has been there a number of years. He's been able to grow and develop that depth through the recruiting process. He's a done a great job with it. Building depth takes time. It takes years and years to get that depth and they definitely have it."
(On playing 14 true freshmen)
"Yeah, they do. I think perspective student-athletes or recruits can look and say, "Hey I can go to Tennessee and have an opportunity to play early and play as a true freshman." I think that's a great selling point, but above all else, it's the University of Tennessee, one of the most storied football programs in the country. I said it, we want individuals in recruiting that have great competitive but also want a little bit of that honest to say, "You know what, I have the ability to create a legacy of getting Tennessee football back to it's rightful place."
"In today's world of convenience, it's easy for somebody somewhere to go to maybe a more established program right now and just kind of filter in. If you want to be the individual, if you want to step up and make a difference, you come to the University of Tennessee. That's why I keep saying we recruit competitive character. That's what I'm looking for. You either live it, love it, or like it. I want individuals who live football everyday and live getting a college education everyday. That's what our program is going to be based on, competitiveness.
"The thing about the 14 true freshmen playing is we don't have the luxury right now. When I look at true freshmen playing I look at their roles on the football team. A lot of these 14 individuals, their role just isn't in the form of special teams and maybe getting eight to ten snaps. You look at Cam Sutton, I believe he had 78 snaps on Saturday, true freshman. A lot of these true freshmen are in roles that really directly dictate whether you win or lose. It's exciting but also takes a lot of coaching, takes a lot of commitment on their part of it. You think about it. You're a lot different going from 18 playing against 22-, 23-year old individuals. There's a big difference in the growth and maturation throughout that time span."
(On why so many freshmen have played)
"Well I think it's a combination of both [necessity and earning the right to play]. Make no mistake about it, all the freshmen that are playing have earned the right. If they didn't earn the right they wouldn't be on the football field, we would find somebody else. That's the thing moving forward that I've tried to stress to everyone in our program, you're responsible for what you create. Every individual creates his own identity, his own body of work everyday by the way he goes to class, by the way he approaches meetings and by the way they perform on the practice field. You know, nothings going to be given, everything is going to be earned. They earned that right but also it's been a necessity. We have to get to a point in our program, which we will, is every single position you're competing whether you're going to play or not on Saturday. And competition is the mother to all getting better if you think about it. You're going to push - if everyone had, if everyone in here didn't have any rivals or you didn't have any competition for your news outlets you'd probably just go with the flow but now everyone is trying to outwork everyone and find ever little small breaking news item and that's because of competition and it's no different in football, in our program."
(On Willie Martinez playing against the team he worked for)
"No, every game is critical. You know along with Coach Martinez and Coach (John) Jancek, I know they spent a number of years at the University of Georgia but they're at Tennessee and every game is critical for us and you don't treat any game different than the next one. It's the next one that we're all trying to win. You look at your opponent and you don't get any personal feeling aside from anything and I know they're excited to be here and be a part of our football program."
(On eye discipline this week)
"Big concern. [Murray] does a great job with his ball mechanics and hiding the ball on play action and we always look does the run look exactly the same as the pass. What type of run/pass keys does the offensive line give you and they do a great job in that area so again the eye discipline is going to be critical. Obviously when you have a formidable run game and you're physical and can run the football, now all the sudden in your mindset you're trying to stop the run and that lends to big explosive plays in the pass game. It'll be the same this week, stressing the small details and body position."
(On starting drives with good field position)
"Well we have to take advantage of them. We pride ourselves in scoring touchdowns in the redzone and that's part of the plan to win. Is make your opponents kick field goals in the redzone and score touchdowns in the redzone and we work and inordinate amount of time in the redzone area, every day in practice so when our defense generates a turnover, you talk about creating your own opportunities and momentum swings you need to come away with seven points. The first turnover with McNeil's interception, we came away with three points when we needed seven points but also I think that Michael Palardy so far to date has been a model of consistency for us too."
(On Antonio Richardson's tweet)
"I guess it gets back to you trying to find the competitive edge. These are kids that are very competitive. They sit and they watch other games and we challenged our offensive line that we needed to run the football and I think it's more running it at a more consistent basis but they're also very prideful and I think it was more he was very proud of what they accomplished. I already gave you the stat with the three 200 plus yard run games and they're very prideful and I know he didn't mean anything by it. I think a lot of times we read into things and we're searching for stories and again these are still kids. These are still young adults, they're emotional and he meant no harm by it. I watch every twitter, they know me. As soon as he tweeted it, I called him and he just goes `Coach, I'm just proud of my teammates'. And so that's just part of building this program and teaching these players all the different nuances that go outside of football. That's the role of coaches, it's not just coaching football it's mentoring but I love Tiny and he loves this football program."
(On the pass rush)
"Oh it it's going to be critical. If we give him time to sit back and throw the football it's going to be a long day. Just like anybody in the country, if you give anybody time to throw the football, he's going to hurt you. I really liked our mentality and the end of the game and now it's the same thing about each play having a life of its own. We need to come off the football in obvious pass rush situations with a mentality that the game is on the line. I saw a whole other speed level off the rush, off the edges from Corey Miller and Corey Vereen. I thought Vereen gave us some really valuable repetitions. Marlon Walls, I'll tell you what some of the effort plays he had Saturday I showed our football team. That's what we're looking for on a consistent basis so that's our mindset of every time you rush the passer, the game is on the line.
