Vols use off week to prep for Texas A&M

Published 12:57 pm Thursday, October 12, 2023

NEWS RELEASE

With an open date on the schedule this weekend after a 41-20 victory over South Carolina last week, No. 22 Tennessee is emphasizing recovery while continuing to sharpen the details during bye week practices.

Head coach Josh Heupel met with the media Wednesday morning, providing comments on the victory over the Gamecocks and discussing how his team is utilizing an open week ahead of a cross-divisional clash with Texas A&M on Oct. 14.

“Bye week is important for us, one, to get healthy, and two, to continue to get better,” Heupel said. “We have a lot of guys inside our program, particularly the younger guys, that have to continue to develop and get better. Good teams get better throughout the season. We had a good day of work out on the grass today with the guys, and we will have another one tomorrow.”

The Vols have been especially effective in the pass rush and creating negative plays, ranking second nationally with 22 sacks and fifth in the FBS with 47 tackles for loss. After posting six sacks and eight TFLs against South Carolina, Heupel spoke to the defensive front’s depth and ability that has led to that success through the first five weeks of the 2023 campaign.

“Continued depth, ability to play more guys, play hard for 60 minutes,” Heupel remarked. “Their development and understanding of what they are doing, that can be our scheme, but also their fundamentals. Guys are playing violent. They are disruptive, they are jumping the football, they are winning one-on-one battles. We are going to continue to need that.”

One key storyline from Saturday’s contest was the return of preseason All-SEC center Cooper Mays, who made his season debut and played 70 snaps without allowing a sack as the Vols piled up 238 rushing yards with three rushing touchdowns. The veteran’s presence in the trenches helped Tennessee be more productive on Saturday, and Heupel had praise for his senior center in Wednesday’s press conference.

“Smart, tough, completive, ability to communicate, get all five guys on the same page within our tempo,” Heupel said of Mays. “That is extremely important. It is important in every offense, but when you are playing with tempo, the recognition of what is going on up front, there are a lot of moving pieces before the snap, and (Cooper) does a great job of that. He is tough and physical and played a lot of football. Your inside combinations, your pass protection, it is all elevated with his play.”