Jones Says Vols' QB Situation Is All About Competition

Coach "In No Rush" To Name Starter For Gamecocks

Monday, October 27, 2014 - by Special to
- photo by Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones met with the media on Monday, reviewing the 34-20 loss to Alabama and looking ahead to Saturday’s game at South Carolina.

Jones also touched on the quarterback situation involving injured Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman.

Dobbs turned in a solid performance against the Crimson Tide, guiding the Vols to 17 straight points after Alabama had built a 27-0 lead. Dobbs passed for 192 yards and two touchdowns, adding 75 yards on the ground.

The transcript of Jones’ press conference (with more to come):

Head Coach Butch Jones

(Opening Statement)
"Good afternoon, just a brief recap on Alabama and moving onto South Carolina. Obviously not the start we wanted, started very slow. I think our competitive character showed though, resiliency, being down 27-0, a lot of teams would have folded, our kids kept believing. We never panicked, we didn't waiver, and we kept playing. So I am proud of them in regards to that. We will talk about the slow start in a minute.  

"Then I continue to say it, we have to continue to overachieve, especially on defense, we didn't overachieve Saturday night. Those things really hurt us, particularly early but when we settled down, we held them to 216 yards in the second half and 14 points and two turnovers. When we settled down I thought we performed better up to our standard."

"We are going to try to really (work) with Justin [Worley] in practice, Monday and Tuesday, see where he is at. Everything is about competition. Obviously, Josh [Dobbs] did some really good things running the football-wise, managing the offense, he will continue to improve. But I want competition. Playing quarterback at Tennessee is earned. Those three individuals with Nate [Peterman], with Justin if he is able to go and Joshua, we will name a starter when we need to. We are in no rush, depth charts are a thing of the past.

(On the offensive line's performance)
"I think first of all, you have to give our offensive staff credit, 
Mike Bajakian, they put together a very, very good game plan and a challenging game plan because they had three different game plans for three different quarterbacks and playing to the skill sets of each quarterback. Obviously, some of the things that we did with Josh alleviated some of the stress and pressure of the offensive line just because of the dual threat and some different gap schemes. But those have always been in our offense so I think it is a combination of the scheme, being about to run the quarterback a little bit, and Nate can do the same thing when he is in the game. So I think it is a combination of a lot of little things."

(On what they are looking for from Justin Worley in practice)
"Velocity in his passes. Is he able to execute all the throws that we asked them to (make). If he is back, that doesn't assure him that he is going to start. It is (which) individuals give us the best opportunity to win. We will know a little more in how in progresses and then we have the bye week coming up after the game as well."

(On balancing quarterback reps)
"Josh will continue to get first team reps. But I also have to guard against crowning individuals. I know everyone is excited, and they're looking for positive things and there are a lot of positive things. But that's one game. When you watch the video tape, Josh will be the first to say there are a number of plays we left out there, a number of opportunities we left out there. So now, how can he transition from game one to game two of him playing in the fundamentals, the fine details, the command presences, which we expect. But I did like some of the things he's done. I thought Nate Peterman had a very good week of preparation too. We'll see where the situation with Justin takes us and lead us."

(On if Joshua Dobbs plays better than he practices)
"You don't like to say that as a coach, but he performed. He did some very good things in the game. That's not to say that he hasn't performed at times well in practice. What we're looking for Josh is just a very high level of consistency. Consistency and performance. Make the routine throws. When we have the slant down there, that has to be a touchdown. We can't kick a field goal. That's all part of the maturation of a quarterback, playing winning football. But he did some very good things. He defeated high coverage at times. I thought he was poised. He's going in there playing the University of Alabama, top four football team in the country. I think he gained some confidence from last year's opportunities but he needs to continue to take the next step in practice this week."

(On if Joshua Dobbs plays better than he practices)
"You don't like to say that as a coach, but he performed. He did some very good things in the game. That's not to say that he hasn't performed at times well in practice. What we're looking for Josh is just a very high level of consistency. Consistency and performance. Make the routine throws. When we have the slant down there, that has to be a touchdown. We can't kick a field goal. That's all part of the maturation of a quarterback, playing winning football. But he did some very good things. He defeated high coverage at times. I thought he was poised. He's going in there playing the University of Alabama, top four football team in the country. I think he gained some confidence from last year's opportunities but he needs to continue to take the next step in practice this week."

(On if players that play better than they practice is rare)
"It's rare. I don't believe in that. I don't believe in gamers. I call those floaters, just float along because eventually it catches up to you. I just had this talk with a perspective student-athlete. By far the best practice player I have ever, ever been a part of is Antonio Brown. There's a reason why if he continues to do what he's doing he will be in the pro football hall of fame. Right down to wear he taped a ladder on the second story of his apartment where he had rooms. He taped a ladder so every time he had to go upstairs to go to bed, go the bathroom, he'd have to do ladder drills no matter what time of night it was. Those are things that we preach to our players all the time about the inner drive. J.J. Watt is another individual. Great players are motivated internally. They do everything they can to make themselves great players."

(On how the defense will address the third down difficulty)
"It's going to be a great challenge. They have a very, very good quarterback, very, very good wide outs, one of the best offensive lines in the SEC, and a very, very dynamic running back. Big, physical, can get the tough yards but also has the breakaway capabilities to score anywhere on the field. It starts with them first. When I talked about making progress, Curt [Maggitt] was the individual who gathered up our defense after the game, after I got done speaking with them, and talked about the standard and expectation getting off the field defensively on third down. We'll go back. We'll look at the video. We'll get our corrections made. Again, I didn't think we disrupted the quarterback much. A lot of people want to point towards the secondary, but there were a number of times we let the quarterback outside of the pocket and everything is about when you rush the quarterback, it's point of pressure. It's rush lanes, rush points on the quarterback. We allowed him to get outside of the framework of our defense. We lost contain. When that happens you're in scramble drill mode, and we can't allow that to happen. We need our three techniques to win one-on-one matchups. You look at all the great defenses. They have three techniques that win one-on-ones. We need some more edge presence to our defense."

