Brady Hoke held his second press conference as interim head coach at Tennessee as the Vols began preparation Monday for Saturday’s season-ending game against Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium.
Game time is 4 p.m. and the SEC Network will televise the action.
Tennessee (4-7, 0-7) and Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-7) renew their rivalry for the 111th time, with the Vols holding a lop-sided 70-30-5 lead with wins in nine of the last 11 meetings.
Twenty-two Tennessee seniors will run through the “T” in traditional ceremonies prior to the game.
Interim coach Brady Hoke
“I really want, on behalf of our football team and our staff, to thank those people and our fans that were at the game on Saturday night. From the Vol Walk to the energy they had for our football team, it really got our kids pumped up and it was really great to see. For those who weathered the weather, we give them a lot of credit. It was really a great turnout and we can’t thank the Volunteer fans enough for the enthusiasm and the passion they have.
“Every week is a little different depending on who you are playing with. We go into it game by game. It’s always a team philosophy to win. I thought, for the most part, we were in the right direction. I wanted to make sure John Kelly got 25 touches on the football. We were able to accomplish that. Offensively, the things that hurt us a little bit were pre-snap penalties. Sometimes that happens when you have some young guys that haven’t had a lot of experience in a football game. Those pre-snap penalties, we can’t have them. We had four of them, as you know.
“In the red zone we had one and that hurt us. We have to stay away from the negative plays. They had seven TFLs. That gets you a little bit out of whack on your first, second and third down calls. We have to do a better job there. Defensively, the biggest thing is gap integrity against the run game. They give you an awful lot with the shifts, trades, motion and jets. There are times that we just have to do a better job with our gap integrity. We have to do a better job on the edges, whether it’s a defensive end making sure the ball comes back inside or someone on the perimeter or a linebacker. Those are the things we have to do a better job on. Another thing, we didn’t create opportunities enough. We didn’t successfully have enough TFLs. At the same time, we didn’t get the ball back. Stealing possessions is important in football.
“From the special teams’ standpoint, we need to take care of the ball and be consistent with our jobs. Everyone has a job and we have to be consistent with it. There were some good things that the guys did. Every job is important and we just have to keep harping on that and coaching that as we go into a rivalry week. We will talk today about the competitive spirit that you have to have as a football player. Anything in life is competitive. Your jobs are competitive. Everyone’s jobs are competitive. So, we have that competitive spirit. I thought we came out and played well. We have to keep it. We have to go forward with it, learn from the loss and move forward. That’s something that you always have to do.
“We have a great opportunity to go out and learn and compete again on Saturday. We have a state rivalry game. Everything counts in games that are of this magnitude. We have 22 seniors that we want to continue to get experiences out of their careers at the University of Tennessee and we want to leave them with a win.”
On following the team instead of leading the team when they were running through the “T” Saturday night before the game:
“I did the same thing at Michigan when touching the banner. It really is about those kids. The game is about the kids. The game is about your seniors. We wanted our seniors up front. They are the guys that are our leaders on this football team. It is not that I don’t want to lead the team or anything like that, but to me it’s about more than a coach leading a team out.”
On freshman quarterback Will McBride being available against Vanderbilt:
“Will will be available. It was just best that he wasn’t last week. You just want to make sure. Health and wellness is a big part of the game. We wanted to make sure that he was okay.”
“Vanderbilt started off well. They have had some hiccups similar to what we have had. As a football team, defensively they are very versatile in what they do. Targeting at the line of scrimmage for our offensive linemen will be something that we have to do a good job at. Offensively, Webb has proven himself. He is a 4,000 yard rusher. Kyle Shurmur is a very good football player, with his background and I know his father quite well. He leads the team well. I think he has 22 touchdowns this year. They have taken care of the football pretty well as a team. I think we have our work cut out for us, but it will be fun.”
On what it is like being on a coaching staff during a time of uncertainty about the future like there is right now:
“We have a bunch of guys that are professionals, coaching staff-wise. We met this morning at 7:30 a.m. We met yesterday. They worked all day to prepare and look at what we did well and what we did poorly at. We want to do a great job for these kids.”
On Jauan Jennings availability:
“We’ve had conversations and we will see.”
On the larger issue with pre-snap penalties:
“I don’t know. At times I think it may be a cadence or a quarterback issue. At the same time, it comes down to self-discipline. Big moments in games, some guys act differently. I think experience helps. When you are playing guys with not a great deal of experience, it’s something that may happen.”
On moving Kahlil McKenzie to the offensive line:
“I think that would be way too far down the line. There may have been conversations to do something like that in the past. Since I have been here, there have not been a lot of those discussions. At this point, Kahlil is playing pretty well for us. I think he has played his best football in the last three weeks. I think trying to make that move mid-season, to some degree, is tough.”
On Jarrett Guarantano and his development:
“If there is one thing I will say about Jarrett, it is that he is a pretty tough guy. He has obviously been hit a few times last week and against Alabama. He has got hit. I love his toughness. I think his progression, from the standpoint that I was never a quarterback nor have I ever coached a quarterback, I think timing-wise, when he hits his back foot and gets the ball out, and having confidence in where the receivers and the tight ends are going to be I think he continues to grow. I think it is all positive.”
Senior Tight End Ethan Wolf
On the team’s motivation for the game against Vanderbilt:
“Absolutely, it’s easy to get motivated. It’s the nature of the game, the tradition behind it with it being a rivalry game and it being mine and a lot of guys last go around here in Neyland, There is definitely going to be some fire. We are all competitors. We don’t want to lose, no matter who we are playing. We are going to come out and play as hard as we possibly can and try and end this season with a victory.”
On the last season’s game versus Vanderbilt last year:
“Obviously, it was disappointing. There is a lot of tradition and rivalry behind this game. We played hard, but things didn’t go our way. We let it slip out of our hands. That was a big loss that hurt us deep and has been some motivation.”
Senior Defensive Lineman Kendal Vickers
On the being effective in the first half on defense against LSU:
“I think everybody was locked in during the first half. We ran our keys and our assignments. We were playing physical upfront and making it easier for our linebackers to do what they needed to do best and run to the ball. I think everybody was just locked in from that stand point, and we were able to play fast.”
On winning versus Vanderbilt:
“Vanderbilt is a good team. They’ve had some bad breaks this year, as well. They are coming in to win this game. We’re definitely coming in to win this game, as well. It will be a good one.”
On his fondest memory playing football at the University of Tennessee:
“I don’t think I have one fondest memory. I just try to enjoy every day I’m with the guys in the locker room because I try not to take it for granted. This isn’t promised and its coming to an end, so I just try to value every moment I have with the guys from my freshman year to my fifth year. I can say that I have been doing that.”
Senior Defensive Back Emmanuel Moseley
On how he will reflect on his career at Tennessee:
“Well, I wasn’t very highly recruited. I came in at 145 pounds. I put on a lot of weight and I appreciate the strength staff for that. I went through different coaches and I appreciate every coach and my teammates. I’d definitely say Cameron Sutton played a big role in that, just helping me mature to where I am now. I’d definitely say I appreciate everyone around this program.”
On his fondest memory at Tennessee:
“I’d have to say when we beat Florida inside of Neyland Stadium. It was a great memory, just being around the team and seeing how happy everyone was. The fans were happy. It was just a good vibe.”
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)