"The good thing, you know I try to find positives in everything, we won the football game. We found a way to win. Our resiliency was tested and we found a way to win the football game. Also you need to be in football games like this, so someday down the road when we're in SEC play and we get in that situation our players have lived it. They've been in that situation, they have confidence because they did well in that situation. Our kids, you know we come in the locker room and even yesterday, they're excited with the win. I think when you win it's special. Winning is very fragile. Half the college football teams in the country lost Saturday. Let's make sure our fans, everyone here, doesn't take winning for granted. A win is a win. We wanted victory number three, we got to victory number three. There is no such thing as an ugly win. They all count the same. It's a win, now do we all know our challenges and where we need to go to continue to progress and get better? Absolutely. But I'm proud of our kids that they fought and didn't give up. They fought to the bitter end and made a play and that was great to see."
(On Cameron Sutton)
"They went after him and he knows that. Being freshmen, you're going to get challenged and what I think you see in Cam Sutton is a high level of consistency. Every single day he's the same person. He's never too high, he's never low. You know the way his total approach to practice and to the games, he's mature beyond his age and he's an individual who has earned the right to play but he's also an individual who is playing out of necessity and he's taking the most of his opportunity. This week he's going to be challenged and this is where Georgia is going to hurt you. You could be in great man to man coverage and they throw the fade stop and they've won, you know the back shoulder throw. They've mastered that so you can't be right. You have to continue to stay in faze. They're very, very skilled and when you have a quarterback like that we understand he's going to be challenged this week just like (Justin) Coleman is as well but we're extremely, extremely proud of Cam."
(On Jason Croom)
"I thought Jason Croom played the best that he's played since we've been here. He made some difficult catches, he played physical, he blocked on the perimeter and we challenged him this week. That's one thing about Coach (Zach) Azzanni, he has the reputation across the country that he's going to get the most out of his players and he challenges them every day. But again, you look at Jason, I thought he played his best football and there's a reason why individuals perform at a high level. I keep saying it, Antonio Brown is well coached, developed. You look at Kimbrell Tompkins last night, greatest story in the National Football League hands down. Undrafted, rookie, free agent, New England Patriots and for him to perform like he performed, you know I called him this morning. That's like a second son to me, I'm extremely proud of him. But all the challenges and everything we pushed him through and now he's making the most of his opportunity and that's the way we're going to develop players. We're going to push them everyday, we're going to love them and we're going to make sure when they leave the University of Tennessee they're developed to meet their fullest potential."
SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN James Stone
(On offense's performance this season)
"I feel like we've shown some good things, but overall we haven't been playing up to what we need to be playing. I feel like we've had too many turnovers, too much inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball, but I feel like I've seen enough good from the guys on the offense that I see we have stuff to work for and stuff that can be promising going deep into the season."
(On offensive line's performance)
"I feel like we've had some good moments, but at the same time I feel like there's been too much inconsistency in the offensive line play, especially with the expectations that we place on ourselves as an offensive line with the experience that we have. We're trying to raise our caliber of play each week."
(On Rajion Neal's big day Saturday)
"That gives us a tremendous amount of confidence because we always respect Rajion, and we were just very happy to see Rai go out there and get those yards the way he did last Saturday."
(On Antonio Richardson's tweet)
"I feel like Tiny, he's just really proud. We had challenged ourselves that we were going to have a good rushing attack. He was probably just really proud about the fact that we were able to accomplish that in the rushing game, but we see where we have our inconsistencies at as an offensive line, and we place high expectations on ourselves as well, so we're always working to improve on the offensive line."
(On expectations for Georgia's defense)
"I expect them to play their game. They're a very talented defense. We watched them. They're very talented and athletic, so we're going to have to bring everything we have and play with a level of physicality in order to be successful against a defense like this."
(On not having to face 360-pound nose tackle anymore)
"They've got some pretty good guys in there this year. It's a different job, the job's different for having to block guys that are very massive because now you've got guys who are a little more quick, a little more get-off, but it's still going to be a task and I'm still going to have to come through with the right mindset."
(On using gray uniforms as a positive)
"You just use them for extra juice. You use them to motivate guys. Like you said, it's all about how we play, it's not about what we wear. It's something cool, it's something fun, it's just something of an incentive to play as hard as you can."
(On Georgia's defense being different from last year)
"They still play with the same mindset. They just have different personnel."
(On having faith in defense to shut down Georgia's offense)
"I have a tremendous amount of faith in our defense, but I do feel like, as an offense, we are going to have to score and be more effective. We have to be more effective down in the red zone, and when we have the ball and sustaining drives."
(On preparing for October)
"We just have to continue to focus on the process and listen to what the coaches have to say. We have to continue to focus on the process of the group and continue to improve. I feel like we will attack this month the right way. We are focusing on Georgia right now, and not the past Octobers."
(On "Positive Monday")
"I think it is directed to anyone who hears it. The players need the positives to have something to work on, and it helps to get our spirits up because we are going to need a great week of preparation for Georgia on Saturday. It gets our minds on Georgia and the task at hand because they are going to be a tough team."
(On reaction to fans booing Justin Worley)
"I didn't hear it while I was on the field. I didn't know about it until after the game. I support Justin to the fullest. I will always have his back, and the entire offensive line will have his back. We have confidence in him."
(On watching Georgia this year)
"I have seen a couple of their first few games. I think they have a talented defensive front, and they are athletic. We are going to have to play with good technique, and a level of physicality in order to be successful, among the offensive line for our offense to be successful. I haven't seen anything on their offense."
(On Georgia being a big game)
"I feel like it is a big game because it is an SEC opponent. It is going to be a home game for us. It's our first SEC game at home for Team 117. It is a real big game for us, and I feel like that should be everyone's mind and focus should be likewise."