RTI contributor Robert Hughes is the author of this article
Following a bye week where Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt ended up addressing mostly off-the-field issues, he commented mostly on his team’s recent performance in practice and against Florida in his Wednesday press conference after practice.
Despite a lopsided 34-3 loss at the hands of the No. 9 Florida Gators, Pruitt was complimentary of his team, particularly his offensive line. The Vols’ second-year head coach said the O-line’s performance in Gainesville may have been its best of the season.
“Our guys up front have continued to work hard and compete. I felt like our best game as an offensive line, since I’ve been here, was the Florida game, and we scored three points,” Pruitt said.
Against the Gators, the Volunteers only produced 88 yards on the ground and gave up four sacks, but Pruitt remained pleased with his offensive line’s performance. The statistics, including only scoring three points, don’t tell the whole story, Pruitt says.
“We throw the ball down the field early in the game, break some tackles,” Pruitt added, “and for the first time, I see white shirts running down the field trying to pepper people like they’re supposed to.”
For a team that has struggled, perhaps, more than it was supposed to, finding small bits of improvement is the key to changing the culture. While the team is beginning to do some of the small things right, Pruitt still notes that the offensive line has made its share of mistakes along the way. Most notably were the big personal foul penalties that came against some of UT’s offensive linemen against the Gators.
“Now, we can’t hit them after the whistle,” Pruitt continued. “We’ve got to improve up there, stay on guys. We’ve got a couple of penalties. We got a hands-to-a-face when we gained 8 yards on a run.”
Trey Smith was whistled for the “hands to the face” penalty Pruitt mentioned, and redshirt sophomore K’Rojhn Calbert was called for a questionable late hit on Tennessee’s first drive of the game. That penalty derailed what looked like a promising opening offensive possession for the Vols, and they ended up punting the ball away in Florida territory.
Even so, Pruitt has seen enough from his front five of the offense to remain confident in the future of Tennessee’s offensive line.
“There [were] lots of glimpses there in that game from how far we’ve come since the first game we coached here,” Pruitt stated. “Our guys will continue to work. They’re young. They’re going to improve and get better. We’ve got competition up there now.”