(Recapping the Alabama Game)
"Just recapping the Alabama game, it was funny I was doing my show and Bob Kesling asks, What do you tell a team after a game like that?' And I told him I am going to be honest with them. First half was outstanding, it was fun to watch and we did something that nobody has done to those guys this season. I don't think anybody has been in with them by less than 14 points at halftime. The second half was terrible. They did to us what probably most people expected them to do to us. I think there are several things to look back at when you look at the issues.
"Give Alabama a lot of credit, they are a great football team and they came out and executed a lot better in the second half than they did in the first. I know there were about three or four plays in the throwing game in the first half where we were holding our breath that could have been huge plays or touchdowns and we kind of got away with it because they overthrew them, just missed them or didn't see them. Sometimes we think we are playing good, because of the result, but we are seeing things that you guys aren't seeing and maybe we aren't playing much different. They just didn't find it.
"Secondly, our execution was not as good. That's a fact and when I say execution of a play, it's the discipline of doing what you are supposed to do. It's the toughness in which you do it with and that is something that over time our team has to learn to have more stamina physically and more stamina emotionally. A 60-minute game when you are going 50, 60 or 70 snaps takes its toll, especially when you are going against really big, physical guys hitting you every down. It's something we have to improve on.
"I think the third issue is what I commented on after the game. In the last couple of games, we have gotten focused on the result and we did it in the Georgia game. We got focused on the result. We are worried about, We aren't going to win,' or We are losing,' instead of just focusing on the task. That comes with being a mature competitor.
"The fourth thing is, that it is hard to play defense when your offense can't get a first down. I don't care who you are, when you are going three and out every down or you are turning it over, there is not much you can do. I counted nine times where we were at third or fourth down and five yards or less and we converted one. You have to be able to pitch and catch and we didn't."
(On UT's Players of the Week)
"Our players of the week: I'm really proud of Alex Bullard going in and he did a real fine job of snapping the ball so we gave it to him. A.J. Johnson continues to show he is going to be a real good player for us on defense and Mike Palardy who had an outstanding game. I was really proud of our kicking game. They have one of the top special teams units in the country. We had a great game in the kicking game and a lot of it was because of Mike. He hit two long field goals. He did an outstanding job punting the ball, hanging it up there, corner kicking and executed a fake really well so it was good to see that."
"No real injuries of significance, but we have a ton of guys that are banged up. When you play two teams like that back-to-back and you're in the middle of the season, we have to get these guys healed, fresh and ready to go. But we also have to practice, so that's going to be a little challenge this week getting our guys healed."
(On depth chart changes)
"From a personnel standpoint, we are going to keep tinkering around in the secondary because we just aren't playing as good as we need to be. Prentiss (Waggner) and Izauea (Lanier) will still be out there at corner starting out with (Brian) Randolph and (Brent) Brewer, but we are going to play (Justin) Coleman and (Byron) Moore a little bit more. Justin showed up and it was good to see him going out there and competing. He had a couple of pass breakups, which we haven't had many of this year. We might play Rod Wilks a little bit more to see if he can help us some and take some snaps off of Brewer.
"We are going to start Marcus Jackson at left guard. He's doing some good things. He's a little more developed physically than James (Stone).
"We are going to start Justin (Worley) at quarterback. I know that will be the big storyline. I just feel like it's something we need to do. I think we have to be very cautious to say it's like last year because I know that's what everybody thinks. But we had a lot more data on Tyler (Bray) going into last season when I made the move than I do right now on Justin. We played Tyler in the first game. We played him at Georgia. We played him against Alabama. We played him at South Carolina, and he was the number two the whole time he got here. This one is a little different and I don't know what it is going to look like on Saturday.
"I am doing it with a little less expectation of what I'll see is how I will say it. Last year. I felt like I knew what I was going to see. This year, I am not so sure, but I just feel like it's the right thing to do.
"We're going against the SEC East Champs and they stroked us there last year. They have had a couple of personnel issues as well, but it hasn't really affected them too much because they have found a way to win. I think it's a great example. He (Steve Spurrier) is in his seventh year, he has a little more depth than he had early on and really it starts with their D-Line. They are very active and disruptive. They're hard to block. Their defense has created, I think, 24 turnovers and they really have a way of disrupting offenses. When you have a D-Line like that, it gives you a chance. We have to focus on improving and we will see how we go this week."
(On naming Justin Worley the starting quarterback)
"I just feel like for us to go out and try to win games, we are not throwing and catching the way we need to and we're not calling the game the way we want to. We just need to make this move. It's not something that is done on a whim. We have a lot of data to make a switch. We don't have a lot of data on Justin."
