Vol Report: Tennessee Continues Spring Experiments  

UT Sports Information

Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript Below

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team continues to have players experiment at new positions in an effort to find the best fits for the 2018 season.

The Vols held their 10th practice of the spring on Tuesday at Haslam Field and head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff spent plenty of time evaluating several players trying out new positions.

Early enrollee Alontae Taylor started the spring at wide receiver, but moved to defensive back on Tuesday, while redshirt freshman Princeton Fant got a look at linebacker after starting the spring at running back. Several defensive lineman moved to the offensive line in an effort to bolster the depth at that unit.

“We switched a lot of guys to begin with, and we said we were going to go seven days,” Pruitt said. “We got to seven days and we felt like we needed to see a little bit more after we scrimmaged. There’s several guys out there that we actually changed sides of the ball. For instance, (Princeton) Fant went from playing running back, which he had never played, to now we put him at inside linebacker. Alontae Taylor has went from wide receiver – which, he was a high school quarterback – to now he’s playing corner. We took three defensive linemen and moved them to offense. We moved a bunch of them.”

Of course, none of the position changes are final. Pruitt and his staff are using the spring to figure who fits best at what positions in addition to installing their schemes.

After scrimmaging for the first time on Saturday, Pruitt felt the team practiced with a purpose on Tuesday.

“The last two or three times that we have practiced, to me, we’ve kind of competed the right way,” Pruitt said. “Not the entirety of the practice, but for the most part. What we have to do is when we get to that point, we have to get guys where they try to get the other guys going instead of the coaching staff, because obviously we aren’t going to be out there during the game. That’s part of learning how to play football, it’s part of learning how to be a team. Hopefully in the next five days, we can start having some guys that step up and find a way to get everybody else going.”

Sherrer, Helton Calling Plays
Pruitt confirmed that defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer will call the defensive plays and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton will call the offensive plays this season.

Pruitt, who was the nation’s top defensive coordinator the last five years, said several of his coaches know the system they are installing and could comfortably call plays, too. He stressed there are no egos on his staff.

“The thing about our staff is if we said Tracy Rocker, you make the calls, he could make the calls,” Pruitt said. “If we said Chris Rumph, you make the calls, he could make them. Charles Kelly has been making them for a long time. Will Friend, he could call the offense. Chris Weinke could call the offense. I didn’t say Terry (Fair), I didn’t say David (Johnson), and I didn’t say Brian (Niedermeyer), not because they’re not capable, they just haven’t worked in this system before. The other guys are very familiar with what we want to get done, how we want to do it, and all 10 of them are very involved in our daily planning.”

Taylor Making an Impact 
Rising redshirt junior Darrell Taylor started seven games at defensive end last fall, but he is making the transition to outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme this spring.

“Darrell has done a good job this spring,” Pruitt said. “He seems to be willing to learn.”

Pruitt said the Waverly, Va., native is standing out in some areas, but stressed that he needs to perform better on special teams.

He’s done some good things on defense as far as rushing the quarterback, and was stout at the end of the line … (But) he needs to improve on how he plays on special teams.”

Taylor totaled 27 tackles with four tackles for loss and three sacks in 2017.

American Idol Winner to Perform at DISH Orange & White Game
Nashville country music sensation Trent Harmon (Big Machine Records) will perform at the Toyota Volunteer Village in Lot 9 prior to the DISH Orange & White Game. Harmon won the 15th season of American Idol in April of 2016. His hit song, “There’s A Girl” is currently being played throughout the nation. Trent Harmon – There’s A Girl Video

Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript – April 10

Opening Statement:
“After we watched the film as a staff and watched it with our players, I think there was a lot of lessons learned for everybody, including the coaching staff and the players. When guys did it the right way, we had success. When we didn’t, the other side had success. The key to the drill is to find a way to do it right all the time, understand what to do. We made a lot of mental errors in the scrimmage, missed some tackles, had a few turnovers. I thought today after watching the film, watching it with the players, I felt like our players practiced with a little bit of purpose today. The last two or three times that we have practiced, to me, we’ve kind of competed the right way. Not the entirety of the practice, but for the most part. What we have to do is when we get to that point, we have to get guys where they try to get the other guys going instead of the coaching staff, because obviously we aren’t going to be out there during the game. That’s part of learning how to play football, it’s part of learning how to be a team. Hopefully in the next five days, we can start having some guys that step up and find a way to get everybody else going.”

