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Vols begin working on game week preps

Tennessee held the 17th practice of preseason camp on Tuesday
KNOXVILLE, TN - August 24, 2021 - Defensive back Warren Burrell #4 and Wide receiver JaVonta...
KNOXVILLE, TN - August 24, 2021 - Defensive back Warren Burrell #4 and Wide receiver JaVonta Payton #3 of the Tennessee Volunteers during 2021 Fall Camp practice on Haslam Field in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics(Tennessee Athletics)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee football’s countdown to kickoff has reached single digits as the Volunteers are nine days from opening the 2021 campaign under the Thursday night lights against Bowling Green on Sept. 2.

After the 17th practice of preseason camp Tuesday morning, defensive coordinator Tim Banks and select players met with local media to discuss UT’s preparation for the season opener. “Particularly with the first game, it’s more of what do we do well?” Banks said. “Being able to play to our strengths and making sure our guys understand very clearly what we’re trying to get done. Obviously with your first opponent — particularly if they’re a team that’s returning a lot of starters — you have an idea of what you think you might get, but at the end of the day it’s a new season. I’m sure those guys have worked on some different things, so we want to just make that we understand what we’re trying to get done to give us the best opportunity to succeed.” Widely recognized as a key leader on the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive back Alontae Taylor is most looking forward to playing in a full capacity Neyland Stadium.

The Manchester, Tennessee, native was recently recognized by the league’s coaches on the preseason All-SEC third team. “I’m very eager,” Taylor said. “A lot of guys are. Last season was different for everyone, being a COVID season. We’re just excited to have Vol Nation out there. We’re excited to have the traditional things going again, such as the Vol Walk and running out of the T. We are all excited about that. “We have a lot of confidence in this staff, in our players (and) we’re ready to go compete and show the world what we have been working on the past couple months with this new staff.” Junior defensive back Jaylen McCollough echoed coach Banks’ sentiments, expressing the secondary’s urgency to play with speed and physicality. “We have been very urgent as far as our preparation, just honing in on stuff that will put us in position to win and be successful,” McCollough said.

“Not only on Bowling Green, but as the University of Tennessee, just focusing in on us and the stuff we need to accomplish in order to be where we want to be. “That is what we are priding ourselves on, being aggressive and taking no prisoners. Just flying around, getting to the ball and making plays.” Memphis native Omari Thomas discussed the defensive line’s cohesiveness on and off the field and how that will translate to success for the unit under position coach Rodney Garner. “We’re able to work together and build that brotherhood as a defensive line by spending time outside of football,” Thomas said. “We have all come together to give us that chemistry on the field to help us win games. That’s what we are going to do, we are going to make sure we play together and compete.”

Kickoff for next Thursday’s opener against the Falcons is slated for 8 p.m. ET. Tickets for the Bowling Green game, as well as season tickets and mini plans are available on AllVols.com. The full transcript of Tuesday’s availability with coach Banks can be seen below, along with select quotes from the defensive trio.

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