KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Vols take the field against No. 11/9 South Carolina on Saturday, Butch Jones has a simple message for his team, "I think the big thing is making them earn everything they get and that is a challenge."
Saturday is yet another game in the Vols' gauntlet of a schedule, taking on a ranked team for the fourth time in five games.
"That is the big thing, containing their entire offense," said Jones. "We can't give up big plays, whether it is running the football or deep touchdown passes or big splash plays. It is really the same formula every game. In the SEC we play explosive offenses and defenses every week and very talented football teams. I think seven ranked football teams that we will play."
TINY VS. CLOWNEY
Last October, Antonio Richardson got the best of Jadeveon Clowney for 75 plays. Clowney bested Richardson with a head fake that resulted in a game-changing sack.
Something Richardson hasn't forgotten and has rewatched at least once a week.
In July, at SEC media days, Clowney spoke of Richardson's `holding abilities'.
Richardson responded the following day saying the best offensive linemen can hold and get away with it.
The duo will finally see its rematch on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Richardson's linemates know he is a high energy player, and they expect him to go out and give it his all.
Just like any other week.
"He's his regular self now and taking it like any other game," said Zach Fulton. "But I know inside he's excited to play."
"We talk to him saying that every game is important from the start of the season," continued right tackle Ja'Wuan James. "You can't worry about it. He has done a great job of just focusing on this opponent. I know that he was excited for this game but he hasn't done anything different this week."
James on the right side also has the ability to defend against Clowney, though he didn't have the opportunity last season.
Justin Worley feels blessed to have both of the strong tackles at his disposal.
"[Tiny] wants to go out and perform each and every week to the best of his ability," said Worley. "Going up against the potentially number one NFL draft pick, you always amp up the stage for him, any tackle that is going to face him. I know Tiny is ready to play and if Ja'Wuan has to block him as well, he is ready to play as well."
Jones agrees and knows the entire offensive line needs to be ready, not just for No. 7, but for the entire South Carolina defense.
"Everyone wants to make a big deal about Tiny and Jadeveon, but he will be lined up over by Ja'Wuan James as much as Tiny," said Jones. "It is our entire offensive front, it is not just Jadeveon Clowney. He is a great player but they have great players around him."
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR
When the South Carolina Gamecocks come to Knoxville on Saturday, Corey Miller will be playing with a little more determination than normal. Miller will be playing against his home state, former peers and his cousin as well.
Nick Jones, Miller's cousin, is a redshirt junior wide receiver. Both grew up together playing in little league, going to school and both playing for Byrnes High School.
Miller is familiar with numerous names on the South Carolina roster from growing up with some to playing with and against many.
While Miller may come across some recognizable faces, the senior defensive lineman knows the most important thing in his final game against the Gamecocks is beating them.
"I see it as another opponent and we have to just bring our A game and be ready for whatever they bring to the table," Miller said.
Miller's attitude going into Saturday's matchup shows the senior leadership that the Volunteers football team has developed.
"I like to think I've come a long way- refocused my mindset, just understanding my priorities and what I need to do as far as in the classroom and on the field as well," said Miller. "I feel like we have a great coaching staff that helps us stay on top of things. I have teammates that have stood by me the entire time, so I feel like I've come a long way."
"This team is believing in what Butch [Jones] is telling us what to do. We're fighting hard for an entire 60 minutes and what it's taken, is for us to take the effort from last week and bring it to this week, because even though last week was a tough loss, we still have a lot of games left to play and it's a great opportunity to come out on top."
ANOTHER DUAL-THREAT TEST
Marcus Mariota, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Ross Metheny and Aaron Murray. In six games this season, the Vols have faced five "dual-threat" quarterbacks.
That trend continues on Saturday, when Connor Shaw and No. 11/9 South Carolina come to town.
"I think it all starts with Connor Shaw, he is a great quarterback," said head coach Butch Jones on the Gamecocks' offense. "He manages the offense; he makes great throws. He can make the short, the intermediate and the deep ball. But he can also run. There is a reason they are a top 10 football team. They are very, very talented."
Six dual-threat signal callers in seven games. The number may seem high, but Jones isn't surprised by the current trend.
"I think it's the landscape of college football," said Jones. "From (Johnny) Manziel to Connor Shaw and the different players we've already faced. It creates a space game. When you're playing the talented players we have - Connor is one of them - one individual out of place can hurt you."
Senior defensive lineman Corey Miller plans on using past experience to prepare, and thinks it starts with his group when defending a dual-threat quarterback.
"Playing guys like Mariota and Murray - guys that can actually run the ball - it gives you a sense of exactly what a quarterback like Connor Shaw can do.
"It gets to me when I see things like that happen, because that starts with the defensive line - keeping our quarterback points, making sure we don't let him get anything out of the pocket - so it starts with us. It's definitely frustrating."
