Transcript: Golesh & Banks speak after Vols complete final spring practice, Orange & White Game Saturday

Vols WR Jalin Hyatt / Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee football went through its final full spring practice on Thursday afternoon as the Volunteers continue to prepare for Saturday’s Chevrolet Orange & White Game.

Thursday was Tennessee’s 13th spring practice. It’s 14th will be devoted to a “Fast Friday” walk through before culminating head coach Josh Heupel‘s first spring in Knoxville at 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Admission is free with Neyland Stadium gates opening at 2:30 p.m. Complete game day information is available at utsports.com/gameday.

Defensive coordinator Tim Banks and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh met with members of the media to discuss each side of the ball’s progress through five weeks, while looking ahead to an important summer.

Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach Alex Golesh

On how he would describe what he’s seen from the quarterbacks this spring …

“We just got done with practice 13. It’s been the three guys rotating through. Everybody’s mixing in with the ones, twos and threes. I think they have showed a ton of growth. That’s the one spot where you start with as you come in as a new staff and put in a new system. All three have shown a bunch of growth in their own ways. As we’ve gone, we have fine-tuned things to each guy’s skill set. As we’ve got into situational football, we’ve fine-tuned things to each guys’ skill set. But it’s been daily growth. They’ve been up and down a little bit at times. As we install more, all lights are on you at that point and that position. Obviously, it all goes through that position and there have been days we have been really excited. There have been days where we’ve wanted to see more growth. But individually, all three of those guys have done a really good job of soaking it in, getting better every day not making the same mistake twice – which we’ve really hit home at every spot, that one specifically in commanding the offense, and commanding that group. So, I’ve been really proud of those guys with what they have done, where they are at and where they are heading.”

On if the staff is pleased with the install of the offense as spring wraps up …

“We are probably right where we thought we would be. As coaches, we have scripted some situations. We just got done with a heavy red zone day and you leave with a bunch of stuff you want to catch up. When you get into a third down day, you leave and you want to get on stuff to touch up. I think we are where we hoped we would be, in terms of normal situation football. I think the situation side we have to continue to grow. I think it’s just guys understanding the game better, understanding what we’re trying to get done in certain situations. That’s the part that if we need to grow in a big way, that would be it. I think it just takes time, not that we had a built-in excuse when we got here, but that’s where you always feel behind as the coordinator that you’re not getting enough situational work. Coach (Josh Heupel) has done a really good job of presenting those opportunities to us, and now it’s time to learn from what we’ve gotten and capitalize on those opportunities. That’s probably one of the areas we have to hammer home as we get into fall camp.”

On how he would evaluate the running back group, and what he has seen in tight end Miles Campbell’s growth and development this spring…

“With the running back group, we’ve continued to roll a bunch of guys through there, to see similar to the quarterback situation, what each guy’s skill set is, who can continue to be every down back for us. We’ve seen a bunch of growth from Jabari (Small), a young man that we hadn’t seen a lot on film. He’s continued to take daily strides both in the backfield and as a receiver. Out of the backfield, he has to continue to grow and become a complete back in terms of pass protection and catching the football and have been really happy with him. Dee (Beckwith) has continued to grow. Tiyon Evans got banged up there early and has been able to come back and was able to scrimmage last week. It was really good to see him. I think his future is incredibly bright. He’s going to continue to push for that spot and a variety of different roles within the program. We got to continue to figure out at that position who are one through whatever number that may be. We’re going to continue to push that group. I think Jerry Mack has done a really great job of rolling those guys and letting them all go with the one o-line and two o-line. As we leave spring, that’s a spot we have to continue to figure out exactly where our depth is and what order and what each of those guys can really do. There are a bunch of guys that haven’t played at this level, and we’re going to continue to put those guys in situations where we got to figure out who and what order. In terms of depth, there’s a bunch of guys that are capable, and it’s on us to continue to develop them over the next four months. That room needs to and will continue to grow up. In terms of Miles Campbell, Miles has been a really pleasant surprise. Anytime you come in as a mid-year enrollee all your buddies are back home getting ready for prom, graduation, senioritis and being goof balls. With Miles, it took him a minute to figure it out that he’s in college taking 15 credit hours, waking up early, going to bed early. These guys want me in here all day, all these places to be. It took him a month. Since we started football, he’s been growing daily. A ton of promise, he’s soaked it all in, and I’ve been really happy with how he’s learned. I’ve been really happy with how hard he plays. He’s got a chance to be a really special player here. I’m excited he is here, and I think his future in incredibly bright. It was really big for him to be here mid-year and be able to go through spring and learn what it is to be a college football player because I think he had no clue when he got here that it was going to be all of this really fast all at once. It takes a special young man to come in at mid-year, and it’s become common in college football now. It takes a special young guy to adjust and fit in, especially in a place like this where the weather is always beautiful, the campus is pretty and you got to focus in on ball. He’s done a really good job the last couple weeks once he’s figured out a routine. I’m really proud of where Miles is, and I hope he can help us in a big way, maybe even this fall.”

