Tennessee’s play to open up the 2018 season was far from stellar. And it left a lot of Vol fans disappointed with some of UT’s more veteran players.
The Vols started a lot of upperclassmen on defense when they took on No. 17 West Virginia to begin this season. And the result was a career day by quarterback Will Grier and 40 points dropped on UT’s defense. Yes, the Vols did play younger players, especially in the secondary where three true freshman either started or played significant snaps. But for the most part, Tennessee’s defense is a veteran group full of three and four-year players.
And according to Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, all it takes is one game for him and his staff to know more or less what a player’s capabilities are.
“After playing a game, you kinda know what you got,” Pruitt said after practice on Wednesday. “You know who can do what. You kinda got like a baseline. Here’s what we got, here’s what we gotta improve.”
For the Vols, there are a lot of things to improve after a 40-14 loss to start the season. Pruitt and his staff will have two weeks against lesser opponents to figure some things out before the SEC season starts for UT when they host Florida on September 22nd.
The key for Tennessee improving over the next two weeks will be discovering who can take their performances during the week at practice and have it translate onto the field during a game. Pruitt says that usually what he and his coaches see in players during practice is what they get during games. But on rare occasions, players who practice well don’t always play well on Saturdays.
“You can go out here and practice, and you can go scrimmage and most of the time what you see in scrimmages is what you’re gonna get on Saturday,” Pruitt explained. “But sometimes you might get something a little different. Not a whole lot, but you might have a guy that plays really well in scrimmages, and for whatever reason, maybe it’s because he’s got anxiety or maybe lack of focus, whatever it is, he doesn’t play well on Saturday.”
The situation Pruitt described on Wednesday could account for some of the issues that happened for the Vols on Saturday. The only way to find out will be to see how some of UT’s veteran players adjust and react in the coming weeks when the Vols host ETSU and UTEP.
Of course sometimes the inverse is true as well. Sometimes a player can not practice all that well during the week, but when it comes time to suit up for a game, the lights come on.
“Sometimes, again it’s very few times, you get guys that maybe don’t perform as well in scrimmages, but when they get to the games they kind of raise their level,” Pruitt said. “It don’t happen much.”
Tennessee will need to figure out who is better at practicing and who is better at playing on Saturdays in the next two weeks if they want to have the kind of success this season Vol fans are hoping for. The Vols got exposed on Saturday to start the season, and now they have plenty of things to work on before the Florida game.
And according to Pruitt, he already has a baseline for a lot of his players after one week. Now it’s time to get a baseline on some more. Expect to see a lot of new faces take the field this Saturday and next week for the Vols.