Vol Report: Pruitt, Staff Continue to Evaluate on Day 2 in Pads

UT Sports Information

Coach Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript Below 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jobs are wide open and position battles continue as the Tennessee football team began its second week of spring practice on Tuesday at Haslam Field.

UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt told media following the Vols’ second practice in pads, and fourth overall, that everything a player does on the field is being evaluated.

The new staff has given each Vol an opportunity for a fresh start. Some players are even experimenting at new positions for the first half of the spring session.

Everybody has an opportunity to play – they just have to prove it on the field.

“Every day we evaluate all four groups,” Pruitt said. “We don’t have any starters. We don’t have any second or third team guys. We have a rep chart. Everything is being evaluated.”

Pruitt said the team will scrimmage twice before the DISH Orange and White Game on April 21 (2 p.m., SEC Network) – giving the Vols three chances to replicate what a game will be like this fall.

It’s clear, he wants to test his young team.

“(The coaches) are not there to encourage you,” Pruitt said about scrimmages. “They’re not there to correct you. You’re playing just your 11 guys on one side of the ball, so that in itself is new. You definitely have to do that. It’s kind of like a test. You go to class for a certain period of time, you get the information and then they test you on it to see what kind of knowledge you’ve retained. That’s what a scrimmage is.

“To me, when you have the Orange and White game, you add the element when you create a game-like atmosphere. There’s a little more excitement, a little more anxiety, a little more pressure, butterflies. Some guys perform better in those situations, some guys perform worse.

“We need to find out who those guys are.”

Offense “Kicks Defense’s Tail”
Pruitt said he was ‘ticked off’ walking off the field, but didn’t know if he was mad at the whole team or just the defense because “the offense kicked the defense’s tail.”

A defensive coordinator the last five years at Alabama, Georgia and Florida State, Pruitt is used to only coaching the defense and adjusting to managing the entire squad.

Still he knows effort when he sees it and the Vols’ coach wants more out of his team.

“One thing I did notice today was that we had a lot of guys that had two days off and did not respond the right way,” Pruitt said. “We have to fix that….I wish we had 30 of them (spring practice) so we could, but we only get 15. I’m not sure everyone took advantage of their opportunities today. We will watch the tape and see if that’s right or not.”

Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript – March 27, 2018

Opening Statement:
“It was an interesting day out there today for me. Coming off of the field I was ticked off, I don’t know if it’s because I am mad at the way the whole team practiced or if it’s because the offense kicked the defense’s tail. I haven’t figured it out yet, so I have to watch tape and see. One thing I did notice today was that we had a lot of guys that had two days off and did not respond the right way. We have to fix that. We need to be having spring practice every day. I wish we had 30 of them so we could, but we only get 15. I’m not sure everyone took advantage of their opportunities today. We will watch the tape and see if that’s right or not.”

On the offense making big plays against the defense today:
“Sometimes you get beat because the other guy is better than you. Sometimes you get beat because you don’t execute the right way. If the other team beats us because they are better than us, that’s one thing. When you make mental errors, it’s another. We made a lot of mental errors out there today. It was not very focused in the meetings. We did not take what we went over in the meetings onto the field. That probably contributed to some of it.”

On the progression of the players who are testing different positions:
“We will look at their whole body of work. We are still installing. We will install for five days before we really slow it down. We will see after seven days if we want to let those guys scrimmage on the ninth day or if we should go ahead and move them back to their original position. They are learning both right now.”

On preparing for the Orange and White game:
“Every day we evaluate all four groups. We don’t have any starters. We don’t have any second or third team guys. We have a rep chart. Everything is being evaluated. There is only so much pressure a coaching staff can put on guys to see how they respond in adverse situations. When you go to a scrimmage, I have seen guys that practice really well, then go to a scrimmage situation so it’s new and they have anxiety so they don’t perform well at the stadium. You have guys that perform fine in all of the practice situations and then go to the stadium and there is 102,000 people in the stadium and they have anxiety there and they don’t respond in the right way. Sometimes you find guys who rise to the occasion. I want to create a game like situation for the team to see who the competitors are. That’s one of the things we talked about going into spring practice, it was finding the guys who love to compete when the game is on the line. The only way to figure that out is to put them in a game like situation and pick sides and let’s go. My goal is to treat it just like it’s a game for us. We want to prepare and get used to our expectations because everything is new. Everything is new to what these guys have been accustomed to. I don’t want our first time to be when we are heading to Charlotte. We want to get it the way it’s going to be the night before a game. That’s what we are going to do.”

