It was a simple slip. But it spoke volumes.
Tennessee defensive lineman Daniel Hood was asked about the team’s transition back into the 4-3 scheme.
“We knew Western Kentucky, I mean Austin Peay,” he began.
The mistake was certainly understandable.
Not two-minutes before the game ended, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones already began discussing their next opponent.
“He’s already talking to us about Western Kentucky,” Hood said.
Jones just registered his first win on Rocky Top. The program just claimed its 800th win. But by all means, Jones is already all eyes on Western Kentucky.
“They’re an extremely, extremely, extremely talented football team,” Jones said.
Jones may be focused on next Saturday, but he took a moment to appreciate the pre-game nuances of Tennessee football.
Jones said he was taken aback by how proud his players were to parade him through the “Vol Walk” and the “T.”
“You know, for me, the greatest peace of mind that I have is how proud they were to show me the Vol Walk, how proud they were to run through the T,” Jones said. You could see the pride of who we are coming out, and that's what we have here and that's what we're building as a football team. I see them continue to grow closer and closer.”
But the pageantry didn’t rattle Jones.
When asked if he had any pre-game butterflies, he sternly responded, “No.”
If anything, Jones was worried his team was over prepared.
“I was more concerned that we had over prepared them,” Jones said. “I could tell at the walkthrough this morning that they had that look in their eye and they were ready."
Notes and updates…
Ten true freshmen saw playing time Saturday night. Eight redshirt freshman played.
The Vols did not commit a single penalty. When asked if he could remember a past game where his team was penalty-free, Jones replied, “I don’t. Especially not in the opening game of the year.”
The decision not to dress linebacker Curt Maggitt was made Friday. Jones said Maggitt continues to progress everyday, saying he’s “real close” to returning.
There were no injuries Saturday night.
Jones said his team benefited greatly from the open practice experience at Neyland Stadium that drew 39,000 fans. He said freshman were noticeably more calm and collected than he’s seen in past teams.
Jones described Justin Worley’s start as efficient, but said his quarterback needs to progress on making simple throws and timing.
Defensive lineman Daniel Hood said his interception Saturday was his first since middle school.
Hood said the Vol Walk before the game was the best one he’s been apart of since last year’s Florida game.
Snap and clear.
That’s the mindset Tennessee defenders play with. Or at least try.
The idea is simple: The last play doesn’t affect the next one. It’s easier said than done. Especially for freshman.
But according to his teammates, young corner Malik Foreman has the let-it-go mentality down.
“He didn’t get down or upset,” Linebacker Dontavis Sapp said of Foreman. “Instead, he went out there and got a interception.”
Foreman was challenged nearly as soon as he stepped on the field by Austin Peay. Time after time they looked his way, and the Governors found some luck in doing so.
Foreman got beat on completions of 36 and 33 yards. But his head never dropped.
It’s a product of this staff’s focus on body language. If a player drops his shoulders at practice, Jones takes to the microphone. If a players shakes his head during individual work, an assistant is soon to scream.
“Yeah, I think that had a lot to do with it,” Sapp told InsideTennessee. “He kept his head up and was focused on the next play.”
Worley warming up
When quarterback Justin Worley took the podium post-game, he glanced at his hands and spoke just a tone above a whisper.
He was apparently very different on the field.
Standout left tackle Antonio Richardson was impressed by Worley’s presence.
“(Worley) controlled the line of scrimmage very well,” Richardson said. “His voice carried really well.”
But, Richardson did notice a jolt in confidence after a certain play.
With 8:47 left in the first quarter, Worley took the snap and glanced at the strong-side defensive end. The defender shot down the line of scrimmage. Worley pulled the ball from Lane’s belly, darted left and picked up 11 yards.
“I could see it in his eyes after (that play),” Richardson said.
Worley seemed to operate the zone read well. He rushed for 28 yards on four carries, disguised his handoffs well and even threw a few blocks downfield.
When asked on his execution of the zone read, Worley said, “I think we did a good job, but we will continue to develop as the season progresses.”
Freshman cornerback Cameron Sutton was the recipient of much praise throughout fall camp.
Post-game Saturday was no different.
Sapp said Sutton’s preparation is what separates him from other slow-learning newcomers.
“Cam Sutton prepares like a champion,” Sapp said. “It’s ridiculous.”
But preparation is one thing. Turning it into results on the field is what truly matters.
Sutton has that down, too.
“He’s out there like he’s been starting for a long time,” Sapp said. “When (Austin Peay) came out in something irregular, like something we haven’t seen before, he doesn’t panic. He just gets it done and flies around.”
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