Vols still trying to ‘figure it out,’ says Pruitt

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt speaks to the media following practice on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. (JAKE NICHOLS/The Tennessee Journalist)

Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon following his team’s practice, which came after The University of Tennessee’s first day of fall classes.

“Not a bad practice for the first day of school,” Pruitt first noted.

“That’s generally always a bad practice, but it was pretty good today.”

Pruitt continued in saying that while his team showed a bit of “bounce,” the Vols are still figuring out how to “sustain” as far as consistency and player improvement are concerned.

“You get nine or 10 guys doing it the right way on both sides of the ball, but it takes all 11,” Pruitt said.

“Gotta continue to figure it out,” he continued. “Gotta get other guys to put a little pressure on their peers.. cause your time is running out… the standard that we’re looking for, we’re still looking for that.

We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet.”

Pruitt also noted his offense’s apparent “cohesiveness” and that having Jauan Jennings back with the wide receiving corps is “cutting down on some of the reps for the wide receivers so they can stay a little fresher here toward the end of camp.”

While Pruitt commented on the cohesion of the Vols’ offense, he still has not named a starter at quarterback, nor has he even decided (publicly) whether Tennessee will play one or two quarterbacks in its season opener.

Moreover, the way Pruitt answered questions concerning who will take the field at quarterback (and when, if there are two options) shows that he isn’t partial to any position on the field, even after focusing solely on defense for so many years.

“It’s interesting to me,” Pruitt said. “Y’all don’t ask me who’s going to be the starter at center, who’s going to be the starter at strong safety, who’s going to be the starter at mike linebacker. We don’t know that either. We’ll figure it out as we get there.”

More full quotes from Pruitt’s Wednesday post-practice media session can be found below.

  • On J.J. Peterson (who is still not on campus in Knoxville due to finishing a summer class in Georgia): “Nah, it’s the same deal,” Pruitt said when asked about an update on the matter. “That’s the good thing about any student-athlete. Once they finish up their requirements, pass the NCAA Clearinghouse, you know as long as it’s not a deadline past entering school, they can start school. We still expect him to be here.”
  • On Trey Smith’s performance after being cleared for full contact: “I think Trey, he’s probably excited to be out there. I’m sure the rest of the guys are, too. He jumped right in there and took all the reps; we probably limited him there a little bit to kind of build him up there in a couple of periods.”
  • Pruitt on whether he’ll put starters in on special teams: “I think we need to play our best players. If you’re not a good special teams player, then you’re probably not a good offense or defensive player.. There have been players.. we’ve rested them on defense, just so they could be on the punt team. So we’re going to play our best players on special teams.”
  • On Jauan Jennings after he has been hurt: “Today, he was out there taking some licks, and he needs to take licks. When you got a black jersey on, obviously no contact. If you look, those are the guys, traditionally in camp, that turn the ball over. It’s good to get him back there because he needs some of that.”
  • What Pruitt looks for in a good defense: “How many points you give up. That’s probably the most important. But to do that, if you don’t want to give up a lot of points, you can’t give up big plays, you need to get turnovers, need to be a good tackling team, need to get off the field on third down.. To me, I believe if you keep good edges, keep the ball in front of you, and make the other team beat you, you got a chance.”
  • Pruitt on what ‘strain’ means to him: “I can remember when I was a young kid, we used to have some drills we did in the offseason where somebody laid on their back, and to win, you’d have to get off your back, and somebody would hold you down. That was the old school days.. in the gym, you know? So you gotta strain to get off your back if you want to win the drill, right? …That’s the easiest way to put it to me.”
  • On cornerbacks: “I think we got guys that have talent. Everybody in our program is still learning the ‘how.’ They pretty much know what to do. The how to do it? We’re still trying to master that.”
  • On consistency and effort: “There’s a whole lot of really good things going on, but just a whole lot of inconsistencies. There’s different guys that raise their level every day, and there’s some guys that can’t sustain every day.. we gotta get ’em to do that all the time.. when they’re tired, when they don’t feel good, when it’s hot, when the other team’s kicking their tail. They gotta find a way to do it. Figure it out. We got a long ways to go in that department.”
  • On any idea of certain players already being considered starters: “I don’t know that we have anywhere where we know who’ll be a starter. I think we got that much competition.. play the guys that’s doing it right, play the guys that’s practicing the right way. It’s a performance-based deal, you know?”

Whatever Pruitt and the Vols haven’t “figured out” or determined just yet, they better get to it soon. Tennessee kicks off against West Virginia in just 1o days, at 3:30 p.m. on September 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The game will be shown on  CBS.