Coach Fulmer: “(Those are) guys that have done really well for us as players and leaders, so I’m excited about those guys for this game.”
Note: During his opening comments, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer named the following game captains for Saturday: Turk McBride, Matt McGlothlin, Arron Sears, Jayson Swain and Antwan Stewart.
Coach Fulmer, cont’d:
“Obviously this game is a tremendous opportunity for us, as well as a tremendous challenge. As long as I’ve been here as the head coach, this has been an important football game for both teams. We’ve had a lot of outstanding battles, and I don’t think this one will be any different. Our team has worked really hard to improve, and they’ve been responsive and made progress. I’ve watched our leadership grow as we’ve gone along, and our attitude and hustle has been good to this point.
“It’s tough to lose two really good football players (Justin Harrell and Inky Johnson), leaders on our football team, for the year. We will wear three interlocked circles (on the helmet), with the team in the middle and their numbers, 29 and 92, on either side. It will basically represent the bond between each of us in the program.
“Our team has to be resilient with these losses. Other young people have got to step up. We’ve had this happen before, Al Wilson and Jamal Lewis went down in 1998 and we had young men step up in their absence and do very well for us in their absence. Jason Allen last year was a tremendous loss, and Inky Johnson stepped up.
“We’ve been pushing like heck to get our depth to grow. This will be a big test for that to see how much we have grown. The challenges start in every big game that you play at the line of scrimmage. There will be tremendous battles go on in there. Florida has perhaps the best defensive front in the Southeastern Conference, and our young offensive line has played reasonably well to this point. It’ll be a tremendous challenge for us.
“One of the keys for us, as always in big ballgames, is taking care of the football and creating turnovers. We’ve done a reasonable job of that in two ballgames, but we cannot give up big chunks of yards to Florida. They are very capable of the big play. Florida is really an outstanding football team, and I’m glad that we’re playing them at home. Our fans have been tremendously responsive in our two games, and I think this will be the best yet.
“Our defense has great pride in itself, and they’ll be excited to play again after a sub-par performance as far as numbers—not as far as effort or hustle—but as far as giving up some yards to a tough Air Force football team. Different set of problems for the defense, different challenges, but we played very well against the Florida offense last year.
“Offensively, we’ve made significant progress, which is good to see. Our quarterback (Erik Ainge) is playing well right now, and that must continue for us to be successful in this ballgame. Both the quarterbacks, Florida’s and ours, must play well. Wide receivers have really stepped up, and that’s good to see. This kind of game is what you come to Tennessee for, and we certainly expect Florida to challenge us man-to-man as they did last year. Last year we didn’t connect with the many opportunities that we had. This year we have to really work to make sure that we’re successful.
“It’s going to be crucial to get our running backs to be productive. Our offensive team has a tremendous challenge, but our two tough games that we’ve played should help us in this kind of environment. I don’t know how it gets any better with Neyland Stadium, a national television audience and Florida coming in. This is what college football is all about. If you don’t get excited about this one, you can’t get excited.”
Courtesy of UT Sports Information.