Brady Hoke said it's all about the players, especially the seniors, as he leads the Vols into the post-Butch Jones era of football.
Jones was fired Sunday after a disappointing 4-6 season that's seen the Vols go winless in the SEC so far. Brady Hoke, associate head coach and defensive line coach, was named interim head coach.
Hoke met with the media on Monday for the regular weekly press conference.
Tennessee has two games left--- both at home against SEC opponents. LSU comes to town this weekend, and Vanderbilt will visit for senior day.
Hoke said he and his staff will "coach our hearts out for the seniors."
"They've had a rough year," he said. "The seniors have won 29 games, 3 bowl games. The guys that have lasted, they've put their heart and soul into it. I think they should be appreciated for what they've done."
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Hoke said he hopes Vol Nation will come out and support the seniors and the players for the next two weeks.
"It's great to see how passionate (the fans) are. That goes both ways, and we understand that," he said, acknowledging the part of the fan base that's been very passionate and vocal about their desire for a coaching change.
But he didn't want to add to that conversation.
"I don't think it's fair to comment on what went wrong, what didn't go wrong. I think a lot of things went right. That's something for you guys to talk about and figure out.," he said.
He will make some changes as interim head coach for his "comfort level" in running a program, but wouldn't elaborate on them. He did announce he would close practice to the media because he felt that was the best thing for the team.
He also wouldn't talk about the team's reaction to losing Butch Jones, but spoke briefly on a personal level.
"We lost a good man," he said. From an emotional, respect, and friendship level, it was hard. But he said he and the staff have to move forward now, because if the coaches can't move on, the players won't.
While his main focus is on the current players, the staff will also keep working to preserve the recruiting class.
"It's a job we've just got to finish," he said.
As for his future with the program, he would only say he and Director of Athletics John Currie had a "good conversation."
"I was very honored he entrusted us with this," he said. "We want want to win for those seniors."
If Tennessee wins the final two games of the season, they will be bowl-eligible. To get there, Hoke says they will need to have a good week of practice and lean on each other.
We'll see what happens Saturday night. Kickoff against LSU is set for 7 p.m. at Neyland Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.