Pruitt explains defensive issues over middle of the field

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    Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

    Tennessee’s offense has been the center of attention following its 34-7 loss to Kentucky over the weekend.

    Jim Chaney’s offense struggled mightily against the Cats on Saturday. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw two separate pick-sixes to put Kentucky up 14-0 early in the second quarter. Backup J.T. Shrout then entered the game and immediately threw an interception on his first possession.

    The offense continually put the Tennessee defense in tough spots all game long. Aside from the pair of pick-sixes, Shrout’s interception and a Guarantano fumble gave Kentucky free possessions. The defense stood tall early, but ultimately, being on the field was just too much for the defense to overcome.

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    Tennessee’s defense has only give up 21 points over the last six quarter of plays despite the offense continuing to put them in bad spots. Still, the defense has some kinks to iron out, particularly in the middle of the field where defenses have been very efficient against the Vols this season.

    “I think we have to do a better job getting push up front,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt told reports over Zoom on Monday when asked about the struggles over the middle of the field. “When you throw the ball short over the middle, it usually has to go through the five offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. We have to do a better job getting push in the pocket. We have to get our hands up.

    “We have to have tight coverage, whether we are playing them inside-out or outside-in. We have to do a better job disguising so they don’t know that it is there. Every coverage, there is a weakness. You have to be able to hide the weakness. You don’t need them to know where it’s at. We have to do a better job disguising also.”

    Tennessee’s passing defense is allowing 213.3 yards per game, second-fewest in the SEC. The problem is that nearly all of that yardage is coming from the middle of the field. Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson was 9-for-10 over the middle of the field against the Vols a week after Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett also found success in that area.

    Pruitt’s defense will look to have more success over the middle of the field this Saturday when the Vols face an explosive Alabama offense. Kickoff with the second-ranked Crimson Tide is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.