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Everything Jeremy Pruitt said on this week’s SEC Teleconference

Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the SEC media on Wednesday during the SEC Teleconference.

Pruitt discussed the importance of Tennessee’s bye week, Harrison Bailey, Jarrett Guarantano, COVID-19 results, preparing for Arkansas, Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks, Tennessee’s balance on offense, and Tennessee’s third down offense.

Pruitt will meet with the media for the second time following practice on Wednesday evening. He’ll then make his weekly appearance on Vol Calls to wrap up his media availabilities for the week.

Here’s everything Pruitt said during Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference:

Opening Statement:

“Having a Tuesday off actually might have been an advantage for us because we were off last week. Had a chance to practice on Sunday and Monday. Kind of give the guys a day off, go back and regroup. Kind of clean up our gameplan for the next three days here. Get ready for an Arkansas team that is playing really good football right now. You look at these guys, offensively they’re spreading the ball around really strong in the run game. Playing clean up front. Got lots of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, in the backfield, wide receiver, tight end. Defensively, it’s been very well documented the turnovers that they’ve gained this year. Coach (Barry) Odom is doing a fantastic job. The guys play hard, play together. Give you a lot of different looks. And in special teams, continue to win in vertical field position. So we have a tremendous challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”

On what Tennessee needs to improve on the second half of the season:

“We played the first two games and I think we were plus-three in turnover margin, the first (two) games. Since then, I think we’re minus-six. Might be minus-seven. So we obviously, No. 1, got to take care of the football. It’s the most important thing. It’s not just for us. You see it all across college football and the NFL. Teams that are in the negative part in turnover margin, it’s tougher for them to win football games. So that’s the first thing. Taking care of the football. We need to force more turnovers on defense and special teams.”

On Arkansas:

“We didn’t play them last year. I kind of go back to when I was at Alabama in 2017. Just looking at the talent level that is there now, compared to then. There’s lots of really good football players on the team. I feel like on each side of the ball there is six or seven guys that have a chance to be All-SEC type of players. The guys are playing hard, they’re playing with confidence and playing together.”

On Tennessee’s third-down offense:

“Probably both. I think the first game of the year we were 1-for-11 or something like that. And we won the football game. We need to be in manageable third downs. It’s much easier to convert a third-and-1 or two than it is a third-and-9 or 10. So winning first and second down is important. Probably the other thing that goes into there is creating explosive plays. When you start having to convert third downs over and over and over again, odds are against you as far as putting long drives together. There is a couple things with that that we need to improve on.”

On if they improved their tackling during the bye week:

“Yeah, there was too many yards after contact in that game (Alabama). Probably some of the things that they did, as far as getting guys in space contributed to that a little more, making us play all over the field. We’ve got to do a much better job doing that. To me, if you’ve got edges on defense and in the run game, and you’re close when people catch the ball, it also helps in that. So we’ve got to have tighter coverages. We’ve got to keep better edges. And we have to squeeze the run lanes better from the secondary.”

On how Harrison Bailey performed during the bye week:

“It’s been good to get Harrison reps. He continues to progress just like anybody would. He’s getting more practice time. You have to do something a lot of times before you get good at it. Harrison is a guy that is very conscientious. He’s smart. He works hard. He continues to improve everyday that he goes out there.”

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On Tennessee’s players doing the right thing as it relates to COVID:

“These guys, there are 10 opportunities to play during the fall, right? And nothing is guaranteed. So I think all of the players across college football have probably sacrificed a lot by coming back during a time of uncertainty, a little bit, and unknown. They did that because they want to play. They probably believe in the institutions they play for and trust the medical piece there. So I guess as time has went on, we’ve learned more and more about the virus. I think our players have worked really hard to try to protect themselves. There are not guarantees. But we continue to try to do the right things and hopefully they’ll be rewarded for it.”

On Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks:

“I remember recruiting him out of high school. Thought he had a chance to be a really good player, possibly on either side of the ball. I think he’s one of the best players in our conference. Just looking at him, you see him improve every week. He’s a mismatch guy. Probably 230 pounds. Runs like a guy that probably is a 4.4 guy. I think he’s one of the best players in our conference and I think he has a chance to be a really, really good football player as the years go by.”

On what makes Eric Gray and Ty Chandler so good:

“They’re hard workers. They have a lot of character about them. They want to be good not only in football but in life. They’re good students. They work hard every single day in practice. They are good leaders on our team. So I think it shows up for them on Saturdays because they put the work in 365 days a year.”

On Tennessee’s COVID testing results following the bye week:

“You know, we tested on Sunday and unfortunately we did have a few false positives. So we had some guys that had to miss Monday’s practice. But they’re back. So that was good. I think that’s happened all over, every testing facility across the country at times. It’s the first time it’s happened with us. But we did have a few guys that missed Monday’s practice. But they’ll be back, ready to go today.”

On Tennessee’s balance on offense:

“To me, I think you have to have balance if you want to have a chance to win every game each Saturday. You’ve got to be able to run the football. You’ve got to be able to throw the ball. And you’ve got to have quarterbacks that can make all the throws. You have to be able to execute at a high level. To me, I think you have to mix up tempo. Sometimes you’ve got to play fast and sometimes you have to slow it down and protect your defense a little bit, or protect a lead. We’ve got to be a team that’s explosive, creating explosive plays, whether it’s in the run game or the throw game. And a team that scores touchdowns in the red area. So there’s lots of ways we need to improve and we’re not there yet. So this will be a great opportunity for us to improve from where we were at.”

On if Jarrett Guarantano is back to getting first team reps:

“There was situation where Jarrett was hurt. Other guys obviously took reps when he was limited there. But as you watch our practices, at every position, we’re seeing who performs the best at practice, right? I’ve been doing this a long time and not many times you see guys that don’t perform very well in practice, but they play good on Saturdays. Not in the game of football. So we’ve continued to work hard to develop guys within our program, that do it the right way every single day. If you do that, you create the right habits. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or the score. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. You go back to those habits and you perform, kind of the way you’ve created the right habits at practice. That’s something that we do at all positions.”

On how Jarrett Guarantano is improving:

“Well, he continues to help us get in the right plays. We’ve put a lot on our offense, on our quarterback, to make sure when it comes to run (or) pass, we’re in the right plays. One thing about being a quarterback is how do you lead the other 10 guys on the field. There are times you have to alert people. Hey, you know, watch out for this Star coming on a blitz here. Or maybe they stem a front and you have to make sure we have the right ID pointed out in the run game. He’s done a really nice job doing that. These are things that our younger quarterbacks, the more that they get these look in practice, it helps in their development, so our offensive team can play better. He’s done a nice job, in my opinion, helping lead the quarterback room, helping these guys understand. He’s been a very good teammate to those guys.”

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