For the first time this season, Tennessee is preparing for an opponent on a normal game week. While the No. 22 Vols hit the practice field this afternoon, what the No. 23 Florida Gators are doing is unclear.
Roads in Gainesville are schedule to open this afternoon, per the city's mayor, but it's unclear if Florida will practice. However, Butch Jones does expect to play in Gainesville at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“We fully anticipate playing the game in Gainesville,” Jones said Monday. “(Athletics director) John Currie is on top of things. He is handling all the communication. We are just preparing our football team and John is going to handle everything in terms of the logistics. As the football coach we are preparing to go play in Gainesville.”
Regardless of what happens from a location standpoint, Jones said everyone in his program is happy to see a normal week.
“What happens, happens Saturday in terms of location of the game,” Jones offered. “John Currie has done a good job with that and will continue to do that. We have to control what we can control and that's our preparation for this football game.
“We look forward to regular weekly schedule. This is a first time we will have a normal football week of preparation in terms of Sunday being our off day. Monday going out and practicing. This is the first week for our team that is a normal week. Getting into an overall structure where they know what's coming from a game planning standpoint, we welcome getting into a schedule with our players.”
The injury bug has bitten Tennessee hard over the last month, but Jones said Monday that his team came through pretty healthy from Saturday and he expects to have some offensive firepower back Saturday when they play Florida.
“Eli Wolf right now is questionable. The good thing is that it's a sprained ankle so it's nothing surgical,” Jones said of Wolf, who left Neyland Stadium in a walking boot and on crutches.
“So that is great. We expect Tyler Byrd and Latrell Williams to be back. They will practice today. Josh Smith will be back. He could have actually played on Saturday but we wanted to make sure he had another week of recovery and treatments. He will be ready to go.
“Marcus Tatum and Evan Berry will be questionable. We will see how they progress. The same way with Austin Smith and Baylon Buchannan.”
After saying throughout the preseason that they wanted to play 10 defensive linemen and noting last week that they needed to play more guys, Tennessee got freshmen defensive end DeAndre Johnson in the game for six snaps and freshman Matthew Butler on the field for two snaps against Indiana State on Saturday. Despite the small sample size, Jones liked what he saw and feels more help from them is forthcoming.
“Getting closer,” Jones said, when asked if the freshmen are ready to play more snaps.
“I think their repetitions even though they were minimal on Saturday was critical. Playing time is earned. You earn your playing time through your body of work. Through your preparation throughout the course of the week and so much goes into it from assignments to technique to toughness to how you handle the weight room and preparing your body. These are youngsters we are going to need to grow up in a hurry.
Right now, we are very, very limited at the defensive end position, but I was very encouraged by what I saw out of those two individuals. Those two are going to be really good football players here. We are just trying to cram everything in during a short amount of time. Again it takes time to develop. But I like what I saw.”