Jeremy Pruitt said after spring practice on Tuesday that he was “ticked off” because his defense was outmatched by the offense. But when pressed about identifying specific play-makers on the offensive side of the ball, Pruitt didn’t offer up any names.
“As soon as you single one out, then there ain’t no telling what he’s going to do the next day,” Pruitt said after practice. “So I figured we’d wait till we see a whole body of work and see where it goes from there.”
Tennessee’s defense has a lot of moving parts right now with players switching positions and learning the nuances of their new roles. And because of that, the Vols’ offense, which returns mostly intact from last season, has a little more consistency.
When asked if his offense has more play-makers than he anticipated, Pruitt was hesitant to say so, pointing out the defense’s influx of players and new positions.
“I really don’t think it would be fair for me to assess that right now,” Pruitt replied when asked about the number of play-makers on offense. He would go on to add that it’s difficult for him to tell right now because some of the Vols’ receivers are going up against guys playing a position for the first time or players who are still learning their respective positions.
One big position change in Pruitt’s 3-4 defensive scheme is shifting defensive ends to outside linebacker. Players like Jonathan Kongbo, Darrell Taylor, and others will likely be seen standing up and off the line of scrimmage more this year as opposed to down in a three-point stance.
But according to Pruitt, too much gets made of that transition.
“Yeah, y’all make too much of it,” Pruitt said with a chuckle when asked if the media makes too much of a big deal about defensive ends moving to outside linebacker. “The first thing we’re looking for in an outside linebacker is a guy who can rush the quarterback. I can teach you (the media) to play first to the flat. We’re looking for guys who get after the quarterback. That’s what we’re looking for in our edge rushers.
“Whether it’s an outside backer or in a 4-3, that’s all it is. We’re looking for guys to rush the quarterback.”
Tennessee struggled mightily last season in getting to the quarterback, only totaling 22 sacks on the year. That total placed them 13th in the SEC and tied for 92nd in the FBS. The Vols do return three of their top four sack leaders from last season, but that’s an area the defense needs to drastically improve.
It’s still early on in the spring for Pruitt and the Vols. Some players are beginning to stand out, but it’s still too early to tell who will be play-makers for Tennessee because of all the transition happening across the board.
This spring is serving as a learning experience for everyone on Tennessee’s team. And Pruitt hopes to have a good idea of what he has on the roster once it’s over.