Humbled Vols have energetic practice after 'reality check' [photos]

Humbled Vols have energetic practice after 'reality check' [photos]

October 4th, 2017 by David Cobb in Sports - College

University of Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady (12) hands the ball off to running back John Kelly (4) during the University of Tennessee vs. University of Georgia football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

Photo by Erin O. Smith /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Georgia overwhelms host Tennessee, 41-0

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KNOXVILLE — John Kelly described it as "a reality check for a lot of people on the team."

Tennessee's 41-0 loss to Georgia in front of a sold-out Neyland Stadium last Saturday left the Volunteers with plenty of introspection to be done in the off week before South Carolina comes to Knoxville next Saturday.

"I feel like we're all taking time to re-evaluate ourselves and see what we can do to help the team become better and get better results," Kelly said.

The junior running back said his focus has been on keeping the team together. Senior tight end Ethan Wolf, citing advice given by offensive coordinator Larry Scott, said it's important for the Vols to learn from the past "and not die in it."

Kelly, Wolf and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones offered a hopeful but humbled outlook Tuesday after a 100-minute practice.

As external speculation swirls about Jones' job security, the fifth-year coach said that "it's all part of the territory."

"It's pretty easy on me," Jones said. "I get up and come to work. I don't listen to anything. Again, all our focus is on South Carolina. All our focus is on this work week. But it does not affect me or the staff at all."

Jones liked what he saw from his team in Tuesday's practice. Wolf said the energy "was incredible."

"It was the highest we've had in a while, I think because people are understanding that we have a lot of work to do and we can't wallow in it and let it get worse and let this game affect us any longer," Wolf said.

He said he doesn't pay attention to talk outside the program about Jones possibly being on the hot seat.

As a senior, Wolf recalled rocky starts to previous seasons that concluded with strong finishes. He sees no reason why 2017 should differ.

"We still have the opportunity to do something that hasn't been done here in a while, especially since I've been here," Wolf said. "We've got an opportunity to win 10 games and go to a bowl game. So there shouldn't be any down spirits, and there aren't on our team. We're all positive. Obviously, we were all hurting on Sunday after the game as any competitor would be.

"But we're going to come back as strong as we can against South Carolina and put our best on film."

Kelly Jr. update

Senior safety Todd Kelly Jr. underwent surgery Tuesday, Jones confirmed. Kelly has not played since the second game of the season because of a lingering knee issue. The Knoxville native could apply for a medical redshirt and be eligible to play next season, if approved.

"That's something he's taking one day at a time," Jones said. "But we have spoken about it. Obviously we would welcome him back and love to have him back here."

Other injuries

Jones said receiver Marquez Callaway would have practiced Tuesday were it a game week. Callaway left the game against Georgia after hitting the back of his head on the field after leaping to attempt a catch.

Linebacker Austin Smith, who was listed as a starter before the season but has yet to play this year, continues to get closer to game action after he returned to practice last week.

"I think it's more getting him in football condition, him becoming more and more confident in his knee," Jones said. "But he was out here going through all the drills today."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.

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