On how eager he is to see the quarterbacks on this stage Saturday, and if there is a concern there may be some overreaction …

“I guess I haven’t thought about an overreaction. I’ve really just thought for us, it’s going to be a scrimmage and an opportunity for our guys to go play in front of people. I’m excited to see them go play. I’m excited to see all those guys go be able to roll in there and do what they do. For us offensively, and I’d imagine the same for Coach (Tim) Banks, we just want another, however many plays it is, to go play football, how we want to play and be able to execute at a really high rate. Whoever the quarterback that is in there, we’ll try to maximize their ability within those drives.  I’m excited to take it one drive at a time, play with relentless attitude and effort, play with really good tempo, play with a level of violence and play as hard as we can as long as we can. It’s awesome that there’s going to be people, the TV, the whole deal. How it gets written about and talked about is out my control and their control. All we can control is playing one play at a time. That’s not to sound cliché on it. I just haven’t thought about the reaction part of it.”

On if he is starting to see some separation from the receiver room and players standing out …

“The biggest thing I’ve tried to sit back and figure out and Coach (Kodi) Burns has done a great job of taking those guys from when we got here to where they are right now, in terms of them developing as route runners, blockers, fundamentally understanding how to line up, where to line up, how I fit. It is so drastically different than what those guys have been used to. There’s not a ton of experience there, not a bunch of guys that have played. The biggest thing for us on offense we’ve tried to do is figure out who is good at what and continue to develop them all as complete players. It’s been awesome to see some of those young guys step up and grow. Those young guys — Jalin HyattCedric Tillman — in terms of playing has been a young guy. Jimmy CallowayWalker Merrill has been an incredibly big surprise in terms of we just had no idea coming in. He’s mature beyond his years both as a player and the way he handles how he approaches the game. Velus (Jones Jr.) has played a bunch. We’ve put a lot on him and tried to get him to continue to take the next step. Ramel Keyton has shown. (Andison) Coby in a lot of ways that he’s fighting like crazy. As a group, those guys are competing. In terms of roles defining themselves. I think if you’ve seen us play, we’re going to need them all. We’re going to play a bunch of them and play really fast, and they’re all going to have to play. It’s on us as coaches, as we continue to develop game plans, to figure out who, where and how to get them the football and capitalize on what guys are really good at. Use the next four months to hone in on the guys that are going to play. The stuff they are not good at, continue to develop. I truly believe that Kodi Burns is good as anybody I’ve ever been around at developing that position. He played that position. He’s coached in this conference. He knows what it takes, and there’s a fiery approach to how those guys are getting coached. I think there are going to continue to grow and take steps. Their roles will continue to get defined as we get into fall camp and start to hone in on week one. That’s when those guys will figure out who’s playing where, who their backups are and who will play what roll. They are starting to get there right now.”

Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks

On going into the spring game and where the defense is at …

“We made considerable strides since the first practice to obviously whatever practice number we are on right now. The kids are starting to grasp what we’re trying to get done. It’s not all about schematics but what the expectations are. How we practice, our whole intent, our body language, everything, how we take the field. From the first practice to where we are now, we made considerable strides.”

On how much do you think your players fit into your system …

“It was a learning curve for those guys and understanding them. I’ve taken over a few programs of different defenses and it’s always the same. It’s a learning curve. At the end of the day, if you have a positive attitude and you’re ready to work, which these guys have had, you start to see the return in your investment. The guys are picking it up every day and every practice. They have gotten a lot more comfortable with it. This summer will be extremely valuable. Those fall camp reps that you’ll get. We’ll be ready by the time that we get to kick this thing off.”

On the growth of the players …  

“We obviously have been thin at some of those spots. I think our coaches have worked extremely hard. You really can see the growth in our first practice to where we are now. To the kids’ credit, those guys have worked at it. The inside linebackers are ultra-thin at this point. The guys that we have in there have been pushing. I told Coach (Brian Jean-Mary) a day ago I literally can see the improvements. We’re not where we want to be yet. We know it’s a long road to go but ultimately, we just want to see some daily improvements. We want guys to invest and get a return in that investment. If they continue to work the way that they’re working, they will like the results in the end. That can be said for the outside linebackers as well.”

On the motivation for this game …

“They’re all important. That’s not coach cliché. When you’re a new team or a new staff, we understand how valuable every single rep is, how valuable every practice is. Our kids understand that. They understand that there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for us to go where we want to go. That’s the motivation that they have. These guys are hungry. They want to get better. They want to get coached. I’ll be extremely disappointed if they didn’t come out excited for an opportunity to get in Neyland and tee this thing up.”

On the physicality of his unit …

“From a physicality perspective, we’ve gotten better. We’re more physical than we were on day one. As a coach, that’s what we’re looking for. Have we made strides? So, we have. Are we as physical as we want to be? Not at all. The kids understand that, and we’re working our tails off to get there. For the priority in the summer, it’s just those daily deposits. We want to make sure that we’re constantly going throughout the summer. There are no days off in terms of our mental aspect and approach. We’ll have cutups at this point. These guys will be able to evaluate themselves. Not just what we say schematically but what they see on video. Getting in the playbooks, studying on their own, so by the time that we hit the fall, we can install extremely fast. We can continue to put even more of the playbook in at a faster pace.”

-UT Athletics

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