Special Teams Shines, Vols Working On Details



Tennessee football is seeking to rebound from its first setback of the season last Saturday, and head coach Josh Heupel says a significant part of the squad’s improvement can come from better communication.

“The message to them really has been about the things we can control,” Heupel said. “Some of that is during the course of play, things that we saw — penalties in particular and turnovers. Communication, small communication on the sideline. We’re in a third-and-goal on the end zone, the structure of their defense is a little different, and we end up walking into the end zone.”

Heupel and the Volunteers (1-1) completed their game-week walkthrough on Thursday morning and now turn their attention to their “Fast Friday” practice prior to facing Tennessee Tech (0-2) at noon ET Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The contest will be televised live on SEC Network+ and ESPN+.

One phase of success for UT has been special teams under the direction of Mike Ekeler. Through two weeks of play, the Vol specialist unit:

  • blocked a punt that led to a touchdown (Christian Charles vs. Pitt)
  • ranks second in the SEC in punting average (47.14)
  • ranks third in the league in kickoff return average (27.57)
  • ranks third in the SEC in kickoff return defense, allowing only 16.5 yards per return
  • have successfully converted all three field goals and all nine PATs

“Our team knows my expectations, that we win that phase every single week,” Heupel said. “We place an importance on it by what we do, starting every day when they walk in the building with special teams meeting. The extra time that we put into our practice, just the fundamentals and technique of it.

“We’ve had NFL guys, and I’m talking about player personnel guys, come in here and talk about the fact is, if you’re not a first-round draft pick, you better be playing on special teams if you want to play at that level and show those guys those things. I think our team understands the importance of it.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are on sale at


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