After a win that energized this Tennessee team in a way that hasn’t been seen all season and all of the excitement from the fans, it can be assumed the Vols are anxious to get back on to the field. However, the players understand how important this bye week is. There are players that need to get healthy and everyone can use rest before heading into the biggest stretch of games in the Butch Jones era so far.
“Obviously we want to get back on the field and play some more games,” tight end Ethan Wolf said. “But, we’ve had a long stretch of games here and this bye week is huge."
Tennessee will host Kentucky on the 15th of November. It's the first of the three winnable games to close out the season but Wolf says they aren’t taking any of the three teams lightly.
“I know we’re not in the top 10 or top 5 teams in the country” Wolf said. “But these are still three pretty good football teams that we have to play."
If they can just win two of the three, the Volunteers will be bowl bound for the first time since 2010. The freshman from Ohio understands how much that would mean for the Tennessee fan base.
“It’d be huge,” Wolf said. “It would be huge for the program and huge for the seniors to go out with a bang. Us younger guys are trying to do what we can to get them to a bowl game."
Wolf and his teammates made it clear though that the team is still taking it one week at a time. That includes treating the bye week in practice like a game week.
“We still have to win this week,” linebacker Curt Maggit said. “That means recovering and getting our bodies well and watching extra film. So, that’s how we’ll win next week, by winning this week."
Freshman lineman Jashon Robertson echoed his teammate.
“We haven’t arrived or anything,” Robertson said. “We still have a lot of stuff that we can improve on and that we are going to continue to improve on. We’re just looking forward to winning this bye week and playing next week."
Senior A.J. Johnson did his interviews with ice and a bandage on his right hand, providing an example of how this week is not just about getting better but getting healthier as well. He says the defense is using this break to get refocused.
"I wouldn’t say we needed a break,” Johnson said. “We got away from what we were doing early on in the season. Getting people off of the field on third-down, we’ve gotten away from that the past few games. So, this off-week came at a good time. We’re gonna get that stuff corrected."
Tennessee has guys who need to get healthy, some playing with injuries and an offensive lineman playing without an ACL. A bye right after an emotional, overtime win and right before a three game stretch that can help mold the future of this program, might just be the perfect time.
Highlights from Nov. 4 practice
Butch Jones post-practice presser
A.J. Johnson on bye week