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Vols Headed in Right Direction with Accountability and Leadership

Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

Tennessee held its first spring scrimmage on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium and was able to run around 130 plays.

The biggest takeaway from the scrimmage according to head coach Jeremy Pruitt was that the offense showed really good tempo and managed the game well. It was the first time all spring the head ball coach had seen that from his first team offense.

“Didn’t turn the ball over, ran the ball pretty efficiently,” Pruitt said of his offense following Tuesday’s practice. “Was pretty good on third down offensively.

“I thought with the twos there’s not as much experience at the quarterback position. I thought the two young quarterbacks got lots of reps. Both of them improved as the scrimmage went. Got to take care of the football.”

As is the case with any practice or scrimmage, when one side of the ball does well, it likely means the opposing unit didn’t perform as well. Such was the case for Tennessee’s defense. In Pruitt’s eyes, the unit didn’t create enough turnovers or affect the quarterback enough.

“Got to generate some more pass rush,” Pruitt stated. “Got to play a little better up front, keep them cut off in the back end on third down.

“We’ve got to improve in the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, be more consistent.”

Through 10 practices, Pruitt was quick to note it’s been a very strong spring. The second-year head coach was not a fan with how his team responded, however, following their first practice after Saturday’s scrimmage.

Tuesday’s practice wasn’t exactly what he was hoping for. Though the defense was much better, Pruitt thought it was the first time all spring in which the offense didn’t improve. The unit got off to a slow start and didn’t respond well.

“Got to go back and focus on the details, execution,” Pruitt said of Tennessee’s offense on Tuesday. “It’s hard to finish if you don’t start the right way, so you’ve got to start the right way and then you’ve got to finish the right way, and we’ve got to improve on that.”

Along with the offense, Pruitt wasn’t a fan of the way the punters performed, specifically in the scrimmage. But he was quick to note that the coverage units have done a nice job this spring and that they’re developing some guys in the return game.

The biggest thing Tennessee has looked to improve upon this spring is accountability and leadership. Pruitt believes the Vols are headed in the right direction in that department.

Tennessee may not have a lot of seniors, but the ones they do have right now have asserted themselves as leaders.

“Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Brandon Johnson, Tyler Byrd, Dominic Wood-Anderson, Nigel Warrior, Emmit Gooden, Darrell Taylor, Daniel Bituli, Baylen Buchanan, Riley Lovingood. That’s it. That’s the guys.” Pruitt noted of this year’s senior class. “Carlin Fils-aime, too. It’s a small group.

“I think they’ve represented the University of Tennessee very well. … I think they’re hungry. They’ve worked really hard in the last 18 months and they’ve continued to do that.”

Tennessee has three remaining spring practices before next Saturday’s Orange and White game. They’ll practice on Thursday, scrimmage again on Saturday, and practice twice next week. Kick-off for the annual spring game is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET in Neyland Stadium.

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