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Everything Jeremy Pruitt said following Wednesday’s practice

Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media following Wednesday’s practice to preview Saturday’s game against Arkansas.

After making an appearance on the SEC Teleconference early Wednesday afternoon, Pruitt discussed who will start at quarterback, updated the health of Jerome Carvin and Jeremy Banks, the battle for the backup quarterback job, and much more.

Here’s everything Pruitt had to say:

Opening Statement:

“I thought today was probably one of the better practices that we’ve had over the last month. Seemed like the guys had a lot of energy, so that was good to see. Continuing to work on our plan. Just looking at us offensively, we’ve talked about this several times, we’ve got to be more explosive in the run game, in the throw game, be more consistent on third down, got to control the ball more. We’ve had too many times that we’ve been three and out. Then, obviously the big thing is talking about turnovers, not turning the ball over. Seem to be healthier than we’ve been, so that’s a good sign. Defensively, probably made a few moves on the defensive side to give guys different looks. I feel like the guys have really kind of bought in in trying to execute at a higher level. Some of the things we talked about the last game, I felt like we were very poor when it came to tackling. Too many yards after contact. Was not very good defending routes down the field. Got to do a much better job converting off of play action passes with our defensive front. We need to play lower, need to play harder, more consistent with more strain. Have to be improved on third down and then when we get in the red area, we’ve got to hold people to field goals and obviously create more turnovers. So, it’s things that we’ve been focused on for a couple of weeks here and trying to reemphasize back in camp mode. Seems like our guys seem to be fresh and have a lot of energy, so it’s been a good 10 days here.”

On the health of Jerome Carvin:

“Jerome (Carvin) has been battling this turf toe for a while. Last week we kept him out the entire week. And then having Tuesday off was probably good for him again, so it’s the healthiest he’s looked since the Missouri game, so that’s a promising sign for him for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and he can get back to playing, cause he’s a guy we feel like can play at a high level when he’s healthy. And the other guys up front have continued to improve and get healthier for sure.”

On the quarterbacks behind Jarrett Guarantano:

“The most important thing to me as a quarterback is getting the other 10 guys around you to be at their best. You want the quarterback to be at his best all the time, right? But there’s probably going to be days where maybe the quarterback’s not at his best. To me, that’s where leadership comes in. Getting the other guys to rally and be at their best. Also, kind of having a sense of when you go out on the practice field or during a game, having a feel of how practice is going or a game’s going individually. Understanding the guys that you connect with and maybe the guys that you don’t, but understanding who the other leaders on the team are that can have an effect on somebody maybe you don’t connect with. I think all these intangibles are important. That’s something that I feel like you kind of have, but I also feel like it’s things that you can develop, and you can coach into guys and make them aware of it.”

On if Jarrett Guarantano will be the starter against Arkansas:

“Jarrett (Guarantano) will be the starter. He understands our expectations. I’ve felt like he’s had another good week continuing to do the things that I’m talking about. Getting the guys around him to play at a higher level. It’s one thing on the offensive side, it takes all 11 guys to play together. Defensively, you can have a couple great players and they can make some plays sometimes, they’re kind of erasers. But offensively, you can have 10 guys do exactly right and maybe the left guard gets beat or doesn’t do it the right way and messes up the entire play. It only takes one guy that can mess up a play offensively. That’s why you have to play as a unit up front. That’s why communication is so important, playing together, and that’s something that we have continued to focus on over the last couple of weeks.”

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On the player’s only meeting over the bye week:

“I don’t know as much about culture, I think the big thing is – and it wasn’t initiated by the coaching staff, we have our own meetings and stuff with the players – just creating the right habits. There are certain individuals on our team that were limited for certain reasons over the course of the last six to eight weeks. Just getting everyone to play at a higher level all the time. If you look, there’s been times this year on both sides of the ball that we’ve done that, but we’ve been very inconsistent in all three phases. To sustain, be productive and win games in this league, you have to do it at a high level all the time and it’s based on the habits you create. To me, that’s been the focus of our entire team really since I’ve been here. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to do it on a daily basis. It’s something that we’ve really tried to take one day at a time and focus on it so we can get a product that shows up on Saturdays and we can play complete games.”

On the keys to beating Arkansas:

“First of all, playing together. I talked about it; not turning the football over, getting turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, playing cleaner, executing at a higher level. It all goes back to execution. I think that’s something that our guys understand, it’s something that we’ve been working on hard to improve and we’ve had good practices the last couple of days, so that’s been a positive sign.”

On if the offense has been under center less this season:

“Really, the first two years being here we were probably limited in the number of people on our team scholarship wise, somewhere between 65 and 70. If you look over those years, we were really trying to shrink the game just because of the numbers. We knew the more snaps you played over the course of the season or really over the course of the game was really not in our favor. We really tried to shrink the game. This year we felt like with our scholarship numbers, when we were healthy, that to give us the best opportunity to be explosive on offense was to run the same plays that we would normally run from under center but add RPO elements, add opportunities to throw the ball down the field to create some of the advantages that the rules allow you in college football.”

On Tuesday’s COVID-19 test results:

“We still have one more test this week tomorrow, but right now everybody is COVID free. That’s good. I think it was an unusual deal at the testing facility. We went through the proper protocol there with the SEC and everybody came back negative.”

On the status of Jeremy Banks:

“Jeremy (Banks) really had an ugly injury unfortunately early on in the Kentucky game. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to play this week. We kept him out of practice last week. He’s practiced for two days and today he was pretty sore from it. It’s just one of those high ankle sprains that takes a little while to get over it, but he’s a tough guy and I think he’ll be ready to play some snaps on Saturday.”

On the status of the current quarterback situation:

“It’s pretty open. It’s pretty common in young players when you talk about consistencies. Getting these guys the amount of reps really where you kind of have something to judge them off of. That’s one thing about having the scrimmages and then having an open week has been good. Especially with Brian (Maurer) and Harrison (Bailey), their reps were limited when we were kind of in camp mode. Just trying to create a volume of plays were you can judge exactly where they’re at. They continue to work hard. I see both of those guys do a lot of really good things, but they still have a lot to learn. They’re working hard at it to do it every day.”

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