Tennessee In A ‘Race To Maturity’ Entering Season’s Final Stretch

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones will enjoy the bye week with his family, but preparing the Volunteers for the final stretch of the season comes first.

With Tennessee having this Saturday off following a rugged stretch that ended with two straight losses, head coach Butch Jones plans on spending the day getting a little bit of work done and then spending time with his family.

“I’m gonna come in and work a little bit, and then I’m gonna be a fan and watch a lot of great football games. [I’m] just looking forward to stepping aside for eight hours, sitting down in front of the TV and being a fan. It’ll be a family deal. We’ll have Alex, Adam, Andrew and Barb. Football is our family and it’s our life.”

Leading up to Saturday, though, Jones is focused on doing as much to prepare his team for the rest of the season.

“We don’t really call it an open week; we call it a work week. There’s so much to be done, [like] working to get our health back, and focusing on the fundamentals and fine details. With these injuries, we’re going to rely on a lot of individuals to step up. A lot will have new roles. It’s a race to maturity for our young guys.”

Jones went on to list numerous players that will have to step up and take on a larger role in the absence of players such as linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, running back Alvin Kamara, and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie. Maybe no team in the nation has been hit with the injury bug as much as the Volunteers, both before and during the season.

That is football, though, and Jones is confident that his team will continue to play at a high level while seeking the program’s first SEC East title since 2007.

“We have great competitive character in our football program, and I know our guys are looking forward to starting this five-game journey. The way we look at it is: we have five, one-game seasons left. That’s all we’re guaranteed, and it’s what we make of those five games.”

As for this Saturday, I asked if a Jones’ family tradition would be involved: his wife Barb’s chip dip.

“You know me too well. We’ll all sit in front of the TV and eat a lot of chip dip.”

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