Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.
Tennessee faces its fifth ranked opponent of the season Saturday when the third-ranked Vols host No. 19 Kentucky to Neyland Stadium.
The Vols are looking for their second straight win over the Wildcats after beating Kentucky in Lexington a season ago.
Kentucky enters the matchup 5-2 (2-2 SEC) and is coming off its lone open date of the season. The Wildcats boast one of the conference’s top defense and projected first round draft pick Will Levis.
Here’s everything Josh Heupel said about Kentucky in his Monday press conference.
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“Big ball game this Saturday, really good opponent. They play well in all three phases of the game. The next part of this journey for us is a big one. Got started with our preparation this morning. Unique in this one that they (Kentucky) have had two weeks of preparation. Our players got to have a real sense of urgency here this week and get prepared to go play our best football.”
On Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez brings to the table
“(He’s) dynamic and (has) the ability to do a really good job with the ball in his hands. For them offensively, I think it’s unique in that the tempo of play is so dramatic between the two offenses. It’s a different style of football game. Understanding that (there will be) limited opportunities for us, and I’m saying that just the number of possessions that will be in this football game. So, it’s something that as a football program we’ve got to understand going into this one too.”
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On what Kentucky does defensively to cause opponents issues
“They’re really good. Top-15 (total) defense, top-10 scoring (defense). They are multiple in their fronts, multiple in their coverages. For all those reasons, you have to have great communication in your pass protection and your run game. As a quarterback, you have to do a great job of seeing rotations. We have to do a great job of winning up front, and then go out on the outside and win some one-on-ones too. That’ll be important throughout the course of the game.”
On the physicality of Mark Stoops and his team
“The line of scrimmage is something that we talk about winning every single week. Both sides of the line of scrimmage, defensively and offensively. Certainly, important in this one too. They are a physical football team style of play. Multiple personnel groupings, getting into heavy sets, heavy run game and heavy play action off of it to create a bunch of big plays. I think they’re second in the league in big plays through the air. Something that we have to do a great job of handling. You can’t let them be efficient on early downs and play from ahead of the sticks.”
On Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and the problems he presents
“Smart, understands offensively what they’re doing. Really good decision maker. Ability to push the ball vertically and horizontally. Accurate with the football. Mature player, he’s played a bunch of football. Everything kind of runs through him. He does a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage, I think in their run game too, and puts them in the right position.”