Brady Hoke, interim Tennessee Vols coach, says final two games are about the seniors
"They’ve 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," Hoke said during his Monday news conference.
Hoke was appointed by athletic director John Currie as the Vols' interim coach on Sunday after Tennessee fired Butch Jones.
“As a staff, we are going to coach our hearts out for the seniors," Hoke said.
Hoke says 'tweaks' are coming
Hoke, who formerly was the head coach at Michigan, San Diego State and Ball State, is in his first year as UT's defensive line coach.
Hoke commended Jones for his "hard work" and added that he thought Jones did an "incredible job" in his five seasons at Tennessee.
"We lost a good man," Hoke said of Jones.
But Hoke added that the coaching staff has 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.”
The Vols (4-6, 0-6 SEC) must win their next two games to clinch a bowl bid. Tennessee hasn't missed a bowl since 2013, Jones' first season. Tennessee will host LSU (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Hoke said he will make some changes and added that factors into why he's closing practice this week. Previously, the Vols had a portion of their Tuesday practice open to the media each week during the season.
“We will tweak some things because of the comfort level I have and how I would like to run a program," Hoke said.
He wouldn't elaborate on the tweaks he has planned.
Hoke will follow advice of a famed coach
Hoke said former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler gave him a piece of advice years ago before Hoke embarked on his first head coaching stint at Ball State: Be yourself.
Hoke will keep those words from Schembechler, who won 194 games at Michigan from 1969-89, in mind as he navigates the next two weeks.
“I’ve got to be who I am," Hoke said. "If not, that would be a fraud.”
Hoke has 12 years of experience as a head coach, most recently at Michigan from 2011-14. He was 31-20 with the Wolverines.
His overall head coaching record is 78-70.
After being fired at Michigan, Hoke was Oregon's defensive coordinator for one season in 2016.
Hoke's first game as interim will come against Ed Orgeron, who was promoted to LSU's head chair after an seven-game audition as interim following Les Miles' ouster.
Hoke didn't say whether he and Currie discussed the possibility of Hoke throwing his hat into the ring to fill the vacancy.
“John and I, we had a good conversation," Hoke said. "That’s really about as much of it that I want to get into or would get into with you. We had a great conversation. I was very honored that he entrusted this in us. We just want to win for those seniors.”
Although the prospect of Hoke emerging as a candidate for Jones' job seems unlikely, a strong finish to the season could help staff members land a job at a new school if Jones' replacement overhauls the staff, as expected.