Josh Heupel previews Tennessee-Florida game

·8 min read

No. 12 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC) will host No. 22 Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC) Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Week 4.

Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. EDT. CBS will televise the Southeastern Conference East matchup.

Ahead of Saturday’s contest, second-year Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel met with media Monday.

“Great week ahead of us and excited about the challenge that is coming to town,” Heupel said. “It is going to be a great environment, one that our entire program is excited about. I said it earlier today, the most important thing for us is controlling our preparation and that taking us to kickoff.

“The guys had a good Monday and they’ll be back this evening. Looking forward to the entire week.”

More of Heupel previewing the Tennessee-Florida game is below from a transcript provided by the University of Tennessee.

On what he saw to call a speed option play versus Akron

“Week to week we are going to change offensively based on what we’re seeing structure from the other side of the football. It was an opportunity for us to get the ball out on the perimeter and Hendon (Hooker) did a really nice job of operating in it the two times that we ran it, and Dylan (Sampson) did as well.”

On the psychological hurdle playing Florida this week

“I don’t believe that. Each week is different, each day is different, each season is. For us, we’re however many months into our program, right here right now, and our kids are extremely confident, as they should be. They prepare the right way, they work hard, we have continued to grow. They know that the preparation is going to be the most important thing. It is going to be a great atmosphere. We have got to be able to control our emotions during the course of the football game but compete and not go up and down during the course of the game.”

On the first time somebody brought up the Florida rivalry to him

“Probably 30 seconds after I arrived here on campus. This is one of the ball games that this fanbase and our players point to, too. Obviously, being a fan of college football, I’ve seen the great games and the rivalry itself play out. That’s why you come here. You want to be a part of these types of games. You want to have an opportunity to have College GameDay on your campus and be the prime-time slot and have a sold-out stadium. We’re excited to see the fan base and Vol Walk, I know will be electric, and when we run out of that T, there won’t be a better atmosphere in college football.”

On the program's development

“I think that’s one of the things that helped create buy in with our players, is that we have never set a ceiling on what we could or could not do. Last year this was a ball game that helped in the turning point inside of our program. Obviously, we didn’t come out on top. There’s a lot of things we didn’t do right but resetting afterwards that Monday where we came back in and were just able to show how everything unfolded and the things that we controlled I think created a ton of buy in too. At the end of the day, this is the fourth game of this journey this year. It’s a big one because it’s the only one we got this week. Our kids will be ready, and our staff will too.”

On the challenges that Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson presents

“First of all, he can throw the football. He can do that on the move, and he can do that from inside the pocket. He’s big, physical, imposing. You have to bottle him up in the quarterback run game. At the same time, as you’re trying to apply pressure when they’re dropping back to throw it, he has the ability to make you pay if you don’t have rush integrity inside of your pass rush lanes. We’ve done a better job this year than we did a year ago, but that’s going to be a critical part of the football game.”

On when players bought in

“I thought in year one we continued to grow in each phase. There was always, as there always is in year one, skepticism or not understanding what is going to come next. When you go from January and February strength and conditioning into spring ball, into the summer, into the season, there is always some unknowns there. I think for us, as a program, there were a couple of turning points. I said the Florida game last year was a big turning point for us. The way we played and competed when we went to Kentucky. Continued to create that buy in. I think our players started to see it was about us and it was about our preparation. We continued to grow, we became more mature, our practice habits changed, and we started playing better football.”

On veteran players coming back from injury

“Guys that have played a bunch of football, that understand what we’re doing defensively or offensively. Do you ever want them to not get the physical reps? No, you prefer to have the physical reps. At the same time, those guys are mature enough to typically put themselves in a position to operate and function and play at a really high level with the limited amount of practice reps during the course of the week.”

On Hendon Hooker's ability compared to his own playing days

“He’s a lot more athletic than I was back in the day. I think how he’s grown in his preparation, what he does off the field and his ability to reset when he’s on the field. One play does not affect the next. I think those are a couple of things that I would hope remind me of myself.”

On Juwan Mitchell's performance versus Akron

“I thought he played really well. In his opportunities, he was dialed in. No real mental lapses during the course of it, communicated extremely well.”

On injury updates

“Today is Monday. We don’t do much on the field, so we’ll see as we get on the grass here in the next couple of days.”

On if he has a sense on how this team handles pressure

“I do. You’re going to hear the outside noise and the energy and excitement. Our kids should be excited about what the environment is going to be on Saturday. Your preparation leads yourself to being ready to play. Competitive composure will be big in this one. At times, we’ve done a really good job of that. Obviously, there were some things the other night that I did not like. It’s going to be important for us all – the 11 guys on the field and everybody on the sidelines too – to be able to compete and have the right frame of mind for 60 minutes.”

On Jaylen Wright's development over the season after being limited in camp

“I thought he had his most action and most carries from the course of the season. I thought he handled himself well (with) vision and taking care of the football. A lot of positives. Protection too.”

On impressions of Florida's defense

“Highly skilled. That’s their front four. Being able to apply pressure and disrupt your run game. Secondary is long and athletic like you would anticipate them to be. There are schematic battles that will be fought on Saturday afternoon, but then there’s 1-on-1 battles that are going to have to be won by our players out on the field too.”

On the offensive penalties from this season and how to clean them up

“(They were) self-inflicted in all three phases of the game the last couple of weeks. We’ve got to play cleaner in this one. The hidden yardage will matter. It changes the way the third and fourth downs are played. Pre-snap penalties, you can’t have them. We can’t have a penalty on special teams when the ball is exchanging sides. As much as anything we’ve got to play smart and be composed like I was talking about earlier.”

On his confidence in the non-starting wide receivers

“We feel really good about all of those guys. Squirrel (White) goes out there and makes a huge play down the sideline early in the football game. Ramel (Keyton) has made plays every time he’s had an opportunity this year and last year. Walker (Merrill) continues to grow and has competed in a really good way, so we feel really good about all those guys.”

On if he's talked to Gerald Mincey about playing against his former team

“I joked with him a little bit today. He gets the chance to go compete against a few guys who he’s got a pretty good understanding of who they are and what they’re about. Give a little scouting report this evening on the front. He’s played really well. I think he’s continuing to get better and more comfortable in what we’re doing. He’s executed really well in the pass game. (He) continues to get better in the run game too. I expect him to have a big ball game on Saturday.”

Story originally appeared on Vols Wire