Three of Tennessee’s younger players met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the ongoing season and ways to dig out of the hole their in.
Wanya Morris was asked about the offensive struggles that have been occurring, especially coming out of halftime.
“That’s something that we all talked about as a group. It’s something that we have to get better at – coming out of halftime and executing. As a team, there’s not much you can say about that. You have to put your head down and work, regroup, and get better.”
Morris was a player that was quarantined twice during Fall camp, missing over twenty days. It was a long road for Wanya to get back into game ready shape, but he relied on his teammates and zoom.
“It was definitely frustrating, but you can’t really complain about it because every team is going through the same thing that we went through. As an offensive line, you try to keep in touch as much as you can to keep that bond. As an offensive line, you have to play together. It’s not an individual player, and if one looks bad, we all look bad.”
Wanya was a player that came to Tennessee with high expectations, though he didn’t shy away from them. But working through practice in his freshman year compared to now, he’s learned to take advantage of time.
“As a freshman, I came in here, knowing I would have to work, but not knowing how much. This year, I understood that time is ticking. Time isn’t going to wait for you, and neither is anybody else. So, while I’m over there sitting down, somebody else is working. I learned to get extra reps at practice and after practice and get in the weight room more. I look at it with a different perspective, like it’s the game. We’ve got to go into practice thinking, ‘this is going to happen in the game, so let me get my body used to these movements.”
Tennessee’s wide receiver room lost Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway in the off-season, but a few freshmen are trying to fill the gap. Take, for instance, Jalin Hyatt, who came in from the state of South Carolina with high hopes. The expectations were for him to fight for a spot on the two-deep, but he’s established himself as a weapon for the offense.
He talked about his preparations for his first year of college.
“Before I got here with COVID going on, just staying on the field, just being prepared to come to Tennessee. When I got here, what I had to learn about is it’s definitely a different ballgame. You have to have stronger hands; you have to be stronger on the field, more physical. I had to learn that when I got here and definitively learned it in fall camp.”
The wide receiver group has spent most of their time trying to catch up. After the group was hit with Covid during Fall camp, it became apparent that the newer Vols had to learn quickly. So, getting as much time as they can with the QB’s is imperative.
“We try to do it before practice, just in film and really scouting the secondary, so you know their flaws and their weaknesses and strengths. After practice from a receiver’s point, we just try to catch balls and catch as many as we can. With the quarterback and receiver relationship, we have a great relationship. I trust all the quarterbacks, and I just can’t wait to go and play Texas A&M.”
Tennessee OLB Tyler Baron has been a bright spot at times for the pass rush. The physicality from the freshman has stood out the most, especially coming off the edge. As he spoke about the transition from high school to college, this was the one main hurdles to get through.
“The biggest difference for me is the level of physicality. In high school, there were a lot of times where we were playing a lesser opponent. Up here, everybody’s good, and everybody’s here for a reason. Being consistent in all of the technical things has been the biggest thing for me. Based off the success I’ve had this year; it’s a blessing. But I still feel that they are a lot of areas that I need to improve in and touch up to have even more success.”
The mental adjustment has been something he’s relied on his coaches for, learning more than just schemes.
“It’s been huge for me – spending extra time with my coaches and learning the game. Coming from high school, it was kind of see ball, get ball. Here, recognizing formations and the depth of the back to know what you’re going to get before the ball is snapped has been huge. A lot of my success is from having time to see formations and small things like that that can help you.”
Baron has already seen the playing field a good amount this season and has already made a few plays for the Vols. Tyler discussed what it meant to play meaningful snaps for Tennessee.
“It was a blessing to be able to go in and help my team make those two stops on those two different drives. It’s been a great opportunity for me, and I’m just thankful that the coaches trust me enough, from my practice habits, to put me in the game on those meaningful downs. It’s been great to go out there and help this team be successful.”
Tennessee will need these younger players to continue making an impact. If the Vols are going to turn things around, these guys are a huge part of the solution.