Everything Jeremy Pruitt Said During First Weekend of Fall Camp

    by -

    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Tennessee hit the practice field on Friday afternoon to kick off Year Two under head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Sunday marked the first day in shells for the team, and practice was supposed to take place in Neyland Stadium. Due to rain, practice was moved indoors, but the Vols were still able to get everything done that they wanted to.

    Before practice began and before the team photo, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media to discuss what he’s seen from his team through the first few days of fall camp. He also met with the media after Tennessee’s first practice of fall camp.

    Here’s everything Pruitt said about his team.

    Opening Statement

    “You know it’s always exciting to get out there. Had a little bit of weather, had to come in for just a second. But from an operations standpoint, players done a good job getting ready to go. I thought offensively today, again, I continue to see guys that have worked hard. Especially when you talk about a new system. Seemed to have knowledge, understanding to be able to execute. So that’s a really good positive. Took care of the ball today. Defensive side, got a long ways to go. Throwing a lot at them right now, but we’ll continue to do that. You’re out there with no pads on, so I’m sure there are some guys out there that look really good today that probably won’t be a football player. And there are probably some guys that look really bad, when you put the pads on, they’ll show up. That’s usually how it happens. When you don’t have the pads on, you can basically figure out who knows the most. That usually comes with who has the most experience.”

    On the defense’s retention from spring practice:

    “I think it’s pretty obvious, the ones who have practiced here before and were on last year’s team are much further ahead than the guys that just got here. And that’s usually the case, right? So the guys that just got here have to catch up, and they have to catch up in a hurry. We have some guys that have a really good understanding of what we’re trying to get done. It will grow as camp does. We just have to continue to work hard and coach them up and they’ll get there.”

    On freshman Jerrod Means working at corner:

    “We’re just making sure we can get the best players on the field. We have guys with experience on the offensive side at wide receiver. We have four senior wide receivers, and Palmer and Murphy’s played a pretty good bit of ball, so you’re talking about six guys there. We think Jerrod’s a really good athlete, and we want to make sure that we have the best 22 guys on the field, so we’re just giving him a look. He played wide receiver the first month of the summer, which we’re not really out there, so there’s not a whole lot of feedback, but he played the last half of the summer at defensive back. We’re going to work him for this camp at corner to give him an opportunity to contribute.”

    On if it will be difficult to resist calling plays on defense:

    “I think my name is all over this program. If I feel like I need to give some input on any area of the program, I obviously will. But I got confidence in the guys we’ve got on defense. I sit in every meeting room, in every defensive meeting room with the players and with the coaches. So it’s really no different than last year.”

    On what he means when he says the defense has a long ways to go:

    “There are things that we want to get accomplished this camp. First thing is just being a smart football team, right? Not making mistakes. We have to get more guys that know what to do. The next thing is we want to be a ball-hawking defense. Well, you have to create turnovers. We want to be good fundamentally. How do you do that? You practice that way every single day. If you’re going to be a good football player, you have to have some toughness to you. We obviously need to create a little more toughness there. You know, it’s the first day. We have a very young football team. A lot of these guys will learn a lot from today. It’s the first day they’ve been out there with the coaches. So we’ll be much improved tomorrow and we’ll continue to improve as camp goes.”

    On if there are challenges while waiting to find out if Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon will be eligible:

    “There are no challenges. We’re not coaching Aubrey any different than we would if we knew his (eligibility) status. We coach every player in our program every single day. Everybody gets the same amount of reps. That’s why, if you come to Tennessee, you’re going to have the opportunity to develop as a football player, because you’re going to get to practice. Some of those guys out there today practiced a lot more, probably, than they were expecting. It’s not going to change how we approach it. When the season gets here it obviously would, right, when you start game planning. But with fall camp, we’re coaching everybody the same way. Deangelo Gibbs is not going to play (this season), took the same amount of reps as Marquez Callaway”

    On the difference he’s seen in senior linebacker Darrell Taylor:

    “You know Darrell is a guy I think has really good pass-rush ability. He’s worked hard since we’ve been here, to learn what to do and how we want it done. I think it showed last year. He has ability to be a playmaker on defense. He’s searching for consistency. And with experience and knowledge and understanding, the expectations, we’ll see that.”

