Tennessee (3-2) will face South Carolina (4-2) coming off a bye week for the second straight year this Saturday. Last year didn’t go as planned for the Vols though, as they dropped a tough one to the Gamecocks. In his Monday press conference, Jones covered injury updates, previewed South Carolina and spoke about locker room chemistry. Here are the five biggest takeaways from today’s chat with Jones.
1. South Carolina has a great defense
It comes as no surprise that the Gamecocks have a talented defense under Will Muschamp, but South Carolina has been sensational recently. The defense exploded for three touchdowns and four turnovers after going on a three-year drought with no defensive scores. Linebackers Skai Moore and T.J. Brunson have led the Gamecocks with a combined 91 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and two touchdowns.
“They force you to execute,” Jones said. “As we all know, they’re plus-seven in the turnover margin.”
2. Tennessee experimenting with depth
The Volunteers have been plagued by injuries and suspensions recently, making it even more important for Jones to test out younger players in his schemes.
“Constantly growing our depth was the biggest value of the bye week,” Jones said.
There are currently 13 players injured or suspended for Tennessee. Jones said he doesn’t plan on making any positional moves for players, but he is trying out different combinations on specials teams.
“It was really more important to get these players repetitions,” Jones said.
3. The locker room is “strong”
Jones reiterated that the Vols locker room is strong following the suspension of defensive end Darrell Taylor. The junior defensive end was suspended due to an altercation with freshman offensive lineman Trey Smith. At practice on Friday afternoon, Taylor “stomped” on Smith’s face.
The altercation between the two teammates is the second alleged altercation that has taken place within the last three weeks.
“The locker room is strong, the team is strong and we’ve had a lot of individuals step up and emerge as leaders,” Jones said. The team has looked anything but unified under Jones in recent weeks, both on-and-off the football field. “Like I told them, we have to learn from our mistakes, but you have to let the past go now,” stated Jones.
4. Quarterbacks are still competing
After starting quarterback Quentin Dormady’s 64-yard performance on 5-of-16 passing against Georgia, backup Jarrett Guarantano may have a chance to start for the Vols next week. Jones denied that vocal communication was an issue in the Tennessee offense, leading to miscues between Dormady and the receivers.
“It wasn’t a vocal communication thing, or a body language thing. It was a problem with paying attention to the small details,” Jones said. The reps for the two quarterbacks are set at 60/40 according to Jones, but he left no indication of who the starting quarterback would be.
5. Injury Update/Miscellaneous
Jones started out his weekly press conference by noting that Taylor would be suspended indefinitely.
Star wide receiver Marquez Callaway will play against South Carolina after suffering an injury against Georgia.
Jones said he has been impressed with sophomore linebacker Quart’e Sapp’s development recently. Sapp had a career high 10 tackles and a defended pass against the Bulldogs last week. Defensive end Kyle Phillips will be called upon to help fill the void of Taylor, although Phillips has tallied just seven tackles in 2017.
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Ben McKee