KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team continued to display excitement and focus at the challenge posed by No. 1/1 Alabama as it wrapped up practice on Wednesday night at Haslam Field.
“We had a good practice out there today, I think that a lot of our guys are excited about this week. It’s a great opportunity, you don’t get but probably one chance in the season to play the team that’s considered the best team in the country, and I think these guys probably are,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
Pruitt will be very familiar with the Alabama team after serving on Nick Saban’s staff for eight years, including the last two as defensive coordinator. And while Pruitt helped lead the Crimson Tide to four national championships, including the 2017 title, during his time in Tuscaloosa, Pruitt said the main reason he coaches is to help student-athletes achieve their goals.
Many of his players at Alabama, Florida State and Georgia have all spoken about how Pruitt has helped them on and off the field.
“Everywhere I’ve coached, I’ve really had one goal, and that was to help the players get what they want,” Pruitt said. “I think it’s why we’re in the business. We’re in it for the players. It gives us a great opportunity to give back to them. I know me as a player growing up, I was very fortunate to play for a lot of really good coaches that not only helped me as a football player, that helped me off the field…And there’s good times and there’s tough times, and I think you grow in that as you build teams and as you build a relationship. I have lots of good memories of the guys that I’ve coached at Alabama. The relationships that we have will last forever, just like the ones at Florida State and Georgia and the ones I had in high school and the guys we have here at Tennessee. I think that’s what coaching’s all about, and, to me, it’s why I’m in the business.”
For the third straight week the Vols will face a ranked opponent as they welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide into Neyland Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for the annual meeting on the Third Saturday in October. The game will air live on CBS with Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson calling the action. Saturday will mark the third time the Vols have played live on CBS this season.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys to compete against one of the best teams in the country, and I think our guys are looking forward to it,” Pruitt said.
“(Alabama’s) explosive, they can break tackles, they’re physical, lots of complete football players. There’s lots of guys on their offense and defense you’ll be watching play for a long, long time, so got really good players, very well coached. They play the right way. We’ll have our hands full for sure.”
Third Saturday in October
The Vols are 38-55-7 all-time against the Crimson Tide, having played every year since 1928 with the exception of 1943. Tennessee is 20-25-1 at home against Alabama. The game was traditionally played on the third Saturday in October prior to the 1992 football season, when the SEC split into Eastern and Western divisions. From 1995 to 2015, it was only scheduled for that date six times, though it was scheduled for that date in 2016-18.
“I think everybody that’s in the business that we’re in are competitors. We’re playing a football game and that’s what we do. That’s what we get paid to do and coach to do, so obviously we’re going to give our all to be at our best,” Pruitt said
Tennessee Welcomes SEC Nation to Rocky Top
Tennessee will welcome SEC Nation to Rocky Top this weekend for the Third Saturday in October matchup between the Vols and Crimson Tide. SEC Nation will be airing live from 10 a.m. – Noon ET from Ayres Hall, the show will delve into the storylines of the Southeastern Conference football, the weekend’s biggest matchups and more before the 3:30 p.m. start time.
SEC Nation includes live reports, analysis and features surrounding the world of SEC football, as well as special appearances from hometown favorites throughout the morning. Laura Rutledge hosts the traveling program show, navigating the Saturday morning conversations with analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum along with reporter Lauren Sisler.
This will be SEC Nation’s sixth time in Knoxville and the Vols’ 15th total appearance on the show.
Vols are ALL IN Against Alzheimer’s
Vol fans can go ALL IN to boost Alzheimer’s research at The Pat Summitt Clinic at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. Tennessee Athletics and the Vol Network have joined forces with the medical center and ask fans to join them in ALL IN, a program where everyone with the Volunteer spirit can help tackle major diseases that impact Tennesseans.
The inaugural effort is ALL IN Against Alzheimer’s and will benefit the Alzheimer’s Research Initiative, a fundraising endeavor to increase research capabilities by the medical center’s team at The Pat Summitt Clinic.
Fans can pick up an official ALL IN shaker for just $5 at several retailers throughout the state of Tennessee, including: Pilot, Food City, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Kubota, Kroger, Long’s Drug Store, Orange Mountain Designs, Alumni Hall, HoundDogs, the gift shop at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the Vol Shop (and Tennessee Team Shops inside Neyland Stadium), and VolWallArt.com.
Every shaker purchase includes a free 20-ounce fountain drink at any home football game this season at Neyland Stadium.
Support of the Pat Summitt Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative is critical to the advancement of early diagnosis, treatment, and one day, a cure. All philanthropic gifts remain in East Tennessee supporting the Pat Summitt Clinic team in research, education, treatment and care of patients and families in our community. Hope lies in the research.
Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Post-Practice Press Conference Transcript (Oct. 17)
“We had a good practice out there today, I think that a lot of our guys are excited about this week. It’s a great opportunity, you don’t get but probably one chance in the season to play the team that’s considered the best team in the country, and I think these guys probably are. We’ve talked about it before, how big and athletic they are on both sides of the ball, how well coached they are. They play the right way. So, it’s a great opportunity for our guys to compete against one of the best teams in the country, and I think our guys are looking forward to it.”