    On senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings: 

    “Jauan, he’s ready to go. We’ll probably monitor him for a little bit. Probably for a week. We’ll put him a little bit on a pitch count to ease him into it. But he’s fine. He’s healthy. He’s full speed. But he obviously did miss a little of the summer conditioning. So we’ll ease him into it like we are (with) a couple guys. Jauan really likes football. He don’t like it, he loves it. He loves football. He loves the University of Tennessee. He likes to practice. He likes to play. He likes to be in the building. You love coaching guys like Jauan.”

    On junior offensive lineman Trey Smith:

    “I think everybody is really just excited for Trey. First of all, Trey is a great person, comes from a great family. When you talk about representing the University of Tennessee the right way, it’s Trey Smith. I think we all realize that one of these days, football’s going to be taken away from us, and for Trey, last year it happened a little sooner than he expected. Our training staff, our doctors, they’ve worked extremely hard to get the correct information to give Trey an opportunity, and Trey has worked probably as hard as anybody in our football program this offseason, so if he had an opportunity — he didn’t know if was going to have an opportunity — but if he was going to have an opportunity, he was going to be ready. We still have a ways to go with that, and Trey knows that, so we’re just kind of taking it one day at a time.”

    On if they were able to get everything done at practice after moving it indoors due to weather:

    “Well, you know, we’ve practiced in here before. So it didn’t hamper us. We have plenty of room to do exactly what we wanted to get done today. We got it done.”

    On sophomore defense lineman Kingston Harris and John Mincey:

    “You know, most of the times out there I’m watching the defensive backs or the linebackers. Or maybe the offensive skill (players). I usually wait and watch the O-line and D-line when we get in here to film, so I haven’t had a chance to do that. I don’t know what any of those guys looked liked today.”

    On if there are any differences with Trey Smith’s practice routine than in the spring:

    “Right now he’s going to stay with the same protocol. He’s doing everything but full contact until our doctors come up with a plan for the rest of the fall.”

    Pruitt also spoke before the team took their annual team photo on Sunday morning in Neyland Stadium. Here’s what he said during his brief time with the media.

    On if any young players have impressed him from a mental standpoint:

    “We’ve just practiced two days. We put on the shells today, so we start playing a little more football like. A little more physical. But there have been lots of guys out there that have done a good job. I think the freshman class is working really hard this summer, and the older guys have done a nice job trying to coach them along. Not really ready to single any of them out yet, but it’s like a lot of them have had good practices.”

    On freshman corner Warren Burrell:

    “He’s a smart guy. Football is important to him. He’s very conscientious, works hard in the weight room, has put on some weight this summer and in the offseason. He’s a guy that competed really well in the spring, and we expect him to keep doing that.”

    On what players learn about themselves during fall camp:

    “Well, you’re trying to build a team. All over the country it’s hot somewhere. People get sore. These guys, or this generation, isn’t used to the way it used to be. Used to practice three times a day and do it for two or three weeks. Now we practice once a day. I think just creating a little bit of mental and physical toughness to them. Guys that have it, it always shows up during fall camp. The ones that don’t, it also shows up.”

    On what he evaluates when players aren’t in pads during practice:

    “The first thing is just playing with the right effort. If you don’t play with great effort, it’s tough to be a good football player. Can you push through, can you handle adversity. Can you handle the multiples, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams. And then as you put on pads you start working a little more on fundamentals from a contact standpoint. But we can do a lot of fundamentals — we do everything; team, blitz, two-minute, whatever, all of it — without pads on. When you start running around hitting each other, sometimes it changes a little bit.”

    On how much better he knows the team and if he can see they’re more comfortable this fall:

    “Well the guys we recruited, we obviously had some long relationships with. Which is probably the same amount of time we have with the guys on our team. So we learn something about each other everyday. Whether it’s coaching staff or players. That’s part of building a team in camp and that’s what we’re working really hard to do.”

    On how his team has handled the heat to begin fall camp:

    “Well it really hasn’t been that hot. So, it don’t really get hot in Knoxville. I’m sure it’s hot in Gainesville.”