No. 16 Tennessee (6-2, 3-2 SEC) returns to Neyland Stadium in Week 10.
The Vols will host UConn (1-7) for its homecoming matchup on Saturday.
Kickoff between the Vols and Huskies is slated for noon EDT. SEC Network will televise the homecoming matchup. Dave Neal (play-by-play), Derek Mason (analyst) and Alex Chappell (sideline) will be on the call.
Saturday’s contest will be the first between the Vols and Huskies in football.
Ahead of Saturday’s matchup, Tennessee offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle met with media. Everything Halzle said previewing the Tennessee-UConn game is listed below.
On how the team was able to go faster against Kentucky than in previous games
“It starts with we didn’t have as many self-inflicted wounds. We weren’t getting negatives, we weren’t taking penalties early. That kind of gets you off the tempo and now you got to get into some different formation style plays. The other thing is we just did a good job communicating, guys getting set out wide, o-line snapping down. It’s all about the continuous buy of when I’m getting tired and all that, snapping down, going and playing at all positions. It builds to our advantage, and the guys did that at a really high level, which is why we had the kind of production we did.”
On if they anticipated having as much success running the ball this year as they have
“I think one of the things as a staff is we knew what we had in the running back room. We thought we had one of the elite running back rooms in the country. That and with being younger at wideout moving in, we had a chance to go lean on those guys a little bit, which is what we’ve done. They’ve taken that opportunity and have really made the most of it. It’s not shying away or going towards it more, it’s that we have a really good running back room. Those guys have played well with the ball in their hand and it’s like, ‘let’s feed them’. I think we said that week one when everyone was asking about the run game. It was hard to stop as a staff to say, ‘let’s start calling the throw when we’re running for six, seven yards a pop. That thing is keeping us rolling down the field right there.’ It’s been fun to watch those guys work.”
On how important it is to get younger guys in to figure out what you have during non-conference games
“It was big because we need to go play the way we need to go play on offense. We need to go put together a really good performance and handle our business. If other guys get the opportunity to play, that’s great. It’s all about going and rolling out there with our group and putting together a product on the field which is the way the offense can and should play out there. That’s the biggest focus we are looking at on this one. It’s a huge game for us as far as that stands.”
On Dont'e Thornton Jr. playing outside against Kentucky and the long reception he had
“Putting him outside, you can see it on tape that he was just more comfortable originally from the snap with it. That’s why he played really well out there. He had his best game of the season by far. That one was a scramble drill. He was running that curl, and then Joe (Milton III) scrambled to the left and it directed him back inside because he felt the dead spot. The best part about it was that was a contested catch. The defender was coming outside and on him, and he dove in front of him and took his vision as he was getting ready to catch it. He stuck his hands out and caught it straight vertical. You saw him start to make a big run down the field. It was really good to see the competitive catch in an off-schedule situation when it wasn’t how we coached it, planned it or practiced it. He reacted, made a play and had big yards after the catch. It was good to see.”
On what made Joe Milton III so effective against Kentucky
“I think it’s been the growth throughout the season. From one week to the next, he’s continuing to push in his preparation to push in his development. I keep saying that there’s no substitute for live reps. The more you get, the better you get and the more comfortable you feel. It’s been watching him continue to grow and keep diving into how he’s preparing for everything. He did play one of his best games of the season. You were running the ball well, we were doing what we needed to do to control the box, he’s making the right decisions out wide and that’s why we were putting together a bunch of drives like that.”
On what the message is for this week to not look ahead to the next SEC opponent
“If you watch college football, you know you do that one time, you’re going to put yourself in a situation to have a really bad weekend. Everybody is good. I don’t care what anybody’s record says. These guys have a bunch of one possession ball games. That’s the fact. It is what it is. You better show up and you better play. We’re at the point now where we’re trying to make a push down the stretch here. Every game matters as far as how are we still building? Coach Heupel preaches it every day. You have to still be getting better this time of year. If you’re getting better this time of year, it doesn’t matter who is standing across the ball from you. You’re going out with your own mindset that I’m going to go take this one. It’s a huge weekend for us as far as taking that next step forward.”
On John Campbell Jr. being excited during fall camp and how it's translated into this season
“John has got great energy. He has it Tuesday through Saturday, too, as he’s working through it. It’s not just a game day thing for him. He preps really well, he practices really hard, he plays through injury. He’s banged up, he comes out of the game on Saturday night, a series later and he’s right back in the thing. He’s a big part of that drive going down for that touchdown that clinched it up for us at the end. He’s just been fun to work with. He’s been a huge attribute not just on the field but in our locker room and in our weight room. That is the type of guy you want in your program.”
On if running the ball more has helped Joe Milton III stay more balanced during a game
“I do think it helps him settle into the game, absolutely, he said that himself. He likes to get a couple carries early and kind of feel like he is in the flow of the game. Yeah, that absolutely has factored into it. The other part is just like what I’m saying, he is seeing defenses really well right now. He’s doing a really good job with his eyes. Starts with your eyes and now you can get your feet in the right position. Now you can throw the ball accurately and on time. That’s what you have seen the last two weeks, but I would completely agree that him getting some carries, some runs and some contact early in the game is good for him.”
On where he is on the slot wide receiver spot behind Squirrel White
“We got a bunch of guys that have played. The unfortunate part is that we got some guys that are injured, so we have had to move people around. The positive is we have a lot of guys that have played there. Chas Nimrod has played live snaps in the slot, as well. He was playing there against South Carolina. Dont’e Thornton Jr. can always kick in, so there is a bunch of different bodies that we can move all over the place and get the right group on the field to go let us be successful.”
On leading the SEC in rushing despite having players in and out on the offensive line
“Coach Glen Elarbee does a great job preparing these guys to play. We get a good plan in place and the guys do a good job at dialing in and executing that plan. They do a really good job communicating up front, especially with the tempo and getting us all on the same page. That’s why we’re able to keep hitting these big plays in the running game, but the fact that it’s been guy after guy rolling through there, there hasn’t really been a step down when someone else has had to step in. It really goes to how well coach Elarbee prepares those guys. One, in the offseason, but two, in just a regular game week for the actual game plan of how everything is being blocked versus looks. They go out and they execute at a really high level.”