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Heupel Gives Update on Injuries at SEC Teleconference

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel provided an update on a few key Vols' injury status on Wednesday's SEC Teleconference heading into Alabama.

With star quarterback Hendon Hooker, star offensive lineman Cade Mays and star running back Tiyon Evans all sustaining injuries in the past two games, their status is worth keeping a keen eye on as the Vols are set to face the vaunted Alabama this Saturday.

In Wednesday's SEC Coaches' Teleconference, Josh Heupel gave an update on Hooker's injury specifically, along with his thoughts on playing Alabama.

Everything Heupel said during the teleconference can be seen below:

Heupel's Opening Statement:

We've had a really good week. We have to finish it the right way. We have a great opportunity here in a rivalry game playing one of the great teams in college football so our guys have been excited about it, working really hard and excited to get down there on Saturday.

Q: You guys said you had a preseason plan to use Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small interchangeably. They've only played two games together due to injury. How has that affected your plan?

A (Heupel): I'm not sure we've been able to finish those two games with that sort of mindset. At the end of the day, we feel like both of those guys can play at a really high level–felt that way in training camp. It's maybe pressed the guy who's been able to play in taking a bulk of the work during the course of that ball game. You lose the ability to keep them as fresh as you may want to in the course of a ball game."

Q: Being a former quarterback, what stands out most about how Bryce Young plays the position? 

A: He's smart, competitive and accurate with the football. Obviously he has the dynamic play makers around him form the receivers to the tight end to the running back. The offensive line does a great job with protection but you can tell that he understands what his pre-snap read is and where he is supposed to go with the ball once he sees the post-snap movement from the defense.

Q: Tennessee has lost 14 straight games to Alabama. How tough is it to have a rivalry when that's the case?

A: For us, it's really important that we continue to build the culture and build our program. Absolutely, it's important to get a win I this football game and rivalry between the two schools. For us, it's about controlling the control labels, continuing to grow, continuing to prepare the right way. Our players continue to get better week-by-week and this is our next opportunity.

Q: Do you feel like this is a legit rivalry game given the circumstances?

A: Yeah for sure. The historic nature of it, absolutely. 

Q: How's Hendon Hooker looking through the first half of this week?

A: He's still day-to-day at this point. Getting some work on the field. As we get to the end of the week we'll know if he'll be available for this one.

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Q: What have you seen from Brian Robinson and how important is it to put the clamps on Alabama's running game?

A: The run game is extremely important. It changes how the game is played, in particular on third downs. Their ability up front to move people and change the line of scrimmage–their tight ends do a nice job of it as well. Their RPO game off of it causes issues, too. You have to be able to win your one-on-ones up front. That's your defensive line and linebackers. We have to do a good job in the run game. Otherwise, we're going to be playing on their terms over the course of the game.

Q: When you have a rivalry game like Alabama vs. Tennessee, do you set the players aside to talk about it?

A: For sure, you talk about the historic nature of the football game. The players that have been here understand the expectation and what this game means to people. Absolutely, they have an understanding of it but you talk about it and show some of those things, too.

Q: What attributes besides his arm strength do you like about Joe Milton?

A:  He's competitive inside the building with the way he prepares. He cares about his teammates in a great way. There's been some things he's done at a really high level in the pass game and run game, too.There's been times where he has not executed the way that he's fully capable of. At that point, that's the growth and maturity and maturation of a quarterback. You have to continue to grow. 

Q: Have you seen any of that growth in practice? 

A: Yeah, for sure.

Q: Henry To'o To'o was already in the transfer portal when you got here. Did you all have any realistic conversations about hims saying or had that ship already sailed?

A: I think that ship, in his mind, had probably already sailed. He was no longer on campus. He was not here in Knoxville and was back home.

Q: What have been your impressions of Alabama's defense?

A: They're front seven makes it extremely difficult to run the football. They are long, violent, athletic, they disrupt you and eat your double teams. Linebackers are athletic, play fast over the top and can go tackle in space. Their safeties do a really good job of being involved in the run game when they ask them to. They're fully gapped out. They make it difficult which is what the numbers tell you. At the same time they have the ability to push the passer. They do that with pressures, and they're able to do it with just their four up front because of their athleticism, too. The run game is difficult, but the pass game is, too, and that is because of their personnel in the back end but also their ability to get to the quarterback.

Q: What have you seen from your banged up offensive line heading into Saturday?

A: I've seen some positive things. I don't think e've played as consistent as we're capable of. A part of that has been because of the moving parts we've had up from, too. This will be a big one for us. On the road, handling the crowd noise, doing a great job in the run game. We have to stay out of third-and-long against these guys and then being able to pick up their pressures on third down will be a big part of the ball game. 

Transcript Credit: Ryan Schumpert of Rocky Top Insider

Updates on Thursday's media availability will be on VR2 on SI's twitter page.