KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee head coach Butch Jones held his final media availability on Friday in the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio before the Vols kick off the 2017 season against Georgia Tech.
The No. 24/25-ranked Vols’ game week officially started on Wednesday as the team made practice schedule adjustments to prepare for its 2017 season opener versus the Yellow Jackets on Monday at 8 p.m. ET in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The game will air live on ESPN and be broadcast by Kirk Herbstreit, Rece Davis and Maria Taylor.
“It’s a great opportunity for our football program on a national stage to go play in a great environment and a great venue on Monday night,” Jones said. “As a kid growing up, these are the type of experiences and the type of environments that you dream about playing in. That’s why these individuals come to the University of Tennessee, to play in meaningful games like this on a national stage.”
Tennessee and Georgia Tech will meet for the 44th time, but it will be the first game between the two schools since 1987. The Vols hold a 24-17-2 edge in the all-time series.
Tennessee and Georgia Tech are both coming off 9-4 campaigns and will both feature new quarterbacks. Neither team has named a starting quarterback. The Yellow Jackets are expected to be a formidable foe having rushed for 258.1 yards per game last season behind head coach Paul Johnson’s famed triple-option attack.
“I think any time you play a very good football team, that adds not only to game week excitement but that really goes all the way back to when this football team was born in January,” Jones said. “Playing a meaningful game against a great quality opponent who’s had a lot of great success, I think that helps in terms of your offseason and that these players understand what’s going on. It will be great for our program.”
The Vols last played in the season-opening Chick-fil-A Game in 2012, defeating NC State, 35-21.
Continuity on the Offensive Line
After working over a week side-by-side, Jones believes the continuity of the offensive line extends deeper than the starting five.
“Well, you can’t beat continuity,” he said. “It’s also the number six or number seven individual that may have to go into a game. You never have enough depth, as we all know, with what occurred last year.”
Jones thinks that the continuity has helped from a communicative perspective and allowed the group as a whole to better understand what is expected of them from a physicality, leverage and knowledge standpoint.
“Anytime they can all work together as one unit really helps,” Jones said.
It’s All About Discipline
Discipline will be an important factor for Jones and the Tennessee defense on Monday night as the Vols must stop the Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack.
“When you play this type of offense,” said Jones, “everything is about your eye discipline and understanding your job in executing your role.”
In addition to discipline, Jones said the Vols are going to have to be to play in space and be a great tackling team.
“Really, it comes down to every individual understanding their roles and responsibilities and also understanding the challenges of their roles and their responsibilities. It comes down to which football team has the overall discipline to execute for a long period of time,” Jones added.