(On why he decided to announce Worley the starter early during the week)
"I know what I want to do and we made the decision. I can sit there and try and hide it from you guys and hide it from Ellis, but Ellis is going to be licking his chops either way, so what is the point? Get it all out and go play. Who cares?"
(On bringing Worley along)
"We have seen a big difference in him since Tyler (Bray) got hurt. Before Tyler got hurt, we were really pushing him to invest more. Pushing him to be more focused week to week. It's human nature when you are the three, it's hard to do. You aren't going to play. That is why I said Tyler came in as the two. We had our foot up his tail from day one because he was one snap away. (With) Justin, we massaged him a little bit more because he wasn't one snap away. The last couple of weeks, we have pushed him pretty hard and he has responded well. He has a lot of good qualities and you will see them on Saturday."
(On Worley adjusting because of what he played in high school)
"He was a gun guy, but you are getting that a lot now-a-days. These offenses in high school, they just spread it out and gun snap. We are a pro-style offense, but that is what Justin wanted. He could have just as easily picked a team that was a spread team, but I think it just shows you the kind of guy that he is. He believed in our program, but he also wanted to play in that kind of offense because I'm sure he has dreams one day. He wants to get in there, learn it and do it. He has done well."
(On being tough to tell Matt Simms he wasn't starting)
"Yes, it's very hard. It's probably the hardest part of your job, to look a kid in the eye and say, You aren't starting.' I reminded Matt again, and it's hard, that you cannot define who you are as a man and even who you are as a competitor by the result. You just can't and I told him (that). Quarterbacks are like head coaches. They get criticized when the results don't go the way everybody wants them. The only way you can manage through all that criticism is to understand who you are, what you are doing and believe you are doing the best you can. If you do, you can't let it affect you. That is easier said than done when you get things thrown at you and it's a lot tougher for a guy who is in college, but that is the position. That's how it is, so you have to learn to deal with it. He's going to be fine. He is not the first one to go through tough. Think about what the guy who was on the team we're playing this week. He has been through a lot."
(On what Marcus Jackson has done to earn a starting spot)
"He is a bigger, more powerful player. It's sad to admit this, but when he got here in February, he benched more than anybody on our whole O-Line, but that is where we were from a development standpoint. He has the stature, the explosive power and the physical tools. What he hasn't impressed us with is his consistency, but again we are not getting the performance we need so we have to make a change. It could go the third series, we put James (Stone) back in. We will see."
(On Alex Bullard and Marcus Jackson playing next to each other)
"Alex is in a new position, but he is not far from where he has been. I'm not worried. We need Dallas (Thomas) to help him a little bit more. Dallas doesn't like to talk. I don't know if you all have noticed that. Sometimes it's great. I wish more guys on our team didn't like to talk, but every now and then you want them to talk when they are out there playing with each other. He is going to have to help him and Alex is going to have to help him a little bit. There are going to be some screw-ups."
(On James Stone's struggles)
"I think it's mental. There is also a major physical component. He is not very developed physically. He didn't train in high school the way some of these guys in different programs trained. That is just a fact and you can see it when he hits guys. He doesn't play to his weight the way that he needs to and he just needs to develop. He is one of those guys that needed a redshirt and to sit out. We didn't have that luxury. In some ways I feel bad for him, because we threw him out there before he was really ready and we had no choice. Until you get more guys in your program, you just can't develop them. But I am going to tell you nobody invests more and works harder than James Stone and has a better attitude. He is just an incredible young man, but it's not personal."
(On South Carolina's offense without Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia)
"There are not a lot of snaps without both of them. They are a little more different this year. They are doing a lot more stuff. They kind of settled in to what they were doing last year with their personnel groupings, but they are doing a lot more stuff. This quarterback (Connor Shaw) can bring some more things that they maybe weren't doing with (Stephen) Garcia running around and some of the zone read stuff. I don't know. I think the jury is out. I know this. They have an open date, so they are going to be putting in a lot of new ball plays and we are going to have to be able to play defense on principle."
(On Brent Brewer's struggles)
"I don't know, but it wasn't like he was lights out last year either. Sometimes, we think because they are starting they are good players. I'm not talking about Brent here, but sometimes I tell guys, The only reason you are starting is by default. It's because we haven't signed somebody better than you.' I'm not talking about Brent, but there is this illusion sometimes that when you're a starter at Tennessee, you're a good player. Brent is still our safety. I think he probably had a little higher expectation, which is what happens to most guys. They get a high expectation of who they are and he is in year one-and-a-half. He came last summer and he just needs developing. He'll get his confidence. He is not playing as fast as we would like him to and that is just from not being confident, trusting what you see and going."
