Everything Tennessee Coach Josh Heupel Said To Open Austin Peay Week

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Tennessee coach Josh Heupel met with the local media Monday afternoon ahead of the Vols’ home opener.

Heupel opened his third season at Tennessee with a lopsided win over Virginia and the Vols now return to Knoxville to face Austin Peay Saturday evening.

Heupel discussed his observations upon watching the Virginia tape, Tennessee’s new smokey grey uniforms and much more.

Here’s everything Heupel said to open Austin Peay week.

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Opening statement

“Saturday is a unique opportunity, celebrating a 51-year anniversary of Condredge Holloway, first Black quarterback in this league.  Pretty special opportunity to honor a great legacy, somebody that meant so much through who he is, his character, how he handled himself here and post-playing career as well. The legacy that he’s left behind. Like all the guys that have statues and are honored outside of our stadium, it’s an awesome way to honor their legacy. Smokey Greys will be worn in the pattern that was similar to the uniform that he wore while he was here. Smokeys are something that our players are get excited about and hopefully our fan base does too.”

“So I look forward to seeing a 102,000 of our closest friends here on Saturday evening. For our program, it’s been a long time since we’ve been inside that stadium with our fans and look forward to that. For a lot of our guys, it’s the first opportunity that they’re gonna have to drive by Vol Navy, walk in front of 40,000 fans in the Vol Walk before the game and run out (in front of) 102,000. So looking forward to that. This week, good opponent in Austin Peay, excited about us going into week two, just continuing our football journey, continuing to get better here as we go through the season. Opportunity for us as we look back at the tape this morning, ways that all of us can improve all three phases of the game.”

On if there were any injury concerns coming out of the opener, Squirrel White not returning to the game

“Just the time of the game (with Squirrel White). That’s the only reason that he wasn’t back in the game. Feel like we were in a good spot there.”

On Joe Milton’s eyes, decision making against Virginia

“I thought during the course of the ball game, on the video too, thought the decision-making, where his eyes were at was really solid throughout the course of the football game.”

On what he and OC Joey Halzle emphasize to limit interceptions

“It starts with very small details, but what we do all offseason. Understanding our schemes, being solid in their decision-making based off the defensive structure, the time that we spend on defensive structures. And then the fundamentals of playing the position. And you put all that together, you should be in a good position to take care of the football.”

On how tight this Tennessee running back group is

“Very selfless group. They want to be successful individually, but I don’t think there’s anybody more happy about the success of the guy that’s on the field than the guys that are on the sideline during the moment of that success. And at the end of the day, that group understands that the strength of the position can’t be one guy. They pull hard for each other. They’re great competitors on the practice field. They push each other in the meeting room and I think like all of our position groups they care about the people inside that room.”

On his evaluation of Tennessee’s offensive line against Virginia

“I thought for the moving parts that we had, the different guys that played at center, the communication, getting all five guys on the same page as far as where our targets were. That can be in the run game and in the pass protections, they did a really solid job. There’s some things that all five, really all the guys played. We’re looking at eight guys that played a ton of snaps and then maybe 13 that played during the course of ball game. There’s a lot of things that they gotta clean up too, which is anticipated as you go from Week 1 to Week 2, but all in all a really solid performance by those guys.”

On how he thought Tennessee’s receivers performed

“Subtle details in some of the structure that we saw from from the opponent, we can be a little bit cleaner. All in all, I thought they performed well. There’s some things early in the football game that everybody saw that we weren’t quite in sync. Not far off either. I anticipated us continuing to grow, sure those things up.”

On if Dee Williams could be used on offense

“Dee is special with the ball in his hands, but he’s going to continue to work at the corner spot and obviously he’ll be heavily active in our return game. Thought he did a really nice job throughout the course of the day. I thought the way that he responded after something not going his way showed maturity and actually pointed that out to the team after the ball game and did that again today.”

On if Tennessee was trying to coffin corner Virginia on the kicks that went out of bounds

“Just fundamentally a little bit off. And that’s why you end up hooking it a little bit.”

On his assessment of Tennessee’s defensive backs against Virginia

“The back end, played a lot of guys. For the most part, their fundamentals, their technique, their eyes were in the right spot. They played with good fundamentals which allowed them to be in good position and made some plays on the ball. There’s things that they, again, can continue to clean up. Like I said, all offseason too, a part of being better in pass defense is what you do up front and being able to apply pressure on the quarterback. You guys saw that on Saturday. Those guys did a great job up front of creating havoc in the backfield.”

On how Tennessee linebackers Aaron Beasley and Keenan Pili graded out

“They graded it out really well. Keenan got a game ball. Beasley played really well.”

On if he noticed any differences with the new clock rule

“I think the clock, you hear people kind of all over the map of how it’s actually affecting the game. I mentioned I think a week ago what some of the analytics kind of said after the first few ball games. I think you find more out as you get into more conference play here of how the games actually playing out. So we’ll continue to see that.”

On Ollie Lane and Dayne Davis playing some center

“Ollie (is) smart, cares about this program, cares about his teammates. He’s a great teammate and this offseason continued to change his body. I thought he had his best offseason. That’s why I think he’s playing his best football right now since we’ve been here. He’s smart, moving from guard to center, it’s different, but he’s gotten consistent reps at the center position throughout our tenure here. He’s done a really nice job. And Dayne didn’t take reps there (at center) until Coop went down. We looked at things, felt like he had an opportunity. We didn’t know if he’d handle it well and how he’d respond in there. He’s really smart. He can communicate at a really high level. We knew that from his time at tackle. It’s been really pretty seamless for him in the middle of it. He’s done a great job. And is really natural there.”

On what they expect from Austin Peay

“Defensively gotta handle tempo. They’ll spread the football field, RPO game. We gotta do a really good job on perimeter screens, defeat blocks and make tackles in space. Line of scrimmage will be everything for us. Offensively, going to have to have balance and be able to run football and throw football vertically down field off of all that. Nothing different than who we are. Special teams, got a chance to take another step this week with some really positive things. I think we had 13 freshmen that were playing on teams. Thought they did a really nice job. There’s another step for those guys, obviously as young as they’re in their career, but our specialists, there’s some really good things. Just have to be more consistent.”

Author: Ethan Moore