KNOXVILLE — Brady Hoke is Tennessee’s interim head coach with two games remaining in the regular season after the school relieved Butch Jones of his duties this week.
During his first press conference as the leader of the Volunteers’ football team, Hoke did not go into too much detail of what went wrong earlier in the season, in which Tennessee is 4-6 and winless in SEC play.
“Those are things that we as a staff, everyone has a part of everything,” Hoke said. “I don’t think that is fair to comment on what went wrong or what didn’t go wrong. I think there were a lot of things that went right.
“I think when you look at a couple of the football games where maybe we didn’t play as well, for one reason or another, that’s on us as coaches. There are also three games in there that could have gone either way if we made some plays.”
Hoke said Team 121 has no quit in it and that the goal is to win for the seniors.
The interim coach is no stranger to leading teams, with stops at Michigan, San Diego State and Ball State in a head coaching capacity. That helps him understand his role in overseeing the Volunteers’ program and he made a point that “we’re going to live in the present” and “we will start preparing for LSU” immediately.
With two games left against LSU and Vanderbilt at home, Hoke said, “These last two games are only about one thing and that’s the seniors on this football team.”
Hoke has only been with the group of seniors for one season as the defensive line coach, but he understands that they “have been part of 29 wins, three bowl wins and they’ve laid a foundation for this program that was badly needed.”
Now overseeing the entire staff, the former head coach wants to make it a priority “as a staff to coach our hearts out for the seniors” who have paved a way for the next UT coaching staff to have a “future that is really positive.”
“Our hope is that in the next two weeks, the next two games, the team, coaches, former Vols and Vol Nation make it a great experience for those kids,” Hoke said. “At the end of the day, that’s what this game comes down to; the development and nurturing and teaching and mentoring of young men that are in the program.”
Hoke was asked if he will coach the team differently as an interim versus his past experiences as a head coach.
He said that “when I took the head football coaching job at Ball State University, and I was an assistant at Michigan at the time, and Coach (Bo) Schembechler told me one thing before I left: He said, ‘Be yourself. You can’t be Lloyd Carr, you can’t be Bo Schembechler or Gary Moeller. You have to be yourself.’ ”
But Hoke won’t shy away from tweaking different elements from Jones’ everyday running of the Vols program.
“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.”
What are those tweaks? Hoke will keep that to himself and the team.
He said keeping tweaks and changes internal “is best as this team moves forward” and “there will be some things that we do different.”