Jones talks Curt Maggitt injury, more

Butch Jones addressed the media Monday to discuss Curt Maggitt's injury, his decision-making process on kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line and more.

Tennessee was dealt another injury blow Monday when it was announced hybrid linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt will miss “an extended period of time” with a hip injury.

The redshirt senior from West Palm Beach, Florida, was a preseason All-SEC player who notched seven total tackles in the Vols’ first two games before leaving the Oklahoma game Saturday in the second quarter with the injury.

“I still don’t know to the extent of how long it will be,” Butch Jones said Monday. “He’s still in the process right now of going through the evaluation process. I should know a little bit more about him by the end of the week, but he will be out an indefinite period of time.”

The Vols lined up in a punt safe formation during a Sooners punt with Maggitt on the field. He went to avoid another player and injured his hip on what Jones called “probably the most freakish injury here I’ve ever been a part of.”

“We all know what Curt means to us, not only from a leadership standpoint but from a character standpoint, from a productivity standpoint as well, so we feel for him,” Jones said.

Junior Corey Vereen and freshman Kyle Phillips will be expected to step into Maggitt’s role with him out of the lineup.

"Kyle Phillips will have a great opportunity this week in practice and preparation to get game-ready, so we'll get him going,” Jones said. “And then, it'll be pretty much everyone else in that position group.

Kamara’s touches

Alvin Kamara received only four carries in Tennessee’s 31-24 double overtime loss to Oklahoma after running for 144 yards and two touchdowns the week before against Bowling Green on 15 carries.

So what limited his touches after such a strong performance? Jones pointed to a combination of defensive line pressure fronts and the temperament of the game.

“We would have liked to have given him the ball more,” the third-year Vols head coach said. “We had some designed throws to get him the football, so not only in the run game but in the pass game as well. Sometimes the defensive front, the pressure looks, dictated whether he was getting the football.”

With sophomore Jalen Hurd running well in the early stages of the matchup, the Vols decided to stick with him, which cut into Kamara’s potential carries.

“Every game has its storylines develop and has a different flavor. Jalen was running the ball well,” Jones said. “He was running behind his pads and it was kind of his style of game, but Alvin is very, very important to our offense, as we all know. To Alvin’s credit, not one mention about it. He’s all about the team.”

Passing game performance

After throwing for just 125 yards in the Oklahoma loss, Butch Jones lamented his team’s performance in the air.

And like last week when all questions were on the pass defense, Jones mentioned how success in this area of football begins up front.

"It starts up front with pass protection,” Jones said. “It starts at the running back position, as well as the tight end position, and then out on the perimeter, being able to beat man-to-man coverage and tight coverage and creating separation. Those are all things that go into being a very efficient throwing team. We had too many drops and too many drops at critical moments in the game. That is all what it takes to play winning football.”

Jones also mentioned his disdain for the pre-snap penalties that backed the offense up before it even got started. The Vols were flagged ten times in the loss.

‘When you play a good football team like Oklahoma, everything you do is magnified, from your technique, to your details, to your fundamentals,” Jones said. “You get exposed a little bit. We talk about playing winning football. Winning is fragile, and we can't be a team that beats itself.”

Firm on fourth-and-goal

There will be no second-guessing Tennessee’s decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from inside the one-yard line on the offense’s first drive to open the game. From Jones’ perspective, the sure points outweighed the possibility of coming away empty-handed.

“We knew going into the game that we needed points. Points were at a premium,” Jones said. “We needed momentum [and] confidence. This is a defense that we didn't have much success with the previous year. We drove the ball down. We felt we needed to get points.”

Without going into specifics, Jones said he based his decision on analytics so as not to leave it up to chance. He wanted to get on the board early and create momentum in favor of his team in explaining why he didn’t attempt to punch it in the end zone.

“Probably about four or five hours went into that single decision,” Jones said. “You look at it — if you get it, that's great, but if you don't get it, now the momentum [flips]. Football is a game of momentum, and Oklahoma established the momentum game in the fourth quarter. We had the momentum early. You are responsible for creating your own momentum. I just felt at that early juncture of the game that you come away with points.”

Injury Update

Safety LaDarrell McNeil has been cleared to play and will participate in Monday's practice after missing time with what Butch Jones described as "neck instability issues." Defensive back Max Arnold (MCL sprain) and running back Ralph David Abernathy IV (ankle sprain) are still out.

Butch Jones at Monday presser


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