On switching certain players to different positions:
“We switched a lot of guys to begin with, and we said we were going to go seven days. We got to seven days and we felt like we needed to see a little bit more after we scrimmaged. There’s several guys out there that we actually changed sides of the ball. For instance, Princeton Fant went from playing running back, which he had never played, to now we put him at inside linebacker. Alontae Taylor has went from wide receiver – which he was a high school quarterback – to now he’s playing corner. We took three defensive linemen and moved them to offense. We moved a bunch of them. First of all, we like depth on the offensive line, so we do have some guys. Just common sense, you got nine defensive linemen, and you’re only playing three at a time, and you got six offensive linemen, so find the guys who’ve played offense and let’s get them over there and let’s get them some work for the couple of days. Let’s see at least if they have a foundation, and possibly they can be an emergency down the road. This isn’t going to be a final switch for Alontae Taylor. We’re trying to develop depth and competition and the secondary. There may be a point sometimes in the season, we had it this past year, you lose five guys at one position. We still play on Saturdays so we have to find a way. So, if you’re going to do that type of stuff, right now is the time to do it. I told Alontae before we went out there, I said, ‘I realize you have no idea what you’re doing. Coach Terry Fair is going to tell you every snap. You do it to the best of your ability.’ I said that I can tell whether or not you can play at that position one day just by your movements. Obviously, if you’ve got offensive linemen that have practiced one practice and you’re throwing 10 days of install at them, they’re not going to be very good. We tried to scale back today when those guys were in to give them a chance, just so we can kind of see and evaluate moving forward.”

On if he has seen improvement since Saturday’s scrimmage:
“Sometimes, defensively, you might not play very well, but you have success because it takes a lot more moving parts on the offensive side of the ball. Sometimes when you look at the end result on the offensive side, it may not be as good or bad as you think it is. Sometimes you may not block a soul, but the running back runs for 30 yards. The next time, you may block everybody, and the guys runs up there and doesn’t make a very good run, makes the wrong cut. From the scrimmage, there was a lot of that. We don’t have 11 guys doing and playing what we think is winning football. We know what that standard is and what that expectation is, and our kids are understanding that. To me, I think most of the time, when you watch teams, they improve more from the first to the second game. I think today, considering we swapped a lot of guys around, I thought our guys improved from a little more physicality, a little more running to the ball. For the first time since I’ve been out there on the field, I tried to make sure I was out of the way. I had to get out of the way, and I had to back up, so that’s a good thing.”

On players learning the defensive scheme:
“I don’t think it’s very hard to play our defense. We teach basically eight concepts, and that’s really for the linebackers and the secondary. To me, a two eye is the same as a three technique, four eye, five, technique is technique. So, either you’re playing technique or you’re moving. At the end of the day, like I told Princeton Fant, you’re not going to know one call, and I’m not worried about it. Let the coaches holler and scream at you, and when the ball is turned over, find the guy with the ball, and let me see you go thud his butt up. That’s really what football is. We’ll coach the rest of it as you have a chance to learn. Sometimes I think we make it a little harder than what it really is.”

On Latrell Bumphus and other position changes:
“I think Latrell Bumphus played defense in high school, and we want to figure out who the best players are. I go back to my high school background. Sometimes you had to play guys on both sides of the ball. When it comes down to the last two minutes, I’d like to have the best players on the field. If we lose two or three guys at a certain position, and we need to make some moves to figure out the best way and maybe have to change who we are, then we want to be able to do that. We don’t want October or November to be the first time they’ve ever done it. We want to give them a little bit of background. We’ll have an idea of if they can do it, plus it will help us when we get new guys that come in. I mean, there’s people out there that are grad transfers that may be looking to leave, and we need to know what we need and what we don’t need. So, move some guys around.”

On what he saw from Jarrett Guarantano and Will McBride during the scrimmage:
“I think the biggest thing with both of them is, you’re never going to play perfect. No player is. We tell our guys all the time that there’s no perfect player, there’s no perfect coaches. You’ve got to be able to play the next play. If you throw a 60-yard touchdown, what are you going to do the next snap? If you turn the ball over, if you don’t make the right check, if you play very poorly in the first quarter, is that going to affect how you play the next three quarters? To me, the biggest thing about playing quarterback is how do you affect your teammates? At the end of the day, the bottom line is, we want to take the football and go put it in the end zone. So you have to get all 11 guys. Some guys have a way about them where they can get the other guys to play at their best. I think that’s what makes some of the best quarterbacks who have ever played, that’s what separates them. All quarterbacks, they wouldn’t be playing the position if they didn’t have arm talent, and it’s a blessing if they have foot talent, which both of these guys do. Both guys are smart, they’re good competitors. But, the key to the drill is who’s going to get the other guys to play at their best?”

On Coach Sherrer making defensive calls:
“When we go out there at practice, Kevin is making the calls. Tyson Helton is calling them on offense. The thing about our staff is if we said Tracy Rocker, you make the calls, he could make the calls. If we said Chris Rumph, you make the calls, he could make them. Charles Kelly has been making them for a long time. Will Friend, he could call the offense. Chris Weinke could call the offense. I didn’t say Terry, I didn’t say David, and I didn’t say Brian, not because they’re not capable, they just haven’t worked in this system before. The other guys are very familiar with what we want to get done, how we want to do it, and all 10 of them are very involved in our daily planning.”

