Coach Dan Mullen Monday Press Conference

Coach Dan Mullen Monday Press Conference

"We're excited about this game. Obviously a prime-time, 8:00 kickoff here, it's going to be a great environment. I know our fans are going to be fired-up and our student body work hard to give us the home-field advantage, which is critical. You always talk you want to put yourself in position to compete for championships, you have to win your home games."

"We're certainly going to have our hands full with the challenge, the team we're playing this week. When you look at Tennessee the first thing that jumps out to you is the explosiveness of their offense. They have NFL-type players at every position. Their receivers, their quarterback, talented running backs, and an experienced offensive line. They can put up a lot of points and they have put up a lot of points a bunch of points. I think they played Florida and Georgia in the SEC so far and put up a bunch of points on both teams, so they obviously can score a lot."

"Defensively the challenge is the two teams that have beaten them have relied on the big play. It's hard consistently to rely on the big play. I mean they've beaten with a bunch of 70- and 80-yard touchdowns, big plays that break. Coming off a bye-week I'm sure they've had time to adjust that stuff and get that done."

"So it's going to be a great challenge for our team. We're going to need all our fans for the home-field advantage this week to push us through. And it should be a really fun, entertaining game."

"Both Malcolm Johnson and Devin Jones are probable for this week's game, we expect them to play. Cedric Jiles will still be out with a hand. I think that's the extent of the injury report and guys playing and not playing in this week's game."

Do you have confidence with your defensive guys matching up with Bray and the receivers? "It's a great challenge for our guys. I think they're the two best receivers we've played so far this year. On top of that the best quarterback we've played so far this year. So that combination is certainly going to be a challenge for our secondary. And it should be fun. Those are the guys that we depend on as the strength of our team with the leadership and experience we have on the back end. And they're going to have to step up and play big."

Does your offense have more to give in big plays and points on the board? "Well, last week we'd like to have had some more points on the board. I thought we moved the ball pretty well. We missed some opportunities to score. Obviously we finished the game down there in the red zone. But I saw two other possessions I really think we should have had touchdowns. I think Bump dropped a big pass down the middle of the field that would have been a big play. So there is some big-play potential for us."

"But as you always see, you're not going to have a lots of opportunities of big plays. And you'd better capitalize. If you don't you're going to be embattled. It's hard to score in this league. So when you have those opportunities to make big plays, you have to take advantage of those."

You recruited Rajon Neal, what have you seen out of him? "A solid back, he catches the ball out of the backfield well, he runs the ball well both inside and outside, he has some speed to get to the edge. He's a SEC running back."

After a slow start Devon Bell has made six-straight field goals? "Like we said early on, he wasn't missing the ball real bad. He was just off slightly and when that's the case, and it's just a slight technique thing. You're talking about three or four inches with plant foot. It's about the difference of him being on balance and putting that down the field and the ball sliding left on him. It wasn't like he was miss-hitting the ball early. When he's watching, he can see he's making great contact, he's not far off, he can see that he's just off a step with his footwork and he's adjusted that and been pretty successful."

Is the offense showing good balance? "As a team, I think so. So far, our two SEC games we've been pretty balanced across the board and that's the way you want to be. I love to be 50-50. I'd love to be a 50-50 team that's hard to defend that way, and we can throw it and run it, and we're going to do both and take some shots down field and throw some stuff underneath and run it inside and run it outside."

"That certainly makes it a lot easier. We've done pretty well. Our guys executing allows us to stay balanced throughout the course of the game."

Besides Bell's kicking have the special teams performed better? "Yeah. We do have some younger players playing on special teams and those guys are gaining that experience right now. As they get more and more comfortable being in those positions, you see them make more plays."

What's making Russell effective this season? "It's pretty solid. He's doing a good job. He might not put up the massive numbers that other people put up but the most important record he has going for himself right now, which stacks up pretty good, is 5-0. He's doing what we need to do to win football games. I think that stacks up pretty good for him. If you watch him in the game, he's done what he's needed to do for us to win. If it's making a bunch of throws, pull the ball down and tuck it and run, or check us into the right plays and distribute the ball where it needs to be, he's done that. He's done a pretty good job and I see him continuing to develop and getting more and more confident to be one of those better quarterbacks in the league."

Does Russell deserve more attention than he receives now? "Not yet. Not yet. We'll see. Let's win some more games, and maybe then. It's still so early in the season. I don't know if anybody, if we deserve a lot of attention yet. We've taken care of business. We've played well, we've won games and found a way to win games. That's great, but we're still in the early parts of the season."

What has made kick coverage better? "I just think it's the understanding of what's going on in the course of a game. Those guys, when you talk about focus, there's some of those guys--Slay, obviously--but there's some of those guys in the kicking game, they're playing 15-20 plays a game. And you can lose a little focus over the three-and-a-half hour course of a game. You're looking at, it might be 25 minutes between plays for you, and you have to be ready on that play. As the guys grow and mature and you get into the season, they get used to that, and then you see them perform at a little higher level."

Did it seem at Kentucky the offense took its foot off the gas, is that a mental thing? "Yeah, at times. The whole team did. We were up 27-7, had the ball, had one of our two three-and-outs on the whole day. Then we shank a punt, and then we proceed to let them have one of their best drives of the day. That's a complete lack of mental focus right there, once it starts with a team that that happens, and it is human nature."

"The kids are there saying OK, we're in good shape. The problem is you play teams as talented, like a talented Kentucky team, they have talent. Now, they're young, and I know they're growing, but when you give talented players that window, they're going to jump on it. And once teams do jump on it, momentum switches, sometimes it's hard to get back. I thought our guys did a good job of getting it back and finishing the game out at the end, but in that little window right there you can't do that. You can't take your foot off the gas."

What is Chad Bumphis doing differently this year? "I think just his confidence on the field. Just his blocking better, which I think leads to other things, leads to allow him to play better. When he goes and watches the game film, he's watching himself perform at a little higher level. That builds confidence. He has confidence that he's been with Tyler for a while, all our receivers do. They've been with Tyler for a while. They have a good feel of where that ball's going to be put, and Tyler knows when and where to get it to them. I think those guys start playing a little bit faster and a little bit faster, and when you're playing faster, your routes look sharper, and you're harder to cover."

The defense has been able to get pressure without much blitzing? "We still have to get a little bit better. The challenge is this is a team that leads the league in least number of sacks given up. It's certainly a challenge for us to get pressure on them this week, but when you get pressure with your down guys, that's a real positive. Again, you look at a Denico Autry, whose got talent, is really now starting to get used to what SEC games are about, and that transition of what the speed is on the field."

"When you look across the D-line, there are some younger guys out there playing. Kaleb Eulls is a sophomore, and this is his second year, you're starting to see him become more productive. Devin Jones being out, really your veteran guys are Devin Jones and Josh Boyd, and Devin's been out the last two games. You have Boyd out there, but he's the guy coming back, he draws a lot of attention on the D-line. The other guys are starting to come along and starting to make some more plays."

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