Tennessee spent its Sunday afternoon competing in its first scrimmage of fall camp. With one of three scrimmages in the books, Jeremy Pruitt is one step closer to having a better understanding of where his first-year football team stands.
“(We) played a lot of guys in a lot of different situations with a lot of different groups,” Pruitt said following the scrimmage on Sunday. “At the beginning of practice, we worked a little bit of ones versus twos and then twos versus the ones, then some threes on threes. In that period, we moved guys around to give them opportunities, so it gives us a chance to evaluate them.”
Under Pruitt, each member of Tennessee’s football team has a new lease on life. The new staff has provided a breath of fresh air to put everything in the past and start over with a clean slate. With that, every position on the team is up for grabs, sparking competition throughout the program.
“As we get into figuring out who the players are going to be at which spots, it gives us an opportunity to create some consistency and rhythm, but we are not there yet,” Pruitt said. “There is still a lot of competition and we have to figure it out. This will be ongoing for a lot of positions throughout fall camp and throughout the year.
“I saw a lot of guys that were competing, but we were inconsistent on both sides of the ball. We had too many undisciplined penalties. We took care of the ball when we were running the football, but we had some turnovers when we put the ball in the air. We did create some explosive plays. We need to do a better job protecting the quarterback, and the quarterback’s got to do a better job of getting the ball out of his hand.”
The biggest competition going on in camp is without a doubt the quarterback position. All four quarterbacks drew compliments from their head coach, and while it is viewed as primarily a competition between Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst, sophomore Will McBride and freshman JT Shrout impressed in the first scrimmage as well.
But Pruitt still isn’t ready to name a starter just yet.
“From a quarterback standpoint, both of them have really done some good stuff, talking about J.G. and Keller,” Pruitt said while also stating that he wanted to review the film before he drew a firm conclusion. “Will McBride played today with our twos a lot, and Will’s had a solid camp. J.T. Shrout, you know, he may have the best arm out of all of them, but he’s got to learn what’s going on. I think he can spin it, he’s just got to figure it out.
“If you look over all the practices, there’s really nobody (that’s) kind of separated themselves yet.”
The positions surrounding the quarterback are just as unclear according to Pruitt. At running back and wide receiver, the rotation is somewhat of a blender as the coaching staff is mixing different combinations together. With 116 plays under their belt in the first scrimmage, the offense is looking to find more of a rhythm.
“I thought our running backs ran pretty well today,” Pruitt added. “I think we’ve got to improve blocking on the perimeter with the wide receivers. We’ve got to do a better job of converting third downs on the offensive side, and I think, you know, as we get into figuring out who the players are going to be at which spots, it gives us an opportunity to try to create some consistency, some rhythm, and we’re not there yet.”
Throughout the offseason, many national media members have scoffed at Tennessee’s talent, essentially writing the Vols off in 2018. Despite that outside negativity, Pruitt says he’s comfortable with a portion of the roster.
“We’ve got some guys that I feel like can play winning football,” Pruitt said. “They have the talent, they have the want-to. We’ve got to teach them kind of the know-how, how we want it done.
“Just like most of them do, as the scrimmage went, the better they got. That’s a good thing. That’s positive. Means we didn’t make a mistake when we recruited them, so it’s there. We’ve got to get them to be consistent and learn what’s going on.”
Tennessee will take Monday off before hitting the practice field again on Tuesday, and they’ll run through their second scrimmage of fall camp next weekend.