Pruitt Wants Vols’ Leaders to “Confront Other People”

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    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t very pleased with his team after their effort on the practice field on Wednesday. And he didn’t hide that when he spoke to the media after practice.

    Pruitt met with the media after Wednesday’s practice, and he was brutally honest about his team’s performance on the field. He demanded more from UT’s leaders, and he said that Tennessee’s coaches can’t continue to be the only people confronting players who need to step up.

    “We weren’t near as sharp as we were yesterday,” Pruitt said on Wednesday. “We’re gonna have to do a lot better in practice if we’re gonna get to where we’d love to be at the end of this season. It’s going to take some guys that’s gonna have to confront other people. It’s interesting. We’ve got some guys on our team that I think are really good leaders, but to be a leader you have to be able to confront your peers. And right now, when you’re out there at practice, the only ones doing the confronting is the coaching staff.

    “Last time I checked, there’s not any of these coaches out there playing during the game. We’ve got to continue to improve that. We’ve gotta support the leadership on our team so we can improve as a team.”

    Tennessee is coming off a 59-3 beat down of FCS opponent ETSU and are preparing for arguably the worst FBS team currently playing football. The UTEP Miners enter Saturday’s contest on a 14-game losing streak dating back to the beginning of the 2017 season. So maybe lack of motivation is part of the reason the Vols didn’t practice as well on Wednesday.

    Whatever it was, Pruitt wasn’t satisfied one bit with his team’s effort on the practice field. But he did see some positives from his coaching staff and how the players responded.

    “We still got a long ways to go,” Pruitt added. “One good thing is I think our coaching staff does a great job of running our guys and making them aware of the situation and trying to improve on it. Not as good of a practice today as we would’ve liked to have seen, but we still got some good work done.”

    It’s clear that despite some veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball, the Vols are still very much a coach-led squad right now. Tennessee’s coaches are the voices you hear most at practice, and aside from a few conversations here and there, UT’s players aren’t as vocal as you might expect.

    Pruitt says that has to change in a hurry if Tennessee is to live up to their potential this season. And he’s harped on the importance of practice time and time again with this team.

    The Vols’ first-year head coach even used freshman cornerback Bryce Thompson as an example the rest of the team can follow.

    “I think it was a perfect lesson for everybody on our team,” Pruitt said of Thompson. “It was hard to find some bright spots after the first week, and I think Bryce would be the first one to tell you that he didn’t play very well against West Virginia. But he came back and practiced extremely hard, and it showed the way he played on Saturday. Did he play perfect? No, but he played much better. I think that’s a good lesson for all the players on our team.”

    Pruitt would go on to say that Thompson, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Week this past weekend, might’ve actually played the worst out of all of Tennessee’s defensive backs in Week 1. But because of how he approached practice that next week, he earned the start and proved true what Pruitt has been saying about practice all along.

    “He probably out of all the defensive backs the first game, he probably played the worst,” Pruitt stated. “But because of the way he practiced and went about his business, the next week he got to start, and he played and played extremely well. That’s good for everybody on our team.

    “The only way you’re gonna get better and play at your best is to prepare and create the right habits every day.”

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.