(On making depth chart changes and the psyche of the team)
"I always worry. I think those things you have to play your way through it. We handled it well against Georgia and we have handled adversity in other games. We don't handle adversity against number one and two. That is a fact. (It was) 52 to nothing in the second half against those two teams. I think a lot of it has to do with you have to answer the bell sometimes on offense. The last two games, we couldn't answer the bell. I'm making these personnel decisions on trying to win football games. I'm saying it like I said a lot last year. Until you get consistent performance, if you just keep doing the same thing, you are going to get the same results. Sometimes you keep doing the same things, but you're seeing progress that a lot of the fans don't see, whether it's in practice or little things in a game so you stay with it. But other times you don't see the progress you need to see as a coach, so you have to make a change."
(On making halftime adjustments)
Let me touch on adjustments. Most teams make adjustments after every possession. We do and I know the teams that weve played do, so the halftime is a little more about big picture items that you adjust. You start thinking about your opening calls, anything different that may have been part of your plan that you didnt run in the first half and then what are they doing differently that we need to adjust to. Is it easier to do things with a veteran team? Of course it is because you can run things that you dont practice all week. You see this, hey lets do this. We are not doing that, we cant. Were not there yet, but I dont think its plays is what Im getting at. We always want to say its a play thats the difference. I think it is a lot of things, more than a play.
(On pinpointing what the problem is in making second-half adjustments)
Thats what Im trying to say. Its not one thing. Its not a play. Its not that they have this defense. Alabama did the same thing the whole game. They threw it more on offense and ran some play action, but they were open in the first half, they just didnt complete them. Everybody does a few things differently. They come out in unbalanced in the second half and you have to adjust to it so they hit you on a play or two, but its really no different than the first drive and the first two drives. Every team has something different that they do schematically, so our issues arent necessarily a play or a scheme. Its a lot of things and I mentioned that in my opening statement. Its who you are playing, their execution, is it better or worse, our execution, which goes to the stamina that you need to play the same way. You say just play the same way you did on play five, well on play five you havent been hit 58 times. Its like that boxer. When you are boxing with a big guy and a little guy, the little guy comes out swinging. Hes popping and hes swinging, well about the fourth round those hits start taking a toll and his right arm drops that much. All of a sudden, boom. Thats a part of it too. Then there is a part of it where we are losing our focus because of the result. There is a part of that and then there is a part where we have to score points, which we havent done. We sustained four quarters in Georgia and Florida. We didnt win the game, but I think they outscored us (30-23) in the second half. We outscored the other three opponents (42-21), so Im wondering if they are worried about their halftime adjustments. Look at the teams, it kind of flows. We outscored these three a bunch, we played these other two and they outscored us by about a touchdown but we were able to sustain it, and then we played these other two and they took it to us. Thats how I view it. Now, what we have to do is say why and work on all those things, mature as competitors and grow. I dont know what else to do. You play your way out of it and you learn to handle it each week, but its not one thing thats doing it.
(On improving as a team)
I told the team yesterday, whats the smallest room in the world? Do you know? Its a mushroom. Right? Thats what it is. The largest room in the world is the room for improvement. Thats where we are. We have to focus on the largest room in the world. I didnt plan on saying that today, but I did tell the team. You guys always draw it out of me.
(On calling defensive plays against a team that can run the ball and throw it over the top)
You have a dilemma. Do you go back and roll the corners every snap and try to stop the run against a seven-man front? Had we done that against Alabama, Trent Richardson probably would have averaged about nine a carry. Thats the challenge. Do we stop the run or do we stop the throw? You get in a guessing game. Ill tell you, weve been playing the run as well as you can play it against great teams. We probably played Georgias back, LSUs back and Alabamas back better than any team that has played them all. Now, what do you have to give up? You have to hold on in the secondary and we havent done that. Theyve run by as and theyve executed it so we have to do a little better job of knowing what are not our strengths back there and try to play a little more technique. Its tough out there because you play off and hide and they throw those hitches and work it down the field. We just have to keep getting better.
(On the philosophy of winning the coin toss and taking the ball)
Its probably when you think you are going to score. You want more possessions. I dont know. It depends on the match-up. If you feel confident in your offense that you can go out there and get a score, you take the ball and get a little juice going. If you feel like you match up with them on defense, you try to kick it and get good field position on offense. Then there is the old thing of just wanting the ball in the second half. I don't have an answer for that. Ive done it both ways, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt.
(On Jacques Smith)
Hes struggling, not playing disciplined football and freelancing a little bit. Thats part of our issues on defense and it shows up in the second half. We start feeling like we have to make a play instead of playing the defense and the plays will come. Its that old line, There are a lot of great plays out there for you to make. Unfortunately youre not ready when they are there to be made. Meaning you have to be where you are supposed to be. He has to play a little bit more disciplined within the defense, but hes not giving us the consistency that we need. Then there have been times when he gets in there and hes not a heavy guy.
