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Everything Jeremy Pruitt said on the SEC Teleconference

Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Wednesday’s SEC Teleconference in the wake of dismissing redshirt junior outside linebacker Kivon Bennett from the team.

Pruitt explained who the Vols will turn to in the wake of Bennett’s departure, whether or not Harrison Bailey will play, freshmen who have impressed him over the last couple of weeks, and defending Florida’s explosive offense.

Here’s everything Pruitt had to say:

Pruitt’s Opening Statement:

“Obviously it’s been several weeks since we’ve been in Neyland Stadium. We’re excited about getting here, playing in front of our fans. We’ve got an extremely talented Florida team that is playing really well. Very efficient on offense, being able to run and throw the football. Defensively they’ve always created negative plays. And they’re really good in special teams. So our kids are excited. We’ve had a good week of practice and we’re looking forward to it.”

On how Tennessee will replaced dismissed outside linebacker Kivon Bennett:

“Tyler Baron has played well for us and really has played more and more each week. Roman Harrison played really well early in the season. He’s been banged up for several weeks. But with the off weeks we’ve had here, he’s had a chance to get healthy. And Morven Joseph.”

On if Vols freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey will play against Florida:

“Harrison will definitely play Saturday. To what extent, we’ve not decided yet.”

On why Bailey is ready for more playing time:

“I feel like the three games that he’s played in, obviously the situations were probably favorable to him at the time. Based off the score. But I thought he handled himself really well. He continues to improve. So the more practice that he gets, probably the more comfortable he is in the system and his surroundings and the people around him.”

On if Tennessee would accept a bowl bid:

“Absolutely. You look at all the young men across the country that have came back. They came back when they had no idea what the circumstances were. They came back because they love the game and they wanted to have an opportunity to play. Our guys continue to work really hard. This is one year we will probably have the majority of our team back next year. And it’s something they’re looking forward to.”

On evaluating growth during the open weeks over the last month:

“It’s been real easy to me. Our guys continue to work hard. To me, I feel like we’ve improved throughout the season. The thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to eliminate three or four plays on each side of the ball to help us play a complete game. But we’ve been able to develop depth. You see guys improving. We’ve got a lot of guys that are starting to play their best ball.”

On limiting Florida’s explosive plays:

“You need to able to cut them off in the backend. Don’t let them throw the ball over your head. I think they do a really nice job with yards after the catch. They create explosive plays in the run game. And I think Kyle Trask does a nice job extending plays. Receivers adjusting in scrambles. When he gets to moving around, you’ve got to be able to match guys in the back end.”

On which freshmen have improved the most over the last couple of weeks:

“There’s a lot of them. I see a guy like Dee Beckwith, who basically missed the entire (preseason) camp. He’s starting to gain confidence in the position that he’s playing. He’s a guy in high school that played all over. A guy like Jimmy Calloway and Jimmy Holiday, two guys that played a lot of quarterback in high school that are now playing wide receiver. Keshawn Lawrence, another guy that really played safety in high school and wide receiver, and kind of bounced around a little bit for us early in the season, just based off numbers. But getting him honed into a position. Omari Thomas, Jabari Small, we’ve had lots of guys that, to me, continue to improve. I’m really excited about the growth of this freshman class. And our sophomores too. I think we have 50 freshmen and sophomores on our roster, and very few of them have ever experienced spring ball. So every day that we get to go out, they work hard to improve. They’ve got great attitudes and it’s good to see.”

On Florida’s defense giving up so many points and yards compared to previous seasons:

“I think probably some of that is they’ve scored so fast offensively. Based off the scoreboard, usually as a defensive coordinator, if you’re scoring 40 points a game, you might play with I guess softer coverages at times. Especially late in the game. I don’t think, as far as the points they’ve given up and the yardage they’ve given up, is an indicator of how good they are defensively. I think it’s based off circumstance.”

On how important bowl practices will be this season if the Vols were to attend a bowl:

“I think, kind of going back to some of the other questions about having the majority of your team back, just the opportunity to create routine. Developing as an individual player, creating chemistry within your team. I think it’s a great opportunity any time you get a chance to do that. Obviously the more you do something, the better you get at it. I just think those opportunities can be very rewarding.”

On the 16 players in quarantine and if they’ll be available against Florida:

“Obviously we had testing (on Tuesday) and we don’t have those results completely back yet, but we’ll get guys back as the week goes.”

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