On possible limitations to Orange and White game:
“We’re going to format it to be exciting, I hope. We’re going to take from things and places we’ve been before. The last four minutes of each half is going to be two minutes. It doesn’t matter the score, it’s going to be two minutes back and forth, so there’s a little bit of excitement. Nobody wants to go out there and watch you run zone or power over and over and over and sit on the clock. So, we want to play and put our players in position to compete. We’re not going to go out there and do everything, but heck, we don’t do a whole lot anyhow.”

On the format of the Orange and White Game:
“We’re going to play ones versus ones, so it’ll be the one offense on one team and the one defense will be on another team. With the one offense will be the two defense, and with the one defense will be the two offense. So we have good on good and we’ll play it that way. You can draft if you have a team with a lot of veterans that knows what’s going on and you have a lot of depth, which we do not. So you don’t want to have one guy get injured and have to play a guy at left tackle and he can’t block me, so every time the quarterback drops back to pass, he gets sacked. That wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun.”

On the body language of the team during practice:
“It’s funny you talk about body language, I threw out the first pitch the other night at the baseball game, and I threw it about six yards left of home plate. We had a catcher back there and he couldn’t even get over there to it, it was so far left. So my wife calls me after the baseball game and she said ‘Coach Pruitt’ and I said ‘yes ma’am’. She said ‘if you’re going to preach about body language, how about demonstrating it yourself. You threw that ball up against the backstop, you should have seen yourself walking off of the field’. So she straightened me out really fast on that pitch.”

On the mentality of players that changed positions and Darrell Taylor’s performance in the spring:
“Some of these guys changing positions, you line up on the goal line, you may want to put defensive linemen down as tight ends. We may want to play with nothing but offensive linemen and tight ends. We might not want to play with any wide receivers. It doesn’t matter how many offensive linemen are healthy. So we’re going to find a way to play the way that we want to play, and if we have to play some guys that have to do both, we’ll do that in certain situations. About Darrell Taylor, Darrell has done a good job this spring. He seems to be willing to learn. He needs to improve on how he plays on special teams, I can tell you that. I told him that after the scrimmage. He’s done some good things on defense as far as rushing the quarterback, and was stout at the end of the line, but running down on the punt team, he couldn’t run any faster than me, and that’s not how we want to practice.”

On the kicking unit’s progress in the spring
“We’ve been doing special teams every day. We did a lot of it in the scrimmage. We have to improve there, just like every position. We need to get better with our snappers, better with our holders. We have some new holders and have some new specialists. Like I told those guys out there today, I’m going to be at the game, so I don’t need to make you nervous.”

On Quarté Sapp’s performance:
“We’ve had a lot of guys that have grown in the offseason. One of the reasons we practice on TuesdayThursday and Saturday is so that we can lift three days a week, because we felt like we needed to grow physically. I think Quarté was 211 pounds when we got here in January, and the other day I saw that he was at 226. So that’s good, that’s a testament to him because not everyone has done that. It goes back to the guys that prepare, that study film on their own. Some of it has to do with your diet and your sleep as much as it does with what you eat.”

On Chance Hall returning to the practice field:
“Well I expect for all of them to be back after they have surgery pretty quickly. And Chance wants to play. It’s kind unusual, when I first got here, he and I had a conversation. For him, it’s been awhile since he had played, and I didn’t really know his story. So we sat down and talked and I think Chance is fired up about having an opportunity to get back out there, and that’s good to see. We need him back. And we have several guys that if we practiced for two more weeks, we would have a bunch of guys that would be cleared to practice. But we don’t. So it is what it is. We do have guys that have started to mix in out at practice, just maybe not in full contact. It’s good for them to get some reps.”

On if positon changes were due to him wanting more out of the offensive line:
No. It’s moving those guys based off of need and because they’ve all played offensive line before. And we may move other guys next week. So we’ll let those guys play defense and move those other guys inside. Same thing at all of the positions. We’re trying to learn concepts, we’re trying to learn how to block, tackle. We’re trying to learn how to compete, how to play with effort all the time. You talk about pop, I said it a while ago, it’s the first time that I needed to get out of the way today, which is a good thing. Most of the great players, probably the guys that are along these walls around here, I bet you Coach Fulmer, Coach Majors, Coach Dickey and Coach Neyland, I bet they didn’t have to get them to go. I bet that when they went out there to practice football, they were ready to practice. They may not have wanted to go to school, they may not have wanted to do a lot of things, but when it came time to play football, the real football players show up.”



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