Jones, DeBord say Hall is ready for Gators; more notes
Wednesday afternoon's practice will likely be the final determination in who starts Saturday against Florida on the offensive line.
But what is clear according to the Tennessee staff on Tuesday is that Chance Hall is definitely an option.
“We put him in yesterday when we were in pads and he did very well,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “We didn't know where he would be. Again, he had to have surgery. When you come back you just never know where a guy will be, especially an offensive lineman. It's like playing in a phone booth. So many things can happen and happen so quick. He really had a really good practice yesterday. We will continue to evaluate today.”
Having not practiced in a month, jumping back in against the number one defense in the country is no easy task. DeBord said he feels comfortable with Hall because of what he seen against the top Vol defenders.
“When we practice we don't just practice against scouts all the time,” DeBord said. “We practice against our own defense so he's going against great guys over there with great speed. Guys who are physical and all of that. So that's where we were able to measure that as well.
“I think you have to give credit to Chance and credit to our training and strength staffs for putting him in position to be able to come out there and play like that. Anyone that knows Chance Hall, number one he is a great young man and he is all into football. I mean he loves football. He studies it all the time. It's not like he left. He was in meetings, watching practice film and all of that stuff. It's not like he wasn't there. He has prepared himself.”
With Hall healthy, that gives the Vols seven offensive linemen that they appear comfortable with. DeBord said he wasn't sure they would go that deep, but he's hopeful that the added depth means less guys moving to different positions.
“We want to just see where we are today. See who the top five are and go from there and see if we can let them play a little bit.”
Also impressed by Hall's work the first two days of this week is tight ends coach Larry Scott. The coaches weren't sure what they would get from Hall, but his stamina has been holding up in practice.
"Absolutely (impressed)," Scott said. "It speaks to his mindset. It speaks to his approach in getting himself back and ready to go. It speaks to our doctors and people here that got him in the situation where he's even out there and participating. It all starts with the kid and his mentality to want to be a part of all this and help his team.
"Chance is a big human being. His whole presence alone being back in there and seeing him being able to move as well as he did and bend was good to see."
GATORS BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO
Florida's defense has been extremely good through three games. They have yet to give up more than 200 yards of total offense. A week ago it was 53. DeBord's offense ripped the Gators on the ground a season ago, but the veteran playcaller believes this defense is better.
“I don't want to take anything away from last year's defense, but I believe this defense is a lot better,” DeBord said. “I believe not only do they have great players over there, but they are playing more physical. I think that's why they are better.
“It's a great defense number one because of their personnel. That's a great defensive line. Great linebackers and a great secondary. That's why they are ranked so high right now. That's why they play at such a high level. They have great players and a great scheme.”
Jones noted that he hasn't had to say anything to his team about the trash talk involved over the last few months and this week. Larry Scott has played against the Gators when he was at Miami and sees a determined team this week.
"Isn't that why you come to Tennessee?" Scott said. "You come to a place like this to play in games like this. Of course they are excited, but they understand that isn't till Saturday at 3:30 and they know there is a process before that."
CROOM CONTINUES TO IMPROVE AT NEW POSITION
After getting his feet wet with one catch for nine yards against Virginia Tech, tight end Jason Croom looked fully healthy against Ohio catching three passes for 54 yards in Tennessee’s win.
But, both head coach Butch Jones and Mike DeBord were impressed with his blocking on Saturday along with his receiving ability.
“In terms of Jason, been really, really proud of him. He’s really, really taken tremendous strides in terms of the blocking game,” Jones said. “We all know he’s a gifted receiver and can make plays for us in the passing game. That was evident last week.
“But, the game that he’s really improved has been blocking. I think coach Scott has really helped him with that. The demands on him, in terms of our offense and the tight end blocking, he continues to get better and better and better. He’s one of our leaders on our football team. I’ve been proud and excited for him and his progress. And he’s going to continue to improve and get better.”
DeBord added, ““I thought that he blocked aggressively and I thought he did some good things in the passing game as well. He’s learning that position and he just continues to get better every week with it.”
DeBord has toyed with two tight end sets in a few games this year and with Croom continuing to improve as a blocker and Ethan Wolf an experienced tight end as well, DeBord said it’s a look he likes if it’s the right matchup.
“The thing we look at is, what does that defense do? Is it advantage for us to be in that or not? That varies week-to-week. Every week we look at that and whether we can do that or not. That goes into game planning.”
CALLAWAY A GO?
Wide receiver Antonio Callaway missed last week's game against North Texas due to a quad injury. Jim McElwain wouldn't declare that No. 81 would be back this week, but Tennessee isn't buying into the question about his status.
"First of all, Callaway is going to play," Scott said. "He is going to be out there. I know the kid and know him personally. He is going to get up for this game and he is going to be in for this challenge. He's a really good football player and we have some good football players too."