On if there are any position groups that have stood out:
“I’d say every group does some things well at times and then some things poorly at times. That’s really the thing you’re trying to do is kind of create a standard, be detailed about what we want to get done and try to get the guys to do it over and over again. A lot of our guys are trying to figure out exactly what the standard is. We’re improving and they’re willing, but we’ve gotta continue to make strides and we’re definitely not good enough to go backwards in a day.”

On what he hopes to learn from scheduled scrimmages:
“Your practice is kind of like you go in there and have meetings, you go over what you’re gonna go over and then you go out to practice and you do walkthroughs, then you make your individual practice around the things that you plan on doing that day. Then you have, whether it’s half-line, tray drill or man to man drills, so you kind of take the next step. Then, whether it’s seven on seven, it kind of works its way into teams. From there, that’s practice. There’s a little difference when you go out there and the coaches aren’t out there on the field with you, and you gotta make the calls, you going get lined up. They’re not there to encourage you, they’re not there to correct you. You’re playing just your 11 guys on one side of the ball, so that in itself is new. You definitely have to do that. It’s kind of like a test. You go to class for a certain period of time, you get the information and then they test you on it to see what kind of knowledge you’ve retained. That’s what a scrimmage is. To me, when you have the Orange and White game, you add the element when you create a game-like atmosphere. There’s a little more excitement, a little more anxiety, a little more pressure, butterflies. Some guys perform better in those situations, some guys perform worse. We need to find out who those guys are.”

On if there are any position groups that are better than when he originally evaluated the team:
“When I watched the film when I first got here, I’m just trying to get an idea, first of all how to kind of go about the recruiting class, to have an idea. Can you move guys around? Can other guys play different positions? Because certain guys that were recruited here might not necessarily fit what I want to do with them. I didn’t really look at it as a group. I just kind of looked at it from an individual basis.”

On what he is looking for from defensive backs:
“We need all our defensive backs to be able to play more than one position. First of all, it helps them create value in themselves. If you’re going to play five defensive backs, you want your sixth best defensive back to be the first guy in the game if one of those five guys gets hurt. So, if your left corner gets hurt, and you got 10 guys, and it just so happens that the backup left corner is the 10th best player, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to put the 10th best guy in before you put the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth guy in. We want all our guys to learn multiple positions, and we teach things by concepts, so we’re working a lot of guys there.”

On how the process of installing new schemes has gone through four practices:
“I think the big thing for our guys is the meetings. I think the meetings are a little different than what they’re accustomed to. I do think the guys are trying hard to grasp it. Obviously it’s a different defense, so there’s not a lot of familiarity when you cross over. It’s a lot of new concepts, but it’s no different in any other place I’ve been. When you start in the spring and you start installing for the guys, if you have freshmen out there, which everybody’s like a freshman because it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it, usually it’s the second time through in the second week before they kind of start grasping everything.”

On who has stood out on offense:
“When we do a good job protecting, our guys have made some good throws. When we step in the right direction and play with good pad level up front, all of our runners are capable of creating positive plays. It’s hard to single anybody out, but when everybody is on the same page, good things have happened.”

On special teams:
“We are doing a lot of drills right now, a lot of fundamentals. For us to go out there and do a certain amount of teams as far as first team, second team, third team, we don’t even know who the best football players are yet. We don’t know who’s going to get on the bus and go to the first game, so for us, we need to teach as many fundamentals as we can. Stay with the basics, whether it’s how to protect and punt or hold up in punt return, how to stack kick-off return, how to press the ball in the cover game. We’re doing as many things as we can that way, and then as we build after the next couple of practices, we’ll get into more teamwork.”

On behind honored in his hometown of Rainesville, Ala. with the key to the city: 
“I have a lot of pride in where I’m from, and I think the people in our community do. I was fired up about it and very appreciative of it, but the main thing I was fired up about is my old high school team won the state championship in basketball. That was a big deal to me and our community.”

On what he does to show his team they are picking up in things:
“Offenses create a lot of multiples when you talk about the defensive side and the way they move around. That’s the way the game is in college. Everybody is going fast, snapping the ball. You get a lot of rocket motions and unusual formations. You have to recognize formations, splits, backfield locations, whatever it is, so they’re creating multiples. The more multiples you have and the more multiples they have, it just becomes a lot of stuff. Communicating is a big deal. You have to be a good communicator if you’re going to play good defense, because the first thing nowadays is you have to get lined up, and everybody has to be on the same page. We’ll tell a lot more of that. There may be guys out here right now that can make the calls, do this and do that, but when we roll out there the first time to scrimmage, they may not can do it. When we have the Orange and White game, and hopefully we have the crowd that I’m expecting, the may excel or they may not. We’ll see, but we need to know that.”

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