Dan Fleser: Raucous Packed Neyland Stadium Awaits Kiffin

Thursday, October 14, 2021 - by Dan Fleser

Tennessee announced earlier this week its football game against Ole Miss on Saturday was sold out and predicted a raucous environment for a visit from the Rebels and Coach Lane Kiffin, who was UT’s coach in 2009.

Neyland Stadium will be full for the first time since Sept. 20, 2017.

The atmosphere might feel different than anything Matthew Butler has experienced here.

Regardless, it shouldn’t change the Vols senior defensive tackle, not in the slightest manner. So said UT defensive coordinator Tim Banks.  

“His one rep in practice,” Banks said, “looks exactly like his one rep on Saturdays.”

Banks credited Butler’s attention to such a small detail as reflective of his “warrior” practice mentality. But he’s also repping to the beat of Banks and his defensive staff. They have processed a unit depleted first by attrition and now injuries into an effective complement to Tennessee’s explosive offense.

The defense will face its greatest challenge to date against a Rebels offense led by quarterback Matt Corral, who’s a Heisman Trophy candidate. Ole Miss operates at a tempo slightly quicker than even Tennessee’s breakneck pace, averaging 2.89 plays per minute. UT’s average is 2.87.

That’s a lot of reps for a defender. At least Butler is used to it from practice, which he takes as seriously as games.

“When you go into something, you always think about the result,” he said. “Oh, we’re going into a game, we want to win. Oh, I’m going into practice, I want to excel. Oh, I’m going into this meal, I want to be full. Whatever the case may be.

“But when you break it down into the process and then simplify that in your mind. Like for me, go out there I’m going to stay vertical. I’m going to take good steps. I’m going to use my hands. I’m going to flip my hips. Rather than saying I’m going to have a good practice.”

Butler’s approach has been better informed by coaching. In this case, it’s primarily line coach Rodney Garner.

“When I first got here, I was just kind of out there, you know what I mean?” Butler said. “But now it’s like you get great coaching, you understand the concepts of the defense, you go out there and play hard and good things always happen.”

The coaching has helped the Vols replenish the linebacker corps, which was largely barren heading into the season. It was depleted further by the loss of Texas transfer Juwan Mitchell, who’s out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Mitchell was the Longhorns leading tackler last season and was being counted on for help. In his absence, fellow linebackers Jeremy Banks, Aaron Beasley and Solon Page III comprise half of UT’s top six tacklers. Banks leads the team in tackles for loss (seven) and sacks 3.5.

The process mentality apparently is contagious – in a good way. When defensive back Theo Jackson, UT’s top tackler, learned he might not play last week due to injury, he watched video throughout the week with Brandon Turnage, who was slated to be Jackson’s replacement. Turnage had 14 tackles against South Carolina and was named SEC defensive player of the week.

Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary referenced the tutelage and Jackson for being an unsung hero.

“That’s when you know you have good teamwork and you have a brotherhood.” Jean-Mary said.

Those qualities make for better Saturdays, regardless of the atmosphere.
            
* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at ddanfleser3@gmail.com.


UTC Travels To UNC Asheville Wednesday

UTC's Cornelius Named Player Of The Week

Southern Scuffle Wrestling Tickets Now On Sale


The Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team concludes a three-straight game road trip with a rematch against UNC Asheville inside Kimmel Arena in As­­heville, North Carolina on Wednesday night. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga center Abbey Cornelius was named the Southern Conference women's basketball Player of the Week presented by GEICO, the league office announced Tuesday afternoon. Cornelius averaged ... (click for more)

Tickets are on sale now for the 2022 Southern Scuffle, presented by Compound Sportswear. Fans can purchase two-day and single-day passes, along with the option to add a Hospitality Pass per ticket. ... (click for more)



Sports

UTC Travels To UNC Asheville Wednesday

The Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team concludes a three-straight game road trip with a rematch against UNC Asheville inside Kimmel Arena in As­­heville, North Carolina on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. Chattanooga (7-1) enters the game coming off an 85-64 rout at Lipscomb on Sunday and sits at No. 11 in the latest Collegeinsider.com's Mid Major Top 25 ... (click for more)

UTC's Cornelius Named Player Of The Week

Chattanooga center Abbey Cornelius was named the Southern Conference women's basketball Player of the Week presented by GEICO, the league office announced Tuesday afternoon. Cornelius averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds on the week with four assists and two blocked shots. She recorded a double-double against Alabama with a career-high tying 22 points and 10 rebounds after ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City Council Approves Ordinance That Gives City More Leeway On Removing Homeless Camps

The City Council on Tuesday approved on second reading an ordinance designed to give the city more leeway in removing homeless camps or individuals camping out on city property. The ordinance says: "It shall be unlawful for any person to obstruct, vandalize, place or cause to be placed any buildings, erections, depositories, fires, or other obstructions, for private use, benefit ... (click for more)

8 Apartments Damaged And 17 Residents Displaced After Fire At Waterford Place Apartments Tuesday Evening

Eight apartments were damaged and 17 residents have been displaced after a fire Tuesday evening. Residents knocked on doors to make sure their neighbors safely escaped their burning apartment building. At 6:49 p.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department was called to the Waterford Place Apartments at 6220 Shallowford Road. The first company on the scene advised that heavy smoke ... (click for more)

Opinion

School Board Members Deserve The Raises

School boards serve any community in a variety of ways and the hiring of a superintendent describes just one. The school board serves as the fiscal referee as well on all finance matters - building services and all the many requirements running the individual schools. State rules and regulations must be followed. The budget that comprises all the expenditures is overseen by the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: School Board Folly

My friend and classmate Todd Gardenhire is sadly off base when he lobbies for doubling the pay of the school board. I don’t know which worm has gotten into him, but the fact is the school board doesn’t do anything to merit over $2,000 a month, must less exist. We could do away with the school board and not skip a beat and that's the truth. Please … all the school board does is hire ... (click for more)