(On possibly using a wildcat package)
With who? I dont think a wildcat is going to help. It might help us get a first down, but you have to spend two hours working on it just to get that one first down. Id rather just complete a pass, a hitch, which we cant do. I dont know. You search for the play, everybody searches for the play. Its not a play. Its getting good at the plays you have, which weve got a lot of good ones. We have plenty. We dont need more, we need less probably.
(On Michael Palardy)
Hes an example. Everybody has been beating up Palardy for how long. Just be patient. It doesnt mean hes going to be lights out next week, but man he had a great game. The guy has ability. Its really hard to understand what it feels like for a young kid who runs out of the tunnel. A year ago hes playing in front of 300 people or a thousand and he runs out this week and they are playing Sweet Home, Alabama, the students are over there just reaming you and you are on national TV. You cant deny the mental psyche part of it. Devrin (Young) had some big eyes out there. He didnt look the same returning kicks. It was his first road game. He saw 32 players covering a kick. Thats what he saw. I told him there are only 11, the same number as last week. There were 32 out there. You just have to be patient. Its coming. We hate patience in the season, thats the thing.
(On Byron Moore)
Hes playing better. Weve been playing him on special teams and he looks more comfortable out there. Then we started putting him at some nickel. Hes playing a little better, so we keep trying to expand the role and see if he can maintain that pace.
(On whether Palardy will handle all three phases of the kicking game again this week)
It will probably start out that way, but well see. I dont know. He didnt have a lot of kicks (at Alabama). What worries you is he only had two kickoffs, which we hope he has more than that, but those kickoffs can stress you. Thats where you have to generate a lot of power, especially him. Hes still really underdeveloped physically. Hes underdeveloped. You see those pro guys when they were wiry sophomores or freshmen and then their legs when they are in their fourth year in the league. Its a big difference.
(On the philosophy on redshirting)
My philosophy has always been play the best players who give you a chance to win period. I think thats my responsibility as the coach. To me, thats a professional responsibility I have to the organization, to go out and try to do anything I can to win the next game. Not, Im going to just tank it here and well see you next year. I dont like losing, so I believe you are going to recruit every year and we are going to sign another quarterback weve got one committed. What do you do? Youve just got to keep signing players and play the best guys who give you a chance to win. I dont know any other way to do it.
Obviously, when you get to a point, were not stupid about it. Im not going to throw (Kyler) Kerbyson in the game in mop-up duty in the ninth game of the year when we havent played him. So theres a little balance. And quite frankly, we didnt want to play Justin this year. I didnt want to play him. But I believe thats what we need to do to try and win the game. I may be wrong; and if Im wrong, Im wrong. And I do believe this: when you play as a freshman, it makes you a better sophomore. I do. DaRick really wasnt to play last year, but its made him a better player this year because hes been out there. You dont get overwhelmed on the environment. You get all that over with, so theres some value in that too. These days of fifth-year senior guys, there are just not that many anymore.
(On if that philosophy is related to players turning pro after three years)
No, its not that. I just made that comment. Like were hurting the players I love that. These guys have got it made. Thats what everybody talks about: Its not fair to the players. I think if you talked to one former player and I said, If you could go back into time at any moment of your life, when would it be? Theyd say, College! And we talk about how bad it is for these guys. Man, are you kidding me? Wed all kill to be back in college playing college ball, going to school, sleeping, blaming the coach when it doesnt work. Theyve got it made. Theres free Gatorade all through the complex.
(On A.J. Johnsons progress since high school)
Hes been great. Hes a guy we talk about not getting affected, and its not always just youth, it really isnt. A.J. and Curt (Maggitt), they havent been affected. Were down 20-6, it doesnt bother them. I think its a competitive character that some guys have, theres a competitive character that some guys develop, and theres a competitive character that some guys never have.
So youve got three groups. Youve got some who can never do it, meaning mentally competing when it gets tough. Some guys you can teach them how to do it and they start figuring it out the more battles they are in. Then youve got some guys who do it, and hes one of those guys. Thats the baller. I already said that line: Hes a baller, man. Those baller guys, I dont have to lecture A.J. on not getting affected. Every play he tries to splatter the guy next to him. Curts the same way.
(On Johnsons run-stopping abilities allowing the safeties to play more pass coverage)
I dont know. Were going to have to see. Well have to keep mixing it up.
(On South Carolinas Alshon Jeffery)
Hes a great player. And if you dont believe it, just go play one-on-one with him and let them throw a jump ball. Hes a different kind of guy because hes so big. Hes got great ball skills down the field, and if you find yourself in a one-on-one matchup he can just body you up and it gets tough.