Everything Jeremy Pruitt said after Wednesday’s practice

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

    Pruitt discussed what kicker will travel, how Harrison Bailey and J.T. Shrout have practiced this week, other running backs getting a look this week, the status of Austin Pope, Tennessee’s COVID-19 situation and Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals.

    Here’s everything Pruitt had to say following Wednesday’s practice:

    Opening Statement:

    “Today was our last day of finals. Our guys, along with our academic staff have done a really nice job this semester working to finish this semester off. I know they’ll be looking forward to probably tomorrow, there’s no school for them, so that’ll be the first time probably since June. It will be a little unusual for the next couple of weeks, but we’ll be good. Should be able to get some extra film and things in. I know they’re excited about this weekend. Had three really good days of practice and ready to go to Nashville.”

    On how Harrison Bailey and J.T. Shrout have practiced this week:

    “They’re taking the same amount of reps with the ones and the twos, both of them. I feel like we’ve had really good tempo. Seems to be some confidence there. The more reps they get, they’re going to continue to improve and I think they’ve done a nice job.”

    On the roster limit for next season:

    “My understanding is next year’s returning senior class doesn’t count against your 85 (scholarship) limit. I’m not sure that’s exactly right, but that’s my understanding.”

    On if kicker Toby Wilson will travel to Vanderbilt:

    “Toby will travel. He’ll travel.”

    On the health and status of tight end Austin Pope:

    “My conversations with Austin, it’s been very unfortunate for him. He had a great offseason, came back and looked really, really good. He’s played some good football for us and unfortunately for him with the injury, it sidelined him this year. I’ve not had a conversation particularly with him about that for probably a couple of weeks now, but we’d love to have him back.”

    On how he sees himself after taking the Tennessee job three years ago:

    “Well, every day I look in the mirror — I don’t think I’m getting any younger, so that’s one thing for sure. It’s obviously been a whole lot of fun. Myself, my family, the men who came here, we knew exactly what we were getting into. We love the kids that we’re around, we love the administration, representing the University of Tennessee and we’re excited about an opportunity on Saturday.”

    On if running backs other than Ty Chandler and Eric Gray will play against Vanderbilt:

    “Yeah, absolutely. Dee’s (Beckwith) been getting a lot of reps and Jabari Small. Jabari got injured down at Auburn during warmups. Both of these guys are back. Dee’s a guy that really missed all of summer and fall camp, (but) he’s a guy the more reps he takes the better he’s getting. He played on special team last week and he’ll continue to see an increased role.”

    On if Tennessee has had any positive COVID cases this week:

    “No. We’ve been very fortunate. I know that’s probably not the case here locally, throughout our state and our country. It’s very unfortunate. We continue to preach safety and I can’t say enough about what Jeronimo (Boche) and Dr. (Chris) Klenck and their staff have done in educating our players to help prevent them from getting this (virus).”

    On the difficulty of preparing for Vanderbilt after a coaching change:

    “Well, we’ve been focused on the things we can control, which is us. We have lots of things we need to improve upon. Our kids have great attitudes, continue to work extremely hard, and are trying to work to play a complete game. Throughout the season, we’ve played really well in spurts at times. Then there have been some times we have not. So, just looking for a complete game.”

    On Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Ken Seals:

    “Well, he’s a good athlete. Plays with poise and confidence. He can extend plays. He’s got a really, really good arm – seems to be able to make all the throws. He’s got good playmakers outside. They have four or five running backs they play that are really talented and I’ve been impressed with their offensive line.”

    On being prepared for anything against a Vanderbilt team with nothing to lose:

    “I think it’s probably the case with both teams. The kids work extremely hard and our opportunities are running out. I think both sides will be aggressive and try to do everything that they can to play at the best of their ability.”

    On his message to recruits with the early signing period approaching:

    “It’s really interesting. If you look at the SEC, there are some teams that have finished playing. For 10 days leading up to signing day, they obviously have an advantage not working on opponents. Some teams have been out for one week, some for two and some of us that are playing the entire time. I don’t know any time in my career that I have taken my cell phone to practice, but over the last 10 days I have done that a few times just expecting phone calls and things like that based off being able to continue to recruit and coach the football team. It has been very unusual circumstances for sure.”

    On how playing this late has changed his day-to-day:

    “If you want to be a good recruiter, you have to recruit every single day. We probably spent a little more time over the last couple of weeks to recruit just knowing this was coming based off our schedule. Just trying to stay on top of things. It’s unusual, it is for everybody. There have been a lot of firsts this year. We are learning from it, adapting to it and really going full speed ahead.”

    On the team’s work ethic:

    “I’ve kind of been on both sides of it. I’ve been on teams that haven’t lost any games and there have been times where it seems like you have to drag it out of them every single day. Obviously, we haven’t had the season that we would love to have. A lot of it is that we have good leadership on our team. We have a lot of guys who know they are going to be back and are looking forward to the future of our program. They understand where we are at and the things that we have to do to get to where we have to get to. With the leadership that we have on the team, they have a lot of pride in the University of Tennessee and they want to finish off the season the right way.”

    On the quick turnaround for a bowl game:

    “Well, me and Phillip (Fulmer) have obviously had conversations about it and I don’t know the exact dates of all the bowl games, but it’s the circumstances. If that’s what we do, we will put our best foot forward and keep on grinding.”