Tennessee holds 2018 Pro Day

Football finally came back as Tennessee hosted its Pro Day to show off more than 20 athletes Monday in the Anderson Training Center. Players included running back John Kelly, punter Trevor Daniel, defensive back Rashaan Gaulden and defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie. Each player appeared in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis as well.

The Anderson Training Facility filled with representatives from 31 NFL teams and multiple general managers, including Jon Robinson of the Tennessee Titans. Oakland Raiders General Manager and former Volunteers football alumnus Reggie McKenzie also made an appearance in Knoxville.

Maybe the biggest buzz of the day came from defensive back and returner Evan Berry, who saw some action as a receiver on Monday. Berry infamously remained underutilized on the offensive side of the ball in the Butch Jones era despite his incredible field vision. He logged five touchdowns in just two seasons as a kick/punt returner.

“I was planning on doing both earlier on, but I decided that I wanted to put my all of my focus into one thing and do that to the best of my ability without having to worry about two things at once,” Berry said about switching to a wide receiver for drills.

Gaulden also accumulated praise and enhanced his draft stock since declaring for the draft earlier this year. Scouts report that Gaulden could be picked within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft despite a slower 40-yard dash than expected (4.61) at the Combine. Gaulden said he followed the example of others to improve.

“Guys like Derek Barnett and Cam Sutton showed me that in the offseason you really have to take it to another level as far as film study,” Gaulden said about his dominant play in Tennessee orange. “You have to get on the field and get extra time in, and you also have to step up as a leader and be able to rally your defensive backs and get them on the same page.”

John Kelly became one of the most anticipated players at the Pro Day. He did not run his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this month. Kelly clocked 4.65 officially. Still, some people can’t help but compare his play style to former Vols running back Alvin Kamara.

“A lot of teams have compared me to Alvin Kamara just as far as what we can do for an offense. I definitely feel like I was able to develop at Tennessee,” Kelly said. “Now in the NFL, there’s a lot of running backs that have to catch the ball and you have to give an easy target for the quarterback.”

Some scouts say Trevor Daniel could even be picked in the NFL Draft. He averaged 45 yards per punt and has solid size for his position. Daniel logged 23 reps in bench press and ran an impressive sub-five second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Other Notables:

Kahlil McKenzie made changes Monday morning, as he took some reps at offensive line. McKenzie said he’ll “do whatever they need me to do” to get on an NFL roster.

Some lesser scouted Tennessee players also got their time to shine on Monday, and some possibly put themselves in position to reach an NFL roster.

Ethan Wolf looks forward to the opportunity.

“Each and every one of us is just trying to come out here and put all of our hard work on display,” Wolf said. “Again, you know more later on, but right now you just get all the reps you can. I feel like a lot of guys out here did well.”

Full list of Pro Day participants:

Elliott Berry, Evan Berry, Trevor Daniel, Logan Fetzner, Holden Foster, Rashaan Gaulden, Jeff George, Jakob Johnson, Colton Jumper, John Kelly, Brett Kendrick, Justin Martin, Kahlil McKenzie, Aaron Medley, Emmanuel Moseley, Thomas Orradre, Jashon Robertson, Josh Smith, Coleman Thomas, Kendal Vickers, Shaq Wiggins and Ethan Wolf.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little

Vols’ 2018 National Signing Day: Pruitt signs multiple defenders

Tennessee has finished up its 2018 National Signing Day recruiting cycle and the Vols landed themselves the No. 20 overall ranked recruiting class according to 247sports.com.

Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his assistants are proud of where they went with this class, regardless of where they are ranked.

“We’re excited about the 20 young men we’ve added to this class,” Pruitt said. “These guys are going to lay the foundation for the next four to five years.”

The Vols finished the official signing day with six total signees, and five of the six came on defense.

3-Star Trevon Flowers, freshman, safety, 6-1, 185 lbs.

From: Tucker HS, Georgia.

A former baseball player who only played one year of high school football, Flowers chose to come to school and forego playing major league baseball.

“He played shortstop on his high school team and he’d possibly be getting drafted but wants to go to school,” Pruitt said. “He wants to play football and he’s going to be really good at it,”

Flowers is a versatile defensive player and will most likely be used as Pruitt’s prototypical “Minkah Fitzpatrick” type of player, otherwise known as the “star” position in Pruitt’s 3-4 style defense.

Pruitt sees Flowers playing a large role in the defense down the road.

“The good thing is he’s only done it for a year so he doesn’t have any bad habits. He could come play corner for us, he could play star, he could play safety. When we get him here we’ll see what he’s best suited for.”

He is expected to play everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, and Pruitt doesn’t see him having a problem with that.

