Everything Josh Heupel said after Tennessee's second spring scrimmage at Neyland Stadium

On3 imageby:Grant Ramey04/06/23

GrantRamey

Everything Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said Thursday morning after the Vols held their second spring scrimmage inside Neyland Stadium:

His thoughts after Tennessee’s scrimmage 

“I thought the running backs as a group did some really positive things. Dylan Sampson made some people miss, did a great job pressing double teams. Cam Seldon did a really nice job running the football, good job taking care of it. DeSean Bishop. There were a lot of really good things from that running back room in particular.”

What the running backs performing well says about Tennessee’s offensive line in the scrimmage

“Watching the video will tell the true story. I did think in general they did a good job on the first and second level and created some space. All of those pieces play off of each other. The offensive line take on double teams good in their identifications. I thought the tight ends did a really good job, some of the second level things that they were asked to do. And the running backs ran hard. They ran with good pad level.”

If they’ve been surprised with Tennessee freshman running back DeSean Bishop

“Nah, we thought he was a really good player coming in. I say that, he’s handled the transitioning into college football extremely well. But we thought he was extremely athletic, had great vision, pace as a running back coming out of high school. He’s done a really good job of handling communication systems and not being too big for him since Day 1. Proud of what he’s done.”

His thoughts on Tennessee’s wide receivers in the scrimmage

“I mean, there are some positives, some big plays. Had a couple drops in the middle of the football field that had opportunities to be big plays, too. That group has to continue to grow in their understanding, operating efficiently. I think that’s an area where we can continue to get better at. But they’ve been highly competitive and physical and done a nice job all spring.”

The defensive performance in the second scrimmage compared to the first

“I didn’t think the tackling in the open field was as good and consistent as it was the other day. Gave up a couple big runs. You’ve got to (have) gap integrity and you’ve got to tackle well. There were times it was really efficient, really good on the defensive side of the ball. There were a couple big plays that we gave up that you can’t do.”

The play of Tennessee quarterbacks in the scrimmage

“All in all I thought they did really well. We put them in some situations, game management, four-minute situation at the end of the game. There are a lot of things that we can learn in that. We’ve hit that the first two scrimmages. I think there are some things we can get better at in that. Taking care of the football, being smart decision makers, handling communication, handling pace. Everybody has done a really nice job.”

Nico Iamaleava continuing to progress during spring

“Continuing to grow. A long ways from being where we need him to (be), but that’s understandable. Where he’s at, this part of spring ball, really happy with what he’s done — his work ethic, attention to detail, ability to rebound and how intentional he is in the way that he works. He’s continues to get better every time he gets on the field, which is what you want to see from your young guys.”

Up Next: Tennessee’s Orange & White Game, April 15, 2:30 p.m. ET, Neyland Stadium

What he’s liked from freshman athlete Cam Seldon 

“I just thought today, the last couple practices have ben really solid for him. He’s ran with good pad level, he’s a guy that is transitioning from playing a lot out in space to a guy that is at the running back position full time. He’s continuing to grow in his understanding of how to press the line of scrimmage and understanding how things are going to be blocked versus different fronts. Took good care of the football today. He got pad under pad, he finished plus two. A lot of positives.”

What he can see differently in a scrimmage at Neyland compared to a normal practice at the complex

“I think coaches being off on the sidelines, the players being able to handle and solve problems while they’re out there. They have to do that on their own. They have to be able to handle being able to reload from one play to the next. Handling game situations as you continue to drive the football. It’s as real as it’s going to be up until we get to kickoff in Nashville next September.”

Where Tennessee is at with the offensive tackles 

“Great competition up front. Guys that are continuing to compete. We’re deeper in that room, so much deeper than we were when we first got here and last year, too. So there is really good competition and that drives all of us to be better. Each of them have a little bit of a different skill set, but at the end of the day, feel like all of them can be really efficient and effective in the run game and have done a nice job in pass protection over the course of spring ball.”

If there was more emphasis at the line of scrimmage in Thursday’s scrimmage 

“Heavy emphasis with being able to be efficient in the run game. Some of the situational football dictates that you won’t be able to run the football until the four-minute situation at the end. All in all, for us, we want to maintain balance in what we do a the line of scrimmage. It’s extremely important. You have to dominate that on both sides of the line of scrimmage, defensively and offensively.”

If Tennessee’s young running backs should think they have a chance at being in the rotation in the fall when all the older backs are available

“We’re going to need them all. There are times where you stay really healthy for a really long period of time. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. We’re going to need all these guys throughout the course of the season. Competition. Iron sharpens iron. We’re going to need that, absolutely. Everybody on this roster better believe they have the opportunity to play next fall and continue to sharpen their skills. It’s fundamentals, it’s technique, it’s understanding what we do — offensively, defensively, special teams. It’s being able to be a mature competitor and handle everything that comes at you.”

Where Tennessee’s freshmen linebackers have improved between the first and second scrimmages

“I’ll see a lot more from those guys as we get a chance to sit in and evaluate the tape. Are their eyes on the right keys? Are they playing over the top? Are they being able to be disruptive and disrupt blocks? I really like that group as a whole. They’re smart, they’re competitive. They’re great teammates and they’ve been nothing but extremely intentional in the way they’ve worked every single practice out on the grass. They’re athletic, they’ve got great ability to move, should be able to help us on (special) teams. I’ll see how they played today when we get a chance to walk in and watch the tape.”

If they got more of a look at transfer wide receiver Dont’e Thornton in Thursday’s scrimmage

“Did not get a ton of work with Dont’e. Got some yesterday on the practice field. He’s got a lot of skill sets we’re looking for. And the back half of spring ball we’re continuing to develop him.”

Joe Milton III’s role in having an understanding of the Tennessee run game

“Our guys control everything. I don’t think there’s anyone in America that puts more on their quarterbacks — running run checks, run pass checks, loaded boxes, alerts, kills — they’ve got to do it all. He’s highly instrumental in the efficiency and effectiveness of our run game.”

If Milton is progressing in that area

“I think he’s got really good command of what we’re doing. At the line of scrimmage, out on the perimeter, his eyes being in the right place to identify his keys and take him to the next progression. That’s in the run game, that’s in the pass game too.”

The schedule heading into the weekend and his message to the team entering the final week of spring practice

“At the end of the day you have to reset and reload. We come back next week, you control. You’ve got to win each rep. You’ve got to win each period. You’ve got to win each day. This has been a great group and their consistency, that’s the mental side of it, in the meeting room, how they’ve been physically and mentally out on the practice field. They’ve been awesome. Expect that the back third of spring ball. Next week is a huge week for the development of our program in every phase, at every position, every guy on our roster. They’re going to finish today pretty early, noon, have a chance to get with their families, enjoy the weekend. If they’re not going home, spend time with us as a staff. Sunday night, we’ll have a team meeting, reload and get ready to get after it Monday morning.”

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