Tennessee coach Butch Jones met with the media for the final time this week during his Wednesday press conference.
Jones talked about the challenges of facing Missouri's fast-paced, high-powered offense, Trey Smith's contributions along the offensive line and the quarterback situation heading into Saturday's game in Columbia, Missouri.
Unstoppable Force vs.
Tennessee's pass defense – which ranks fourth nationally and first in the SEC, giving up just 150 yards per game – will face one of its toughest tests to date this Saturday night when it takes on the Tigers’ offense. Missouri enters the game leading the SEC in total offense (484.1 yards per game) while junior quarterback Drew Lock leads the country with 31 touchdown passes.
On the flip side, the Vols have allowed more than 200 yards passing just twice this season and have held six of their nine opponents to 137 yards or fewer through the air.
"I think we have continued to grow, develop and improve from game to game," Jones said, referring to the Vols' pass defense. "We will be extremely tested Saturday night. They apply so much pressure to a defense, from the tempo, to the run game, to the (run pass options), to the skill sets of their players and their quarterback.
"They are a very good football team. We are going to have to play our most complete football game defensively, and as a football team."
Jones mentioned one of the most difficult things about playing this type of offense is trying to simulate it in practice.
"It's a great challenge because so much of playing an up-tempo football team is relying on your discipline and execution," Jones said. "We've done some different things and it's hard to completely simulate it, but we've tried to be creative in terms of how we go about doing it. I think it helps that a lot of these players played against them last year, so they understand the challenges that are associated with playing against this type of offense."
Smith Continues Solid Play, Maturation Process
You could argue that true freshman offensive lineman Trey Smith has been the most impressive player for UT this season. The Jackson, Tennessee native has lived up to the hype after joining the Vols as the nation's top recruit in the 2017 signing class, according to ESPN.
Smith is the only Vols' offensive lineman to start every game this season and became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Tennessee in 30-plus years.
"He's an individual who accepts every challenge," Jones said. "He's very competitive, wants to do exceptionally well, works his craft every day. He's really gaining more and more confidence as the season progresses. He's turning into one of our leaders.
"It's different to go inside all season then to go outside. We see him continuing to grow and get better and better, and get more confidence at that position. We'll see where we're at from a depth standpoint Saturday night where he plays, but I think it just adds to the flexibility up front now that he's had the game experience at left tackle.
Jones Confident in QBs Guarantano & McBride
After missing the second half of last Saturday's win over Southern Miss, Jones said that redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is probable for this weekend's contest. However, Jones is also confident in the ability of true freshman backup Will McBride should the need arise for him to step in.
"He has the same temperate every day," Jones said about McBride. "He has the same disposition. He is never too high or low. Even when it was time for him to go in the game this last Saturday, there was no difference in his demeanor. think the players see that."
McBride played the entire second half of UT's Homecoming win over Southern Miss, leading a pair of touchdown drives in the third quarter.
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)