KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s officially Florida week for the Tennessee Volunteers! While coach Josh Heupel is very aware of the task at hand, he told media on Monday the team has a set mission in place that is focused internally rather than on their opponents.
“This is the biggest game on our schedule because it’s our next one. We’re on a journey to become as good as we can as fast as we can,” Heupel said. “Love a lot of what we’ve done as a football team. How we’ve grown, this is the next challenge. Got to do the ordinary at a high level in a big game like this against a really good football team.”
Tennessee is coming off of a 56-0 win over a Tennessee Tech team from the Ohio Valley Conference. Florida faced the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in a top 25 Southeastern Conference matchup and narrowly lost 31-29.
The Vols dominated the entire game against the Golden Eagles, scoring at least one touchdown in each quarter and lead in almost every positive category. The Gators found themselves with a lack-luster first half down 21-9, but then turned it around and nearly mounted a comeback against the Tide outscoring them 20-10 in the second half.
Heupel spoke on the excitement on the opening of SEC play, noting the level of competition is rising and that this week’s preparation will be important, especially paying attention to details. He said, “Looking forward to the challenge of going down there on the road, first road game for us as a program here.”
“You get on the road communication will be critical in all three phases of the game. Something that offensively will be critical in particular. Looking forward to the challenge, the guys came in the building today and were able to watch some video with them and get some work on the grass.”
Although Joe Milton III didn’t dress for the TN Tech game, the Michigan transfer was listed as the starter in a depth chart handed out to the media on Monday. When asked about his availability for the Fla. game, Heupel said the team would evaluate his status during the practice week.
“I never speak in hypotheticals. He got some work last week, we’ll find out where he is on Tuesday or Wednesday here on whether he’ll be able to play or not,” he said.
Speaking of quarterbacks and offense, Heupel listed a number of factors that will help with their plan of playing with tempo and executing in order to achieve that tempo in-game.
He said, “When we’re playing with tempo, we want to be more efficient. It could be ball mechanics, could be eyes, could be alignment and assignment — all of those things can help us play quicker when playing in our tempo. Even when we’re not playing within our tempo, execution can be higher. You guys have seen opportunities that have presented themselves particularly in the passing game, vertical pass game that we have to start hitting. We’re capable of it, you’ve seen us do it, it’s time to go execute that on the field.”
He spoke highly of the Gators’ defense, especially after their performance against the Tide on Saturday in a close two-point loss. “They’re big, long, athletic, violent, they disrupt the line of scrimmage, play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Structurally, I thought their second and third levels fitted extremely well, they tackled well for the most part — you do those things it makes it tough to run the football.”
In terms of the Gator’s offense, Heupel said they do a good job of spacing people out, especially with how involved their quarterback is within their run scheme. “The quarterback is a huge part of their run game, the threat of it. When the ball is in his hands, he runs like a runner, he’s able to make the first guy miss or run through a tackle too.”