This week on “Vol Calls,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel talked about the tall order of traveling to Florida to take on the Gators.
Heupel began with how the Vols (2-1) have prepared this week ahead of their first SEC matchup against Florida (2-1).
“Great Monday morning, come in and review the tape, how do we get better, grow from that,” Heupel said. “Go into that team meeting, put on a slide that has the Florida Gators and you got everybody’s attention. I think everyone’s excited, we had a great week of practice, we got to finish it the right way.”
The Gators already have one SEC game under their belt. Florida played Alabama a week ago, falling 31-29 in the most impressive loss of the year across all of college football.
“This is a really good football team that we’re getting ready to go play,” Heupel said. “The biggest thing is they’re a football team that’s down 21-3 against a really good football team (Alabama), continue to play, compete, composure. You’ve heard me say that before, those are traits that you see on video. Huge test for our football team, one that everyone in the building’s excited about. You come to Tennessee because you want to play in these games and win these games.”
Florida was able to run the ball at will against the Crimson Tide, rushing for 245 yards on 43 carries.
“The quarterback run game is a huge part of what they do and that’s been a part of what (Florida head coach Dan Mullen) has done for a long time, and that’s speed option, it’s power read, it’s essentially triple-option off of different schemes,” Heupel said. “You got to play disciplined, you got to be able to tackle the quarterback in space, you got to do a great job of tackling their running backs, they’re strong and athletic. They finish runs and they’re talented in the backfield.”
The Vols’ line-of-scrimmage play is going to be extremely important in allowing them to run the ball and to slow down Florida’s run game. Heupel is happy with his team’s play on the line of scrimmage so far, but he also sees much room for improvement.
“Mentality, I like a lot of what we’re doing on the offensive side of the football … we need to be cleaner in what we’re doing, assignment and technique, upfront with the five guys,” Heupel said. “We can be better running the football. Some of that’s O-line, being cleaner, some of it’s tight-ends, some of it’s the running back doing a better job, having his eyes on the keys, pressing the line-of-scrimmage, getting some grass.”
“Defensively, I love what we’re doing on the defensive line. Being extremely disruptive, playing up the football field, affecting the run game, penetration, that’s also led to us affecting the quarterback some. So, I like how we are continuing to progress and grow on both sides of the line-of-scrimmage.”
Tennessee Athletic Director Danny White joined Heupel on “Vol Calls” this week and addressed why Tennessee will be implementing new season ticket policies for the coming seasons as well as detailing future improvements to the game day experience.
“We want to get our season ticket base back in football to where it was when we were at our best, and we want to be the biggest, baddest version of Tennessee Athletics we’ve ever seen,” White said. “We want to have the top budget in the country, we want to have the best facilities in the country and do all those things, but before we can build on current and future success we had to lay the foundation and clean some things up."
“But while we’re doing that, let's get our system organized a little bit and the hallmark component to that, how do we make it more fair and equitable for our fans, where everyone’s in a similar situation and how do we make it more accessible? I think we’ve out-priced some families here in East Tennessee and we need to get, especially Neyland Stadium, more accessible so we can get our numbers back up and fill that thing back up.”
White and Heupel also spoke about their relationship with each other. White was Heupel’s athletic director while at UCF.
“Obviously, huge learning curve working together for three years at UCF, but every place is different,” White said. “I don’t want to speak for Josh, but his position is different here than it was at UCF, mine’s different than it was at UCF, but it’s helped us, I think, probably work through new challenges and just knowing how we work together and also different members of our team with some of the staff we’ve brought in here. So, it’s definitely helped the transition speed things up a little bit.”
Heupel echoed the same sentiment.
“I think it makes it extremely easy to have real conversations, candid conversations, good and bad, what’s missing and what’s needed, what’s right and how you move forward,” Heupel said. “We’ve been through great experiences and some tough ones together, and you know exactly who the other person is and what they’re about, their character and what they’re trying to accomplish and that was a huge part of me coming here, the brand of Tennessee and understanding the vision and knowing that he’s going to do everything that he possibly can to make sure that you have every tool to go accomplish that mission.”
Tennessee will open conference play against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at 7 p.m. EST.