“(Flowers is) a very unique individual, has a very good skill set as a defensive back and could probably play all six positions back there,”Pruitt said. “I think this guy’s going to be a very good player for us one day.”

3-Star Kurott Garland, freshman, defensive lineman, 6-3, 250 lbs. 

From: Heritage HS, Georgia.

Garland was a player the staff was looking at in between preparing for the playoffs and getting settled in at Tennessee.

“(Garland) was a young man that we found kind of over the break … looking through all the all-state teams just trying to find guys that possibly were under the radar,” Pruitt said. “He fits a need as far as a guy that can play defensive tackle for us … he’s going to be a really good football player.”

Garland, an undersized defensive tackle in Pruitt’s defense, would have to bulk up in order to receive significant playing time this upcoming season. Pruitt’s prototypical defensive tackle is roughly 285 pounds and takes up a lot of space in the middle of the defense.

4-Star Emmit Gooden, junior, defensive lineman, 6-4, 305 lbs.

From: Haywood HS/ Independence C.C. – JUCO.

Gooden is a transfer from junior college that has been trying to get to the university for a couple years now. After a stint at Independence Community College, Gooden is close to returning to his dream school.

“He’s going to finish up in May,” Pruitt said. “He has a little bit of work to do, but he’s a big man … really good motor, and another guys that fits for us inside with what we’re trying to do defensively.”

Gooden chose to return to Tennessee over Mississippi State, West Virginia and Arkansas. He also had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

3-Star John Mincey, freshman, defensive lineman, 6-4, 255 lbs. 

From: Clinch County HS, Georgia.

Mincey is a player that the staff has had their eyes on for a couple of years, and Pruitt is glad he decided to choose the Vols over South Carolina.

“Probably all of our guys on staff have had him in camp at some point in time,” Pruitt said. “He’s very athletic, plays basketball, and that’s another guy on the defensive front.”

Although he fits the frame of an ideal 3-4 defensive tackle, Pruitt believes he needs to put on some weight and fill out to compete for playing time this upcoming season – as Mincey sits at 255 pounds.

Mincey chose the Vols over South Carolina, Georgia, Auburn and Florida.

4-Star, JJ Peterson, freshman, linebacker, 6-2, 230 lbs. 

Colquitt County HS, Georgia.

Peterson is the crown and jewel of the class, plain and simple. Peterson was thought late to be considering flipping his commitment from Pruitt and the Vols to Alabama, but made himself a household name by sticking with his commitment on a patchy signing day for the big orange.

Peterson received high praise from his new head coach Jeremy Pruitt, and rightfully so. Peterson is the No. 48 overall player in the class, and one that Nick Saban pushed hard for, which left the Tide short of a coveted outside linebacker.

“We would have liked to have two inside linebackers but we got one,” Saban said in his press conference after the Tide wrapped up their 2018 recruiting cycle.

Pruitt is very optimistic about Peterson and his on-field ability.

“(JJ Peterson) has a very unique skill set at linebacker and can actually play all four positions, inside or outside,” Pruitt said. “He’s a guy that can play man-to-man on third down, he can rush the quarterback, but he’s a guy that can make plays in space also.”

Pruitt held on tight to his highest rated target, and wants the fan base to know it won’t be that way next spring.

“Give this staff a full year,” Pruitt said. “When you look at the rankings next year on National Signing Day, we’re gonna be right at the top.”

Edited by Seth Raborn

Jeremy Pruitt’s unusual path to Tennessee

Tennessee finally found its man to take over the football program after an exhausting search, and he goes by the name of Jeremy Pruitt. The Alabama defensive coordinator was introduced as the 26th head coach of Tennessee football by Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as the head football coach at the University of Tennessee,” said Pruitt during his introductory press conference. “There was a time and place when this university was feared among SEC teams. My goal as the head football coach at Tennessee is to get us back to that point.”

This may be Pruitt’s first head coaching job, but he is no stranger to success. In fact, he has registered four national championships in his time as a defense coordinator at the college level.

Pruitt began his coaching career in 1997 as a grad assistant for Alabama, followed by nine years of coaching high school football. When Nick Saban was hired as head coach at Alabama in 2007, Pruitt followed and worked his way up the chain to coaching the defensive backs. In 2013, Pruitt took a job as the defensive coordinator of Florida State, and then logged two seasons at Georgia as defensive coordinator before returning to Alabama in 2016.

“I’ve learned many things from Coach Saban. I started from ground zero his first year at Alabama, and I’ve worked for him in three different capacities,” Pruitt said. “I’ve learned as much from my dad as I have from any of them.”

