KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team turned its focus towards its first true road game on Monday as the Vols prepare for a trip to Athens this Saturday to take on No. 2 Georgia in Sanford Stadium.
Despite last week’s disappointing loss to SEC East rival Florida, UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt said that he saw a lot of Vols play their best game this season in terms of effort, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“I saw guys trying to find a way, and that is really positive for me,” Pruitt said. “For me, you find out a little about yourself when adversity hits, and I thought some of these guys were trying to find a way. A lot of these guys played their best football Saturday.”
Players Organize Sunday Film Sessions
Since last spring, Pruitt has been insistent that the players need to take more of a leadership role among themselves. Sunday was another step in the right direction in that aspect as there were a handful of player-led film sessions throughout the afternoon on the team’s off day.
“I’m walking through the offices, and our offices are littered with our players watching tape,” Pruitt said. “I had no idea they were up there. There’s a group of guys that had them in there, talking about players and being leaders. I guess they organized it. That’s the first time I’ve seen that, but I saw some ownership during the game the other day that excites me about moving forward.”
When asked about Sunday’s player-led film sessions, senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips said he sees the leadership among the players improving each and every week.
“It’s better,” Phillips said in regard to players stepping into bigger leadership roles. “We’ve definitely improved that. At first, kind of a little tough going in the first [game] of the season, but I think that each game we’ve pretty much been building off of the leadership. I think we’ve been getting better each and every game. I think we’ve just got to keep improving, especially me as an older guy, to keep on pushing our teammates.”
Buchanan Looking to Build Off Strong Showing against Florida
One of the players Pruitt was impressed most with on Saturday was junior cornerback Baylen Buchanan.
“I thought this was one of Baylen’s better games,” Pruitt said. “He’s one of the guys that I saw that I felt like answered the bell a little bit. He played a lot of press coverage and guarded guys really well. Baylen has talent, and he’s gaining confidence, so that’s a good thing.”
Buchanan tied for the team lead with five tackles and was solid in pass coverage on Saturday night against the Gators. The Georgia native said he looks forward to playing in his home state this weekend.
“It’s always fun coming back home to play, especially being from Georgia,” Buchanan said. “You always want to play well, that’s every game, but it does add a little more excitement just because you’re coming back to your home state.”
Doyle Filling Big Shoes Left by Trevor Daniel
Redshirt freshman punter Joe Doyle had some big shoes to fill with the departure of three-year starter and UT career punting average leader Trevor Daniel. However, the hometown kid has performed extremely well one quarter of the way through the season, averaging 40.6 yards per punt while pinning nine punts inside the 20, which is tied for first in the SEC.
“Growing up in Knoxville, this has always kind of been the dream for me,” Doyle said about playing at Tennessee. “I was nervous at first when I stepped on the field, but after I got a couple punts away, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and hopefully I can contribute the rest of the season.”
Doyle was also asked if it was intimidating to follow in the footsteps of Daniel.
“You’d think that, but me and Trevor are really good friends,” Doyle said. “Over the summer, we both trained with the same guy that I worked with in high school, Gerald Robinson. Watching Trevor punt—you see a lot of what he does—you can see that when I punt too, so it wasn’t too intimidating because I know I can do it too.”
Saturday Broadcast Info
Saturday’s contest will be televised nationally on CBS at 3:30 p.m. ET as the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst) and Jamie Erdahl (sideline) will have the call.
Vol fans can also listen to the game live on the Vol Radio Network (FM 107.7) or on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 125 (XM Channel 381).