KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team will open SEC play this week at home, hosting the Florida Gators in Neyland Stadium at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.
“When I was growing up, it was always the first big SEC game of the year.,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “I always loved to watch it – always a lot of passion with both fan bases, a lot of tradition. I’m thankful to have the chance to be a part of it.”
The Volunteers enter the Eastern Division matchup looking to earn their second consecutive victory against the Gators in Neyland after rallying to score 38 straight points en route to a 38-28 win in 2016. Last week against UTEP, UT put together 512 yards of total offense.
“After watching this past week’s game, when you look at it offensively, it’s probably the best game we’ve played this year in terms of putting more plays together,” Pruitt said. “We had the penalties putting us in bad yardage on third downs, but we did put several plays together. As far as average yards per play, it was somewhere in the plus six range which is our best for the season. We’ve got to eliminate the penalties and take care of the football.”
Palmer, Receiving Corp Coming Together
Through just three games in 2018, the Vols’ wide receivers have converted four plays of 50 yards or more, already tying last season’s total.
“We come together as a group, and we push each other a lot in practice,” sophomore wide receiver Josh Palmer said. “So, when we see stuff happen in the game, we’re not really surprised because we know what we can do.”
The Brampton, Ontario native has reeled in two catches this season that have gone for more than 50 yards, including a career-long 53-yard reception against UTEP. Palmer credits his improvement to the offense and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton.
“It could have been anybody in those plays, making those catches,” Palmer said. “When I’m put in those positions, I have to come up with the ball and that’s the thing Coach emphasizes – to make the play when it comes to you. I just try to stay level-headed and focus on what we have to do and what Coach Helton calls.”
Johnson Balancing Civil Engineering, Football
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ryan Johnson has started seven straight games for the Vols dating back to last year, logging starts at left guard, right guard and center all while balancing a demanding civil engineering academic schedule.
“It’s a little hard not going crazy at times,” Johnson said. “You have to put a lot of things to the side. You have to know what’s important. It’s school and football, so there’s not much time to do much of anything else except for sleep.”
Although a lot of work, Johnson described the balancing act as fun and said he learned from VFL Joshua Dobbs.
“I actually shadowed him a couple classes trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Johnson said. “I thought about doing aerospace and I thought about doing mechanical and I settled on civil. So, he taught me a lot of tricks about how to get it done, time management, stuff like that and it definitely applied when I went down the road and started working on civil.”
The Brentwood, Tenn., native is set to graduate with a degree in civil engineering this December in just two-and-half years.