By LARRY VAUGHT
After an amazing start to the season, Tennessee has endured some recent struggles going into Saturday’s game with visiting Kentucky. But UK coach Mark Stoops says not to be fooled about the talent on the team that was picked to win the SEC Eastern Division — and still can if it beats UK, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
“They’ve been banged up but they had the bye week and they come back last week and played like they’re capable of. If you watch our league, you have the tendency to see some scores sometimes that you raise your eyebrows and say, ‘Wow.’ But again, that’s the nature of the beast. We’re constantly beating up on each other and dog eats dog, right?Stoops said.
“And so everybody, it’s brutal. It’s hard. You get beat up and you’re not always going to play your best. You’re not always going to be play with that perfect edge. You’ve got to try to win the games when you’re not peaking. Sometimes, you know, the score isn’t always indicative of your team. So, I see a very good team that’s very well coached coming off a bye and had a big win last week and is probably ready to play some very good football again.”
Beating Tennessee Tech helped ease some of Tennessee’s frustrations after a loss at South Carolina that led to star running back Jalen Hurd leaving the team.
“I’m sure they probably did what we did: Hit the reset button, got healed up, got focused and got ready to play. They went out and played an exceptional game. I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Stoops said.
“They’re a very talented team. The position group that jumps out, obviously there’s a lot of defensive talent. And like you mentioned Barnett, blocking him is a real issue. He’s a guy that has relentless effort and ability to create pressure without blitzing. He’s a guy that can get to the quarterback at any moment. They always have good defensive players across the board; offensively, same thing, they’re backs are extremely talented.
“Of course their quarterback is a dual-threat guy that puts a lot of pressure on you. And I really think they’ve got some guys that can hurt you at wide receiver.”