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“Head Down” Mentality Characterizes Vols’ Spring Practices

Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

For the first time since Jeremy Pruitt took over as Tennessee’s head coach, some of his players spoke to the media. And they mirrored the sentiments of their new head coach during their media availability on Tuesday afternoon.

“I can’t speak on individuals. But you can ask Coach Pruitt. I’m just here to play football.”

That was junior safety Nigel Warrior’s response when he was asked about the progress of Tyler Byrd and Carlin Fils-Aime in the secondary. Like Jeremy Pruitt, he won’t comment on individual performances at practice.

This team knows their expectations behind closed doors. But Warrior made it clear that he, and his team, aren’t going to discuss their expectations for the season.

“We don’t like to speak on too much…we don’t want to set our standard too high,” he said.

Left tackle Drew Richmond said more of the same. He doesn’t want to talk about the past. At the moment, this team is only focused on the next practice. They aren’t concerned with long-term goals.

“We’re working hard,” Richmond said. “We’re determined to be a team that’s going to play for four quarters. We’ve got our head down and we’re focused.”

For this team, at this point in their preparation, that’s about all you’re going to get. Pruitt has his group focused on getting better each and every day. That means no discussing last year or even looking back on the lengthy coaching search. Not too much of the past, not too much of the future. The present is all that matters.

“We’re not going to look back on the past,” Richmond added. “Coach Pruitt has our heads down. We’re working so hard right now.”

Warrior had the same response.

“(Last year) just improves on what I need to know about next year.”

Richmond admitted he wasn’t even focused on anyone else on the field. So when he was asked about any of his teammates, he declined to comment. Even on the offensive line, he said couldn’t see any specific changes in his teammates on the field. The only changes he was willing to admit were in the meeting rooms.

“Meetings are much longer,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of attention to video and a lot of attention to the playbooks…the offense is going to be nice. We work well together, and when we start clicking on all cylinders we’re going to be explosive.”

Linebacker Quart’e Sapp told us that he’s moved to inside linebacker. He didn’t speak about any specific players either, but he did talk a little bit about the new culture. He doesn’t see a huge difference in the practices so far this spring through two weeks of working with Pruitt and his staff.

“We’re building a new identity I guess,” he said. “Over the four years I’ve been here, I’ve created a lot of habits. Not necessarily bad habits, we just have to customize those habits to Coach Pruitt’s.”

Talking to players tells us again what we already know — Pruitt isn’t concerned with much outside the white lines of a football field right now. His team will continue with their “head down” mentality all spring in order to rebound from the worst season in program history last year.

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