Notes and quotes from pre-bowl press conferences

Indiana and Tennessee’s players and head coaches were available for a press conference a day before Thursday’s Gator Bowl.

Here are some highlights from what was said.

Stepaniak still game-time decision

As one of the Hoosiers’ five captains, senior guard Simon Stepaniak, who was injured during bowl practices, was able to address his status.

He remains a game-time decision. Stepaniak missed one game this season versus Nebraska. The exact nature of Stepaniak’s injury has not been specified.

“Yeah, it’s definitely tough, being such a highly-touted game and being a game-time decision. That’s where I am right now,” Stepaniak said. “Just really working through things. Helping the guys as much as I can, and just trying to get healthy and be back for this game, is my main priority right now.”

On being a Peyton

Of course, because Peyton Ramsey sat before Tennessee’s media corps, he was bound to get a question or two about being named after Peyton Manning.

The redshirt junior emphasized that his parents didn’t pick the name because they wanted him to be a quarterback. But it was a compromise between Doug and Cherie Ramsey.

“When I was about to be born, Peyton Manning was still at Tennessee and my parents were just sitting down watching the game,” Ramsey said. “It was just kind of my mom liked the name. My dad liked the quarterback, so I guess those two things kind of went together, and here I am.”

Ramsey, who was demoted in fall camp but ended up playing a pivotal role in the Hoosiers’ 8-4 season, was also asked what he’s learned this year.

“I think I’ve learned that I’m a fighter and that just continuing to fight through adversity is the biggest thing. I didn’t really know how I was going to respond,” Ramsey said. “It was hard initially. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions, but I just learned that I’m a fighter and that tough guys win, and as long as you’re a tough guy and you keep fighting, then good things are going to happen.”

Jennings on his suspension

One key player the Hoosiers will not have to worry about in the first half of Thursday’s game is senior receiver Jauan Jennings.

The Vols’ leading receiver is suspended for the first half of the Gator Bowl for stepping on a Vanderbilt player’s face during the regular-season finale. He termed the incident an “accident.”

“Unfortunately an event took place and it was unfortunate because it was an accident,” Jennings said. “So just getting mentally and physically prepared for this game is all I’m focused on. Not really too focused on what I’m going to do in the second half. I’m here just being ready for this team.

“They are going to have my back and I can’t wait to come out there and have theirs.”

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt then followed up on that, saying Jennings has “done nothing but do everything exactly the way we want him to since I’ve been the head coach at Tennessee.”

“The guy’s graduated, competed, been a great leader,” Pruitt added.

UT on Mullen

Jennings and fellow senior Marquez Callaway were also asked about IU freshman corner Tiawan Mullen and some of the Freshman All-American awards he’s received.

“He’s very competitive, and you know, we watch film just like we watch film on any other game, preparing like we prepare for any other game,” Callaway said. “I don’t think for us we’re going to change anything, but since we know he has all the highest awards and stuff, we’re just going to treat it as a challenge for us.”

Jennings said: “He’s a good corner, great feet, very competitive and it’s going to be fun to go at him. Can’t wait.”

On the IU coordinators

Pruitt was complimentary of the Hoosiers’ two play-callers, Kane Wommack defensively and Kalen DeBoer offensively, though he was somewhat fuzzy on details.

When asked about DeBoer and his choice to remain with IU for the bowl game rather than immediately moving on to his head-coaching job at Fresno State, Pruitt seemed unaware that DeBoer has only been with the Hoosiers since January.

“For him staying in the Bowl game, he’s finishing what he started, which says a lot about him,” Pruitt said. “You know, I’m sure he sat in the living room and probably helped recruit some of these guys that he’s coaching and he’s helping them finish out this season, which says a lot about him.

“I think he’s done a fantastic job. Lost a quarterback during the season. They find ways to create explosive plays every game, but they also play with a certain amount of toughness and they are physical every game. So I can see why he got offered a head job, and based off watching how they have played the last couple of years, creates a lot of problems.”

Earlier in the press conference, Pruitt talked about the Hoosiers having “good imagination” on offense.

“I think they have got big men up front who can lean on you when you run the football and they do a nice job protecting the quarterback,” Pruitt said. “The quarterback has a way that he can extend plays and hurt you with his feet. Defensively, lots of movement. They play hard. They keep the ball in front of them. They keep the ball contained. They make you block them.

“They don’t give up a lot of explosive plays and they find ways to create turnovers. You look at them on special teams, they have a dynamic returner in the punt and kickoff return game. When you look at their punt team, they give you a thousand different looks. So a very well-coached team that plays the right way.”

3 comments

  1. Pruitt should be fuzzy on Indiana coordinators…..neither (Wommack or DeBoer) is a household name or have national recognition. Wommack father is well known, but the son has never be a defensive coordination before on a P5 team. An all of DeBoer experience is basically out west. I doubt if any power five coach (outside the Big Ten and provide he has not coached in the Big Ten) knows very much about Indiana football. Basically Indiana football has been irrelevant for many many years (the worst power five university in football for years).

  2. Irrelevant of January 2 Gator Bowl though it would be nice to see IU win for IU fans. I so much liked and support 100% 4 games on new year’s day and a game new year’s eve for division 1 football. That’s it. I support going back to naming a mythical national champ even though there’s years like undefeated Michigan shared it with 1 loss Nebraska. Of course there were years that arguments could be made that the best team wasn’t named national champ. This leads to the current situation. What team/s both, currently and past left out of playoffs? refs calls on the field affecting game? Then the replay/review system? Is the so called college playoff system any better than a new year’s eve game plus 4 games on new year’s day tradition? I don’t think it’s as good (not even close). Just a bunch of emotional work trying to make things more perfect the more imperfect it becomes. I don’t think it is even close to be as good as it use to be. Money and emotions just like in professional football ( and basketball) where about half the teams make playoffs. I don’t watch many bowl games anymore. For me I have lost interest. There is something about the mythical national champ where one team or a couple teams being named that that I much prefer over the current playoff situation. Please don’t expand it to more teams because then the next couple teams left out will think it should be expanded more on and on and on. A team can solve that problem by winning every game it plays and stake its claim to mythical national championship. Something mythical about the way it was. I do plan to watch some or all the Gator Bowl during some of my time in San Diego County, California.

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