Speed and agility aside, junior defensive back Justin Coleman has noticed another trait in Shaw that's not typically found in quarterbacks.
"You can tell he's a tough guy," said Coleman. "We're going to have to deliver the blow. He's going to have to feel where Tennessee is coming from. Whenever we hit him, he's going to have to feel it."
WORLEY GAINING CONFIDENCE
Against Georgia, Justin Worley led the Vols on a second-half comeback, turning a 17-3 halftime deficit into a 31-24 lead with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Worley was poised in the pocket, a leader on offense, and connected with his wide receivers on multiple pressure-packed situations.
"It helps a lot knowing that I can put together a performance like that against a quality team," said Worley. "It helps my confidence a lot."
Though Worley didn't believe the second half against Georgia was his best ever half of football, Ja'Wuan James believes that his performance has made him more self-assured in practice.
"It has carried over to practice," said James. "I feel like he was hot in that game, he built some confidence in himself. He has taken that out to practice; you can see him making some throws at practice and things like that."
Worley is just appreciative of the fan support after both his, and the team's performance against the No. 6 ranked Bulldogs.
"It has been all out support for us," said Worley. "That is great to see. We really opened up a lot of people's eyes from our performance in the Georgia game and a lot of people have jumped on board. A lot of the naysayers have converted back to hardcore fans that we love and appreciate."
FILM AND COLD TUBS
The Tennessee Volunteers have won nearly 70 percent of their games after coming off of a bye week holding a 78-37-9 all-time record.
Butch Jones is 8-1 all time as a head coach when an off week.
This week, the Vols used their open date to rest their bodies and get ready for a win over a tough South Carolina team.
"It's always good to have a bye week and let some of the guys' bodies rest," said quarterback Justin Worley. "The running backs were a little banged up and the wide receivers and offensive line needed to get healthy as well."
Running back Rajion Neal, who was a little dinged up in the Vols final two games despite back-to-back 100 yard efforts thought the bye week came at the right time.
"I think it came at the perfect time," said Neal. "I felt well. Our coaches and our training staff do a great job of taking care of us and helping us get through the week and helping us manage the body. So, I felt pretty good."
Head Coach Butch Jones is good at allowing his players to make sure they are rested up.
"Coach Jones harps on that, keeping us fresh, keeping us ready to play on Saturday," said linebacker Dontavis Sapp. "The bye week definitely helped us. We had yesterday off, so we got some guys rested up, healed up, and I think we're going to be ready to play. We're going to be fresh on Saturday."
The extra week also gave the Vols extra time to prepare for their slew of SEC opponents coming up.
"It gives you an opportunity to take a more in-depth look at your opponent," said Worley. "You have an extra week to prepare for them and see what they do."
Echoed defensive back Justin Coleman.
"The week off was definitely great because we got a lot of time to prepare for South Carolina film wise and recovery," said Coleman.
Tight end Brendan Downs also agrees.
"It helped us get into the film room and study more tape," said Downs. "It gave us an extra week of preparation and we also got some work last week. More practices to prepare."
NEAL FEELING FRESH AND READY
All season long Team 117 has praised the strength and conditioning staff on preparing the team week-in and week-out and with Tennessee having a bye week this past week, it was no different.
Players still reported to treatments as normal and Rajion Neal is one Volunteer that realizes how important it was to do so.
"They did a great job of taking care of us and making us come in and focus on treatment," said Neal. "Just taking care of the body with the little time we had off."
"The body's not aching and I'm still moving at a pretty good pace to get through practice and ready to roll on to the game," Neal said.
After toting the ball 53 times in the last two games, Neal believes the bye week could not have come at a better time, not only for him but other players as well and now it is time to refocus into game mode.
The Volunteers will welcome back wide receiver Devrin Young, who Neal knows will play a big role against the Gamecocks.
"He's another fresh body, another speed guy, a great guy on special teams as far as returner, punt and kick returns," said Neal.
The Vols have a sense of determination for a win against a ranked team like South Carolina, so Saturday in Neyland Stadium will be no different.
"Definitely, there's nothing that's given, especially wins, in this conference. We definitely have to learn and pay attention and get around guys that know how to win," said Neal.
MAGGITT DONE FOR YEAR?
Halfway through the season and junior linebacker Curt Maggitt has yet to play in a game. On Tuesday, Jones addressed that Maggitt may be out for the year as he continued to make his way back from multiple injuries suffered in 2012.
"Right now I don't anticipate him playing. I always think of the worst case scenario, we are not expecting him to play this year. If he doesn't he will redshirt and we will move on. If he is ready to go and based on where we are at in the season we will make the determination. Right now I am not expecting him to play."
Also on the injury front, Jones, said returnman Devrin Young was back at practice, but the Vols will "pick their spots" to use him on Saturday.
Junior tailback Marlin Lane was back in action after missing the Georgia game.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)