(On the status of Trevarris Saulsberry)
"He'll be out this week. We'll continue to progress him to see where he will be at but right now he won't be available for South Carolina."

(On the reasoning going to the beast package)
"Just trying to find every opportunity to win the football game. A.J. [Johnson] runs with a physical presence. Tried to get a couple critical yards there but weren't able to. That's the thing. You look at the inordinate amount of plays that just came up short by inches. It's a game of inches. It really is so fighting for every inch, yard. We'll continue to discuss in our football program but just looking for creative ways to win a football game."

(On the conversation with Joshua Dobbs about redshirting)
"Everything with Josh Dobbs is how can I help the team win. He's selfless, unselfish. Everything is about the team. He understands that. We've been up front like we do with every player and tell them our thoughts and leave it as their final decision. Obviously have great dialogue with their parents as well. Josh is one of those individuals who will do anything and everything for the team. Whatever benefits the team, he wants to do."

(On the focus on consistency towards the end of the season)
"Absolutely. Josh's biggest thing is consistency and performance each and every day. Make the routine throws. Not the `oh my God' plays, but the routine plays. That's what we need. Why do shortstops in major league baseball make millions in salaries? Because they make the routine throw to first base over and over again. You look at the great quarterbacks. Why are they the great ones? It's because the consistency, the ball placement, the accuracy, the velocity, the movement in the pocket, the ability to keep plays alive with your legs. Just the overall level of consistency. Josh is still a very young football player. He's still learning as we go. He's still developing his mechanics. But I know this. The great thing about him is you only have to tell him once and he gets it."

(On the increased running with the package with Joshua Dobbs at quarterback)
"Maybe a little bit more than usual. I thought the game dictated that. You'll see that offensive package continue to build upon the more volume we can handle. But really it starts with how can we alleviate stress from the offensive line. How can we create one-on-one matchups out on the perimeter. How are we going to get the ball in the hands of our playmaker. It's more than just the quarterback, but it is a quarterback friendly system. You'll see it continue to evolve but that's probably more running than we would like."

(On if he is opposed to running a two quarterback system)
"I haven't in the past just because I like to have a quarterback get into the rhythm of the game and get a feel for it. Right now we're scratching and clawing for every victory we can. Whatever it takes to win football games right now, that's what we're looking to do."

(On South Carolina's Dylan Thompson)
"Poised, can do a number of things, very accurate, has great experience, makes all the throws and very consistent. He's a leader of that offense and that football team."

(On the rushing yards South Carolina allowed to Auburn)
"Well, I think when you watch the video, first of all Auburn has some dynamic players. They do some different things that challenge you defensively. So, I think they've played opponents (with) rushing offenses. They hang their hat on running the football. I think that's why you see some of the stats that way. When I watch them defensively, they're really big up front. They do a good job of getting off blocks. They'll probably the biggest line we've faced to date overall. They have very active linebackers. They're able to play man coverage in the back end and they run exceptionally well."

(On why they have not been able to take advantage of field position)
"Not making enough plays, being stopped third and short. So, there isn't one glaring thing that has come up. We continue to speak about the field position game and taking advantage of the field position game. If there was any theme at all that you would say well what was the one thing if you could pinpoint. It's negative yardage plays, particularly on first down. There's an interesting stat, if you have no negative yardage plays, that means penalties and everything, you have a great opportunity to win a football game. Where we've really struggled is recovering from a negative plays. When we've been given or created good field position, we've been set back by a negative yardage play. The margin of error is very small as I'll continue to say as we're a work in progress. So, we have to earn ever yard we get. Hey, we throw the ball and it's an incomplete pass. Second and ten is much better than second and fifteen, second and sixteen. Sometimes a throw away is a great play and that's our entire team, our quarterbacks, all those individuals understanding that."

(On if the OL being in natural positions allowed coach Bajakian to get in a rhythm)
"Yeah, I think our players did a great job though of making plays. I thought Jalen Hurd performed well, he ran hard which we expect him to. We had some players, Marquez North step up. Von Pearson made some plays; Alton (Pig Howard) made some plays. I think it's just really a byproduct of moving the chains, getting positive yardage so you're able to get into a rhythm. It's hard to play call when it's second and ten, second and fifteen, third and eleven, third and sixteen. The advantage goes to the defense. Second and four, third and three... advantage offense. So, I think it's our players stepping up. Our first down efficiency, we were 68% of four yards or more when we ran the football, which is very very good. So, we were moving the sticks. We were getting positive yardage. I think that has more to do with it than anything. Our players did a good job of having some discipline to execute their assignments."

(On status of Josh Smith and Owen Williams)
"Owen Williams will be available. He played most of the game, so he'll be fine. Josh Smith again will not be available. It's just, when you have a high ankle sprain, every person's body's different. His body's not healing right now. He's making progress, but he's nowhere where he can play right now. We'll have this week at South Carolina, we'll have the bye week and then we'll again look at him, address his situation and see in moving forward what our plans are for him."

(On possibility of medical redshirt)
"It could be if he's not 100% by the stretch run. I wouldn't ever want to take somebody's year away if he's not healthy because we're going to need him for the future of our program. He means so much to our program. It'll be, again, a daily process of where he's at health wise. That isn't out of the question right now. That's something, that's an option we have."

(E-mail Larry Fleming at and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)


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