Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. For the first time this season, he met with the media after a win over the weekend.
Pruitt discussed what he saw from the film after his team’s win against UTC, the upcoming match-up with the Florida Gators, and more.
Here’s everything Jeremy Pruitt had to say during his Monday press conference.
Quotes transcribed by Tennessee’s sports information department.
“When you look at Florida this week, there’s a lot of familiarity with the coaching staff there. I’ve coached against Dan (Mullen) for a long time and I’m very familiar with Todd Grantham. Christian Robinson was a GA for us at Georgia.
If you look at them, they’re very well-coached. To start with, offensively, they are replacing some guys up front, but they’re doing a really nice job. They probably lost their quarterback this past week, but the backup has come in there and done a really fine job, which would probably be expected from a guy who’s been in the program for a while, a lot of maturity. These guys have really good skill players from tight ends, to running backs, to wide receivers. They spread the ball around, they’ll hit you with RPOs. They’re really stubborn when it comes to running the football. They’ve always done a very nice job running the football and being creative in how they do it. Now they’ve got really good playmakers at wide receiver, so they can get the ball out there and they can hurt you with runs after the catch, screens, or throw the ball down the field.
Defensively, Todd continues to do a really good job up front. They lead the country in sacks. They’re playing really well in the red area. It’s not surprising they have really good players at all three levels. They’ve got experience, they’ve got depth.
When we look at them in the kicking game, Freddie Swain is a kick returner. With their punter, field goal kicker, and kickoff guy, probably is as good of a combination as anybody in the conference. They’ve got really good speed to play on teams, so we will definitely have our hands full.”
On how different their offense is without Franks:
“They ran their offense: same plays, nothing different. They might’ve even executed better. Obviously, they scored more points there in a short period of time, but as a guy that competed for the quarterback job, [he’s] very talented and has experience.”
On the decision to start Kenneth George Jr., over Alontae Taylor against UTC:
“We’re just playing the guys who practice the best week in and week out. Kenneth practiced really good last week, and whoever practices the best this week will play this week.”
On what he plans to do to neutralize Florida’s pass rushers:
“The first thing is we need to be able to run the football. If you can run the football and stay ahead of the sticks a little bit so they can’t pin their ears back and go. We’ve got to be able to run the football. We’ve got the be creative probably with different things and protections. Whether we’re chipping or leaving a back in or something like that. We’ve got to be efficient offensively. We’ve got to get the ball out of our hand and know where we’re going with the ball and spread it around.”
On if DB Bryce Thompson will travel to Gainesville:
“I’ve not decided that.”
On Trey Smith and where he’s at:
“Trey’s playing really hard. We’ve altered practice a little bit to help his development—being really light on Mondays and Thursdays, and then on Tuesdays and Wednesdays he does not participate. Just like anybody that’s not getting to practice, he makes some mistakes out there, but the guy is playing hard and continues to improve each week.”
On his thoughts on the offensive linemen after watching film:
“We’re going to the right folks. We might not be taking the right path to get there so to speak. There are lots of things technically that we need to cleanup, but the positive is there are very few mental errors.”
On his evaluation of the defensive line and where he wants to see them:
“I think Aubrey Solomon has played really well. The rest of the guys—you can kind of put them in a group there—there’s not much difference in them. We’ve really got to continue to improve up front, and we will. Most of those guys have very little playing experience. If you look at them, a lot of the guys that we’re playing were not even here during the spring, so they are going to continue to improve, and they’ve got to improve to reestablish the line of scrimmage a little bit. We’ve got to be better at pass rush, and we’ve got to get more push up the middle. We’ve just got to continue to work hard at that position.”
On if going into the Florida game as underdogs gives the team a different mentality:
“Well, it didn’t help us those first two games, did it? So, I don’t think that has much barring on the game. We’ve got to go out there and play good football, clean football, play hard, play tough, be relentless, and play for four quarters. And, we’ve got to practice that and create the right habits during the week.”
On how he would evaluate the way that Darrell Taylor has played and how important it will be to get pressure off of him on the other side:
“I think Darrell can play better. Unfortunately, he had a little bit of an injury during fall camp that really has been going on since July, so he didn’t get to practice as much as we would have liked to have practiced him. But he’s getting healthier and healthier. He’s a guy that can be a really good player, and he needs to do that all the time. He’s improved every game, and I expect him to continue to do that.”
On how the team will game plan for Florida QB Kyle Trask:
“Well last year for them, at one time, it was close enough that there was a quarterback battle (between Trask and Franks), talking about who was going to be the starter, even into the season. So, this guy is plenty capable, we saw it the other night. They were very efficient in what they did. They didn’t really change much of who they are. The guy is plenty capable. He’s a big, strong guy that’s got a good arm and he’s physical in the run game.”
On what he thinks it will be like for the true freshmen playing on the road in Florida:
“It’s about execution. Knowing what to do, how to do it, and why it’s important to do it that way, getting prepared throughout the week. You create the right habits during the week, and to me it’s fun going on the road. I like going on the road. You find out who you are. Everybody is against you. You see a little bit about your character. It’ll be good for us.”
On how the team is going to lean on the experience playing Florida last year in preparation for this week:
“Well hopefully we learned a lesson that if you turn the ball over six times it’s hard to win. So, last year’s game will have no bearing on this year’s game. We’ll have a good plan. We got to get our guys ready to execute the plan, play the right way and do it for 60 minutes.”
On how the defense plays when LB Daniel Bituli is out there vs. when he isn’t:
“Daniel is guy that we have a lot of time invested in him, starting with last spring, two springs now, two fall camps, so you know when you come into a program and you spend that much time with guys to develop to get them ready to play and then they can’t play, there’s a difference. Will Ignont doesn’t really play the money position, but he hadn’t played money for us, that’s why we moved Jeremy Banks over to create some more depth, but it’s obvious that he has some experience there playing, whether it was with us or before us. The game slows down a little bit and probably takes a little bit of pressure off the other guys as far as making calls and adjustments.”
The biggest difference in Austin Pope this year and how important he has been to the run game and the protection on offense:
“Austin has kind of quietly done his job. He’s played really well through three games. We got to continue to get that productivity out of him. He’s a guy that has been in the program for two years and he kind of knows expectations, he’s willing and we just got to continue to get the same type of production.”
On Tennessee’s special teams so far this season:
“Brent (Cimaglia) has done a nice job on field goals. Riley (Lovingood) snapping and Joe (Doyle) holding, those three together have done a really nice job. Paxton (Brooks), except for kicking it out of bounds the other day, has had a touchback on every kick. Joe has punted every time except for one, Paxton punted one the other day. The guys have executed very well there, and we have to continue to do that because the guys back there receiving the balls are more and more capable of putting points on the scoreboard.”
On the upcoming stretch with three of four games against top 10 teams:
“You just have to worry about the team that you’re playing. You’re not playing all four of them at one time. We’re playing Florida this week. We’ll focus on Florida and then whoever is after that.”
On Dan Mullen’s coaching style at Mississippi State and Florida:
“Dan does what all good football coaches do. He figures out what he has. He’s done it a little bit differently over the last 10 years each year. To me, that’s what a good football coach does. He figures out who his playmakers are and what the best part of his offensive team is, and he focuses on that. They continue to do that.”