Pruitt said his interest in coaching football occurred at the age of three, when he grew up around his father, who is a high school football coach in his hometown. “My dad was dragging me around to the fieldhouse all the time so I went around with him,” said Pruitt. He followed his father’s footsteps by coaching football at one of the most decorated high school programs in the country.

Serving as a defensive coordinator under head coach Rush Propst from 2004-06 at Hoover High School, Pruitt notched two state championships. Pruitt made frequent appearances on the MTV show – Two-A-Days – as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.

“I’m very thankful that I have an opportunity to stand here today,” Pruitt said. “For me being a high school football coach, I think this should inspire high school coaches across the country. If you do a good job and you keep working, you have an opportunity to move up.”

Things have moved quite quickly for Pruitt, especially since he is just 13 years removed from being a third-grade teacher in Fort Payne, AL. Pruitt was a kindergarten teacher to third grade physical education teacher for three years at an elementary school.

“I met Jeremy before today, and he told me that he started his career in a kindergarten to third-grade classroom, and that really clinched it for me,” said Davenport. “I knew he was a teacher, and I knew that at the heart of any great teacher was the concern for our students’ success, and I so appreciate that.”

Pruitt has quickly moved up in the chain of command in the sport of football, and it all started at the fieldhouse with his father as a child in Alabama. Things have sped by for Pruitt, from being a third-grade teacher just over a decade ago, to the head coach of Tennessee football in 2017.

“In this business if you stop, everybody is going to go right by you,” said Pruitt.

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo courtesy of Brad Matthews

Tennessee hires Jeremy Pruitt to be Vols 26th head football coach

Tennessee has named Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt the Vols 26th head football coach. University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer will hold a press conference Thursday evening at 6:05 p.m. ET to introduce Pruitt.

“I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level,” Fulmer stated in a press release from the University on Thursday morning.

“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria.”

Pruitt has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the country over the last several years, building a 128-31 record as a two-time Broyles Award Finalist and assistant coach.

“I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber,” Fulmer said. “He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.”

This year, Pruitt has coached Alabama’s defense to the No. 2 overall defense in the country after guiding the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 defense last season. From 2014-15, Pruitt coordinated the No. 7 and No. 17 overall defense in the country while at Georgia. In 2013, the Rainsville, Alabama native helped guide Florida State to a national championship behind the country’s third-ranked defense.

Pruitt has been a part of three other championships as well, helping guide Alabama to national championships (2009, 2011, 2012) as an assistant from 2007 to 2012 before leaving to take over as defensive coordinator at Florida State.

Before his coaching career began, Pruitt played college football as a defensive back at Middle Tennessee State before finishing his playing career at Alabama.

From 2000 to 2006, Pruitt was a highly respected defensive coordinator throughout the state of Alabama at Plainview, Fort Payne and Hoover High School. In 2007, he would become a defensive assistant under Nick Saban. Pruitt would serve as an assistant under Saban until 2009 before heading to Tallahassee in 2013 to serve as the Seminoles defensive coordinator.

While at Florida State, his defense was first in the nation in scoring, allowing just 10.7 points per game. The Seminoles defense also led the nation in interceptions with 26, while they allowed the third fewest yards per game (248.2). Pruitt was a 2013 finalist for the Broyles Award.

Following just one year as Florida State’s defensive coordinator, Pruitt traveled up north to Athens, Georgia to serve as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator for two years. In 2014, Georgia finish top 20 nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. While also serving as the secondary coach, Pruitt helped guide Georgia’s defense to the nation’s No. 1 pass defense in 2015.

The Alabama native returned to Alabama for his second stint in Tuscaloosa following Kirby Smart’s departure to Georgia. As defensive coordinator, Pruitt helped lead Alabama to the College Football Playoffs in both 2016 and 2017 as his defenses were the best in the nation in scoring defense.

Throughout his impressive time as an assistant coach, Pruitt has coached 34 NFL draft picks. Reuben Foster, Jonathan Allen and Jalen Ramsey are just a few of the players he has helped guide to the NFL. Pruitt has also coached 11 first-team All-Americans.

Pruitt replaces Butch Jones as the head coach of the Vols after Jones was fired on Nov. 12. In five years as Tennessee’s head coach, Jones was 34-27 and 14-24 in conference play.

The hiring of Pruitt wraps up a 25-day coaching search that brought national embarrassment following the Greg Schiano fiasco. During the search, John Currie was fired as director of athletics after just eight months on the job. Fulmer, Tennessee’s Hall of Fame football coach, took over as athletic director last Friday following the termination of Currie.

This evening’s press conference to introduce Pruitt will be held in the Peyton Manning locker room of Neyland Stadium.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews