KNOXVILLE - Tennessee Volunteers football coach Butch Jones said Monday his team can’t get caught up in “any of the extracurricular items” ahead of the highly anticipated Battle at Bristol.
The Vols will play in front of more than 250,000 fans between Thursday’s season opener at Neyland Stadium against Appalachian State and Saturday’s game at the Bristol Motor Speedway against Virginia Tech.
“From the jumbotron, to the atmosphere, to...don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to break the world record for fan attendance for the game of football is something that’s a tremendous opportunity,” Jones said. “It’s something that will live with these individuals for the rest of their life.”
Jones said he and his coaching staff took a trip during the summer to the Bristol Motor Speedway to address any communication issues at the Bristol Motor Speedway, which is primarily used as a racetrack for NASCAR races.
Jones said moving forward Joshua Dobbs will continue to start at quarterback for the Vols. Dobbs said Monday he was “fine” after he got hit and fumbled into the end zone in Thursday’s 20-13 overtime win against Appalachian State.
No. 9 Tennessee hangs on to beat Appalachian St. in OT by fumbling into their own end zone— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 2, 2016
Yes, you read that right pic.twitter.com/gQ6k0EY4dZ
Dobbs completed 16 of 29 passing attempts for 192 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Appalachian State held Dobbs to -4 yards rushing, which is the lowest single game total of his career.
Jones said he wanted to see more consistency from the five players on the offensive line working as one for the offense to score points and move the football.
“When I look at, again, it’s all five individuals working collectively as one unit,” Jones said. “There were times when we did it, we executed extremely well.
“Again, it just gets back to team. Everyone wants to compare what we did to last year’s team, and how we ran the football. That was last year’s team. Each team is different. Chemistry is different. The makeup is different. They might be the same guys, but no two teams are ever the same, and I think this team is still forming its identity.”
Jones also addressed senior linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s targeting ejection, which came in the first quarter against Appalachian State.
“It was an odd play in that the fair catch occurred right when the ball was kicked,” Jones said.
Jones said Reeves-Maybin and “three-quarters” of Tennessee’s punt team did not know Appalachian’s punt returner had signaled for a fair catch.
Jones said he would propose a rule change to the rules committee for the official behind the returner to raise his hand if a punt returner calls for a fair catch.
“I’m all for player safety, and within the rules that’s going to be called, and I can’t argue about the call,” Jones said. “Also, how can we protect the guys going down to make the play?”
Jones said the only other way to avoid targeting in that circumstance is for a player to “sweep the legs” of the punt returner.
Here’s another look at the JRM targeting call that got him tossed https://t.co/LKvszGE2tr— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 2, 2016
Jones said he anticipated every player would be available for Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech. Redshirt tight end Jason Croom is expected to return to practice Monday.
On Monday, Jones also praised Virginia Tech’s receiving core. The Hokies return their top three pass catchers from a season ago in Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges. All three scored a touchdown in 36-13 win against Liberty, and Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 221 and four touchdowns.
Jones said the Hokies’ wide receiving corps would be one of the best the Vols face all season.
Evans’ four touchdown passes were the most for a Virginia Tech quarterback since 2002.
Jones began Monday’s news conference expressing his condolences for the family of former UT coach Phillip Fulmer. Nannie Lee Fulmer, the mother of Phillip Fulmer, passed away Sunday at the age of 91. She was battling Alzheimer’s disease.
(© 2016 WBIR)