On JJ Peterson working at outside linebacker and if that is related to Jonathan Kongbo’s injury:
“He’s a guy that, when we recruit linebackers, we like to recruit what we call four-for-four guys, so they can play all four spots. JJ is a guy that physically could do that. Probably down the road, we foresee him possibly being an inside linebacker, but hey, he’s a guy that could play outside as well. So, with our lack of depth at outside linebacker, we’ve given him some looks. He’s getting closer to being physically able to participate, but he still has a long way to go mentally wise, and that’s understandable, missing primarily all of fall camp and the entire summer. Hey, JJ is going to be a really good football player one day as long as he works hard and does what he’s supposed to do. He’s got an opportunity to do that because he’s got good ability. We’re just giving him an opportunity right now to see if he could help us in any way.”
On if he reached out to Coach Nick Saban for head coaching advice:
“Well, most of the time when you get an opportunity like I have, you do call the folks that you’ve been associated with and ask for advice. With the kind of unique circumstance of being at Tennessee and Coach Saban being at Alabama, I don’t think it’s fair to him for me to call and ask him questions, not that he wouldn’t help me, I really believe that he would. But, we’re competing against each other every single day in recruiting. It’s one of the biggest rivalries out there. So, I don’t feel like I should put him in that situation, if that makes sense. I mean, if he called me and asked me what he could do to help his program, I’d second guess before I’d try to give him some help, I can assure you that. So, I’m not going to do that to him.”
On how he’s used those beginning years at Alabama as a guide and what he’s taken away from that experience as far as building a team:
“When I worked for Coach Saban, he really did me a tremendous favor by first of all hiring me. I had an opportunity to work in the weight room. I worked with academics. I worked in player development. In those three years I didn’t coach any position but every day that they had defensive meetings, I actually sat in the meetings so I got to hear and listen how everything was going to be orchestrated for that day, that week, the offseason, summer, the whole deal. Then we had individual meetings. One year I sat in the inside linebacker room. The next year I sat in the defensive back room then I’d mix around from the outside linebackers to defensive line so I could soak up and learn as much as I possibly could about the defense. Then being the secondary coach there and eventually being the defensive coordinator, I’ve had an opportunity to really work probably in every capacity from academics to strength and conditioning all the way to coaching. I had an opportunity to learn a lot so I’m thankful for that opportunity.”
On his conversations with former Alabama coach Gene Stallings:
“He just called and checked on me. He’s done it a couple times this season. You’ve got me, you’ve got Kevin Sherrer and you got Will Friend. We all played for Coach Stallings. When you get vested in something, you build teams, you develop relationships that last a lifetime and a lot of the lessons that I learned from playing for Coach Stallings we try to implement today. He told me a couple weeks ago about some of the things that he did when he first got to Texas A&M so that was something that I actually used.”
On limiting Alabama’s big plays on offense:
“As the week has gone on and I continue to watch tape, I told Coach Sherrer before we went to practice that I was going to let him call the game this week and I was just going to watch and let him do it. No, but these guys are really, really good. They’re explosive, they can break tackles, they’re physical, lots of complete football players. There’s lots of guys on their offense and defense you’ll be watching play for a long, long time so got really good players, very well coached. They play the right way. We’ll have our hands full for sure.”
On Dominick Wood-Anderson’s, Micah Abernathy’s and Jahmir Johnson’s availability:
“I’m not going to give Alabama exactly who’s going to be able to play and who’s not but all those guys are working hard to get ready to play. I think they already have enough advantages on us.”
On Riley Locklear being back at practice and how he’s looked:
“Any time you have a little scope it takes a little while to kind of get your conditioning back and really your confidence. Riley is fine physically, but you’ve got to develop confidence and get back there and strain a little bit on some big men, so he’s doing that, and I think if we needed him to play, he could play.”
On what he’s seen from the team in terms of energy and focus this week:
“Our guys have really worked hard every week. We’ve improved our practice habits. I think they’re having a little bit more of an understanding of kind of the standard, the expectation that we’re looking for every day. I think this has been another week that we’ve improved. It’s not just on Saturday’s that we’re looking for improvement, we’ve got to do it every day. If we’re going to improve on Saturday’s we’ve got to do it every single day, and I’ve seen that this week.”
On if this week will feel any different this week because of his close ties to Alabama:
“I think everybody that’s in the business that we’re in are competitors. We’re playing a football game and that’s what we do. That’s what we get paid to do and coach to do, so obviously we’re going to give our all to be at our best. The way I think all of us are wired, it wouldn’t matter if we were pitching quarters or playing cards or whatever, we’d be trying to beat each other.”
On this Alabama team is the best he’s ever studied on tape:
“I would say through six games, possibly, probably, yes. Now it’s not a six-game season, but I’d say through six games, they’re up there.”
On the preparation that goes into preparing for games:
“With every opponent you have offseason studies. We study each other in the offseason, whether it’s during February or March or April, getting prepared. We worked on every opponent we have on our schedule back during spring ball. We took a period of something, somewhere, just to kind of get our guys familiarized with it. Then you have a summer study, so you go a long ways back and look and get a lot of really good ideas, and you kind of do that same thing with yourself. I think if you’re going to be at the top of your game as a coach … if you’re not working somebody else is, so you need to be working.”
On what separates this Alabama team from ones in the past:
“I would say most all the defenses have always been really good. And I don’t know, what are they averaging on offense? Leading the nation. Most of his other 11 teams since he’s (Nick Saban) been there didn’t lead the nation in scoring. Not that they were bad in any way, but they’re leading the nation in scoring so that’s pretty dangerous.”