After an inspiring performance on the road against No. 1 Alabama, a confident Tennessee team has turned its focus to yet another physical SEC opponent in South Carolina, who visits Neyland Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
“Before the game, we were always confident in our ability and our coaching staff,” freshman defensive back Jaylen McCollough said. “Seeing how we just played against them, it just raised our level of confidence even more. I feel like we can play with anybody in the country. We’re getting better each and every week. We’ve just got to continue to get better to keep gaining confidence.”
McCollough is yet another player in the Vols’ freshman class who has stepped up and made big plays this season. The Georgia native tied his career high with four tackles and also recorded his first-career sack in last Saturday’s contest against the Crimson Tide.
“We had a great play call called by Coach Ansley,” McCollough said when asked about his sack. “We’ve repped that call many times in practice and he told me ‘don’t be late.’ So, I timed it up off the snap. I got a good setup by Bryce Thompson. He set up the back. It left the hole wide open and I just took a shot.”
While the team’s confidence continues the grow by the game, UT knows that the road doesn’t get any easier in the final five games of the season.
“It’s just making sure I’m going to work every day,” junior offensive lineman Trey Smith said. “The mentality and approach stay the same. We’re going to try to execute our plays to the best of our ability.
“Anything the coaches ask us to do we are going to try to execute as well as we can. Moving forward, the standard of play doesn’t change, we just have to keep playing.”
Expect Another Close One
While the Gamecocks enter this weekend’s game with a 3-4 record, the Vols know they’re likely to be in another close game. South Carolina is coming off a close lose at home to Florida but beat then-No. 3 Georgia on the road the week prior.
“South Carolina is a great team defensively,” Smith said. “They are very stout up front, have a lot of great players, a lot of people who play hard. I have a lot of respect for that program and a lot of respect for those players. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle. It’s going to be a war on Saturday.”
The last seven meetings between Tennessee and South Carolina have been one-score games, with six of those seven contests being decided by three points or fewer.
Redshirt senior linebacker Darrell Taylor has been with the program for four of those previous meetings and knows firsthand how competitive this matchup is every year.
“This matchup is always close and always a nail biter, because they’re a good team, we’re a good team and good teams always fight it out until the very end,” Taylor said. “I think we’ll get their best game and they’re going to get ours, so I think it’s going to be a very competitive weekend and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
Jordan Stepping Up in Vols’ Backfield
Junior running back Tim Jordan has provided UT with a spark offensively over the past three weeks, leading the team with 200 yards rushing during that span.
Jordan ran for a season-high 94 yards in Saturday’s loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide, including a career-long 33-yard rush in the second quarter.
The Bartow, Fla., native stressed the need for himself and the rest of Tennessee’s running backs to continue to play a physical brand of football.
“I know in our room, we press and talk about how physical we want to be,” Jordan said. “We want to be the most physical group on the team and I know we take pride in that.”
Jordan also credited his emergence over the past couple of weeks in large part to the improved play of the offensive line.
“I would say the preparation at practice and the offensive line, with them just gaining confidence and doing what they do,” Jordan said when asked about the team’s recent success in the ground game.
“Every day they come to practice – like everybody – fix mistakes, [make] corrections and develop every day in practice.”