UT interim Brady Hoke focused on seniors

November 14, 2017

KNOXVILLE — Brady Hoke stepped to the podium Monday as Tennessee’s interim head football coach, taking the place of Butch Jones.

With the Vols’ season already in shambles, and the opportunity for a bowl game dependent on wins the in final two games, Hoke made a point to emphasize the rest of the season is about one thing: the seniors.

“These last two games are only about one thing, and that’s the seniors on this football team,” he said. “They have been part of 29 wins, three bowl wins and they’ve laid a foundation for this program that was badly needed. They’re the ones who we play for.

“As a staff, we are going to coach our hearts out for the seniors.”

Hoke was appointed as the interim coach by UT Athletic Director John Currie on Sunday. Hoke was brought on as the defensive line coach this season after a one-year stint at Oregon as the defensive coordinator, where the staff there was dismantled after its head coach was let go.

Hoke has been a head coach at Michigan, San Diego State and Ball State. And as a former head coach, lauded the job Jones did at Tennessee.

“We lost a good man. That I will say,” he said. “That was the first thing you deal with from an emotional level, a respect level and a friendship level. Then, you have to move forward because if we don’t move forward with our competitiveness and our energy as coaches, then you won’t get that from the players.”

Tennessee is 4-6 and winless in the Southeastern Conference welcoming in LSU (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday (7 p.m.; TV: ESPN). Ahead of this week’s game, Hoke said he will “tweak some things.” Part of that included eliminating the one period of practice per week the media is allowed to view.

As for the rest, Hoke didn’t say.

“We will tweak some things because of the comfort level that I have, and how I would like to run a program,” he said. “There’s a lot of similarities that we have done, but there are some different things in the way we’ll practice. There will be a couple different things with how we approach each day, but I’ve got to be who I am. If I’m not, that would be a fraud.”

Hoke didn’t get into much more detail about his meeting with the team — “What was said, what wasn’t, reactions and whatever, that’s a football team deal,” he said — injuries or how he might coach differently.

The message was plain, simple and to the point. The goal now, after all that’s transpired, is help this seniors end their career with a win.

“We have to have a great week of practice,” Hoke said. “We have to do a great week in the training room and the weight room. We have to be focused academically. We have to be focused in meetings, and we have to lean on each other. We have to understand that it would be great to take our seniors to a bowl game for their last year.

“When you look at what they’ve done, the guys who have lasted, they have put their heart and soul into it. I think, personally, that’s an important thing that young people be appreciative of what they’ve done. Believe me, this is a great place. This is a great history in college football here.”