Tennessee heads into its pivotal matchup with Florida slightly banged up but healing. After coming back from a suspension against Bowling Green, receiver Alton Howard has recorded only one catch for eight yards in Tennessee’s last two games as he rehabilitates from an ankle injury.
“Alton Howard is an individual who, as the week progresses, we see how many repetitions he can give us. He is nursing some things,” Butch Jones said. “We will see as the week progresses. We still have a few days left of practice, so we will see a little more where we are at."
Offensive lineman Jashon Robertson left the game against Western Carolina to be tended by trainers with an ankle injury, but all signs point to the guard participating Saturday against the Gators.
"We fully expect Jashon to start the game and play the entire game,” Jones said. “He's had a very good week of preparation. You know, you have to pick your spots with him, but he's very, very intelligent. Today's another big day for him, but we fully anticipate him being ready to go.”
“Max Arnold continues to get more involved,” Jones said. “Darrell Miller is questionable at this point in time from an injury that occurred a couple of weeks ago. He will be very, very limited.”
Despite those injuries, Jones said Monday the team is collectively healthy as they prepare for their first SEC road trip of the season.
O’Brien to Travel
Newly reinstated defensive lineman Danny O’Brien will travel with the team to Florida and work into the rotation, Jones announced Wednesday.
O’Brien was suspended for two games for a violation of team rules, and Jones informed his tackle he would have to work his way back onto the travel roster and into the lineup.
"Danny continues to progress. He will be on the trip,” Jones said. “He will be on the travel roster, and he has continued to progress just like he had throughout the course of training camp. We anticipate him to play in the game.”
The redshirt junior recorded two tackles against Bowling Green before his suspension.
Practice how you play
The Vols passing attack will go up against one of the best corners in the country Saturday in Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III. But Tennessee has been able to practice one-on-one matchups against a cornerback of Hargreaves’ caliber with Cameron Sutton, himself a preseason All-SEC defensive back who’s recorded seven tackles and two pass breakups on the season.
“Cam Sutton is a great, great football player. He's a great, great competitor, and not only preparing for Florida, but he makes us better each and every day,” Jones said. “When we talk about the competition and how do you get better, it's through your practice habits, it's through your style of play, it's through your preparation. Well, if I'm a wide receiver, every time I go one-on-one I want to go against the best. I want to go against Cam Sutton.”
Jones also mentioned defensive end Darrell Taylor as someone who consistently improves the team based on his practice performance heading into Florida.
“Darrell Taylor has done a tremendous job all year from a defensive end standpoint on our scout teams,” Jones said. “The ability to have an individual like Darrell Taylor over there, that makes your offensive line that much better. So just that overall competitive component that Cam Sutton brings, but we have to continue to recruit and develop a bunch of Cam Suttons."
Hog Molly Experience
With a bevy of young, talented offensive linemen working behind the starting five, Jones understands the importance of giving them early playing time to ease the transition heading into SEC play.
“The continued growth and development of Charles Mosley is very, very important and then also Jack Jones has done a very good job. Jack has had a very good week of preparation. That's the thing that we see is we see all of our players continuing to develop and grow and get better and that's a byproduct of the way we practice,” Jones said.
“I think it's a byproduct of the youth development. Venzell Boulware had the best practice he's had since he's been here [Tuesday]. Chance Hall continues to grow and get better and better and better. Every repetition is critical, especially for Chance having those live-game reps - even Jack having those live-game reps - really, really helped him last Saturday because now they truly understand, you know, what it is to play in a real game.