Transcript: Kennedy, Jones, D. Johnson Media Availability

Velus Jones Jr. – Vols WR / Credit: UT Athletics

Brandon Kennedy, OL – R-Sr.

On what It meant to get a call from Peyton manning to congratulate him on being a National Football Foundation National-Scholar Athlete finalist…

“It definitely meant a lot. Throughout the years that I’ve been in college, all of the hard work that I’ve put in in the classroom and on the field, to see that pay off and get the recognition, it meant a lot to me. I was very excited to get that. My family is proud of me. It was exciting. It was great to see a VFL be able to talk to me and also somebody who is in that fraternity. For him to be able to talk to me was great.”

 

On how the team utilized the open week to improve fundamentals and get back on track…

“It’s been big for us. This week, when we didn’t play, fundamentals were a big part for us. We were able to get back to the basics and bring some of the young guys along. Those were two things we were able to work on this bye week.”

 

On if the offensive line developed more chemistry during the unexpected bye week…

“Any time you have a week like this, you have time to talk about some of the things that you wouldn’t be able to talk about in a normal week, such as technique and how the guy next to you works. It was a great week to do that and we kind of got back to the fundamentals.”

 

On who impressed you during the open week…

“Some of the guys like Malachi Wideman, Jimmy Holiday, Jimmy Calloway and some of those young skill players. They’ve come along and they’re progressing well, learning the plays and balling out.”

 

On what his academic future looks like as he approaches finishing his third degree…

“After the season, when my career ends, I think I want to get a doctorate in sports psychology. That’s kind of the thing that I want to work towards. I love consulting with athletes and doing those things. I’ve been fortunate enough to have an internship here at the University of Tennessee with Dr. Joe Whitney. We were able to work through different scenarios, as far as helping athletes. I kind of just pick his brain. That’s what I’ve been doing throughout the season. It’s been great and I’m fortunate to be able to have that opportunity.”

 

On where his motivation comes from over the last four games of the regular season…

“The motivation, to be honest, is really giving my all for Tennessee. About a year ago, I decided to come back. I wanted to help this team and also earn another degree, so that’s been my motivation as far as helping the team, being a leader and doing what I can do to help the team be successful.”

 

On what he has seen from the Auburn defensive line…

“The way I would describe them is they are ‘space eaters.’ They kind of eat up double teams and they align they’re linebackers, which I think is a strength of the defense. They allow them to play well. That’s what I think about the D-line.”

 

Velus Jones Jr., WR – R-Sr.

On what his experience at Tennessee has been like so far…

“My Tennessee experience has been a great experience. Bonding with my brothers, my teammates, the offense, the QBs, it’s been a great experience. There’s nothing like SEC football. This is something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was a kid coming up, just making dreams realities, so it’s been a great experience. We’ve been blessed to have fans at the stadiums due to COVID, so I can’t complain. I’m just blessed to be here.”

 

On assistant coach Tee Martin’s role in him choosing to transfer to Tennessee…

“Tee (Martin) was my former coach at the University of Southern California. It was big on my decision, but not only that, knowing the history of Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and what he’s done in his time being a coach and his accomplishments, then Jim Chaney as well. Also, the absence of the two top receivers that left for the draft. That played a big role for me coming here as well.”

 

On what has been the biggest challenge for him since arriving at Tennessee…

“I wouldn’t say a challenge, it’s just the difference between playing Pac-12 football and SEC football. The SEC is like a junior varsity for the NFL. Players are a lot bigger, stronger, faster and it’s a lot more physical and stuff. First time in this system, (it’s) familiar, just different terminology, so I wouldn’t say challenges, just like adapting and getting a feel for everything.”

 

On how he sees his role in this offense…

“I see my role in this offense, as a veteran, giving knowledge, because it’s all about giving knowledge to the younger guys because once you leave, you’re replaced. Just taking those younger guys up under my wing and stuff and giving them as much knowledge as possible and hopefully turning them into better players than I am. Also, I’m here for my team, any way I can help my team be successful and get a win, at the end of the day or night, it’s good for me. So, I feel like my purpose is to be the best team player I can be and also better myself and my skillset to help my team be successful.”

 

On how important it’s been to him to have Tee Martin, who is from the same area as him, as his position coach…

“It’s a blessing. Not many players have that connection with their coaches. Him understanding me, understanding our background, our culture, where we come from, I look at it as a blessing. There’s a different level of thinking and stuff like that. Tee (Martin) knows the type of player I am. He knows the type of young man I am, and he knows my potential and where I can be. He’s going to push me, so just having that and him having that understanding of our background and what we came from and how hard we worked to be in a position, me playing in the league in the future, him being a coach now, it’s just a great feeling to know two kids from Mobile, Alabama are out here chasing their dreams. Just to have him as a coach is a true blessing.”

 

On if he’s always enjoyed being a kickoff returner and what it takes to be good at it…

“I went to USC in 2016. I redshirted my first year and my former special teams coach John Baxter, he believed in me and I always believed in myself. As a player, you have to believe in yourself even if nobody will and I always believed in myself. I knew I could accomplish anything through Christ. I’m a big believer in the Lord. Also, being motivated from my older cousin Kylen Towner* that has the kickoff return average in the NCAA, he’s the leader of that. So, that motivates me and the athletes I had in my family, just like my background. Football is like a culture in Mobile, Alabama. I’ve been playing since I’ve been four years old and I haven’t missed a year. Football is like everything to me, and so when you take that serious, it’s been built in me since I was young. Whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to do it to the fullest and I would never, ever give a poor performance. I will always give it my all. So, that was the mentality and the rest just took care of itself.”

*Kylen Towner played college football for Western Kentucky and holds the NCAA single-season record for kickoff return average (40.3 in 2016)

 

Deandre Johnson, LB – Sr.

On how he would assess how the team has done rushing and putting pressure on the passer and how he would assess his own play with the pass rush…

“I feel like we are improving each week, it is definitely something we have to get better at and there are things we can get greater at, but we are pretty decent. The same thing is with me, I think I am improving, but I am never satisfied because there is always work to be done and always room to get better, so I am never satisfied.”

 

On his thoughts about having an extra week to get back on track and prepare for Auburn…

“It’s something that was unexpected, but it was a chance to get back and recover and get mentally focused, mentally fresh, and I’m just thankful for it, it allowed me to get my body back right, some guys have got back well, and we are ready to go.”

 

On his reaction when he found out Tennessee was not playing Texas A&M…

“I was disappointed at first, I was looking forward to that game and guys were motivated to play, we just had to get back fresh and recover, so it was a good and bad thing but it all worked out.”

 

On if his success during the opening game against South Carolina seems like a long time ago and how different this point in the season feels compared to previous years…

“It does because the season moves so fast, it’s something that is still there, but I’m not too much into stats I am just looking forward to the next game and playing my best each week. It is crazy how the season definitely goes fast, so it does feel like we are in the middle, but it is crazy to think that we still got four more to go so it is a crazy feeling, but we just got to kick it up a level and just tighten up and get to work.”

-UT Athletics

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