Tennessee prepares for another Top 25 showdown

No. 3 Vols will host No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
No. 3 Vols will host No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2022 at 11:39 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Volunteers are 4-0 against Top-25 ranked opponents, which is more ranked wins than any other team in the country. The Vols have a chance to improve this impressive record to 5-0 this Saturday as they welcome in No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats.

Josh Heupel secured his first ranked victory with Tennessee last season against Kentucky. Heupel and his squad are looking to be 8-0 on the season with another win over the Wildcats.

Heupel emphasized the urgency the team has had at the line of scrimmage. He said, “The line of scrimmage is something that we talk about winning every single week, both sides of the line of scrimmage, defensively and offensively.”

The Vols plan to carry on this urgency against a physical Kentucky team. Heupel noted that the defensive line is going to have to communicate and adjust to Kentucky’s offense throughout the game.

Heupel also talked about the chemistry among the guys on the offensive line. He said, “It’s a group that’s really tight, they like being around each other. They like hanging out together. They compete well together. They push each other during the course of practice. You know, that group, just another year of maturity in what we’re doing.”

Tennessee dominated the UT-Martin Skyhawks 65-24 on Saturday, Oct. 22. The win led to some well-deserved accolades for the Vols.

Offensive lineman Jerome Carvin received the SEC Lineman of the Week. The 6′5″ guard did not allow a sack, a quarterback hit or a hurry.

Carvin’s blocking helped the Vols to rush for 201 yards on the day, marking the fifth game this season that UT has more than 200 rushing yards. Additionally, the senior’s protection of the pocket allowed for 495 passing yards, the team’s most since 2012 against Troy.

Wide receiver Cedric Tillman has been out since Week 3 when the Vols played Akron. Tillman underwent tightrope surgery on Sept. 20, a type of operation that speeds up the recovery process of a severe ankle sprain.

Coaches, players, and fans alike have patiently been waiting for the return of the Vols’ star receiver. However, Heupel did not reveal during Monday’s press conference when or if he’d return this week. With the Vols traveling to Georgia in a couple of weeks, fingers are crossed for the healthy return of Tillman.

Quarterback coach Joey Halzle spoke about how Hooker’s ability to make decisions has taken his game to the next level.

“He’s highly intelligent and I think he’s always made really good decisions,” said Halzle. “I think this year, what’s making him even more special is he’s even more aggressive. That’s what we talk about in our room. You got to be able to walk the line of aggressive and reckless, and he walks it extremely well. He is extremely aggressive, but he doesn’t cross the line of reckless in football and put the ball in danger.”

Hooker has already thrown for 2,093 yards on the year, with 18 touchdowns and just one interception. Hendon partially credits his success so far this season to basketball. Hooker talked about bringing his same energy from the basketball court to the football field.

Hooker jokingly said, “I am the best basketball player on the team.” He added that playing basketball, “...really just helped me find myself, and being comfortable in my own skin, you know, so to speak. I really just try to be overly focused in my craft. You know, I just go out there, have fun, and enjoy what I’m doing.”

Kickoff will be at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday inside Neyland Stadium. You can watch the game on ESPN.