UT Player Interview Transcripts: JG, Callaway, Bituli & Kennedy

Vols WRs / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal

Redshirt Junior QB Jarrett Guarantano

On Jeremy Pruitt’s improvement with building relationships with the players this season:
“I see him having more trust with his coaches. Coach (Derrick) Ansley’s out there, coach (Jim) Chaney is out there and they’re really running the show offensively and defensively. Coach Pruitt is the overseer of everything, so everything goes through him, but I think that he’s let the reigns go to our coordinators and he’s done a good job with that.”

On his relationship with coach Pruitt:
“I think me and him have grown leaps and bounds over the past few months and I hope that we continue to do so over the years.”

On his evaluation of the scrimmage:
“From the whole offensive standpoint, some good, some bad. We didn’t turn the ball over as the ones, we won a couple of drills and we lost a couple of drills. There are some things that we can learn from and get better from, but all around I think this camp has been really good for the offense and these next two weeks are going to be big for our development.”

On how this camp is different without another quarterback who’s taken a snap:
“Going into the summer, coach (Chris) Weinke has harped on me to look at myself in the mirror and competing against myself every day. If I want to get what I’ve always wanted and I’ve always prayed for and looked for growing up, I got to do that every day and I have to come with my ‘A’ game. I can’t look left and right and be saying, ‘look who I have behind me’ or ‘look who’s here.’ I have to be the best player I can be every day.”

On coach Chaney trying to generate competition:
“I think they try to put me in tough situations, which is only going to make me better. I enjoy being in those tough situations and those are game-like situations. When the game comes around, it makes things easier for me.”

On examples of bad situations the staff put him in:
“Bad situations in practice, like a lot of third and longs and two-minute drills backed up with no timeouts. Those type of things. Rotating the offensive line throughout the whole summer. Being able to communicate to different people different things at different times. Those are some different times when I’m actually going a little bit too crazy, but it’s good for me.”

On pushing younger guys through fall camp:
“That’s a struggle for every college football team. You hit the middle of camp and everybody is looking forward to the season coming around and saying, ‘when is it going to be here?’ The older guys, the guys that have been here, have to look at the team and say, ‘refocus up, there are a lot of things that we have to do before we get there.’ If we were to play a game tomorrow, we aren’t ready. We have to take these next two weeks for what they are and get better every day.’”

On settling on a starting offensive line from a QB standpoint:
“Surprisingly, no. I think going into this camp, there has been a lot of competition and I see it every day. They are rotating ones and twos every day, and threes. We have a lot of guys that can do it. We are going to try to find the best five. I don’t know if it is going to be the day before or if it is going to be this week. I like seeing a lot of guys rotate in, I am able to communicate and compete with a lot of the guys whenever they do come to the ones. I enjoy it but going into things, I think they are going to narrow down and cut the crop down.”

On the offensive line in camp:
“They’re competing very hard. Their knowledge of the game has definitely grown leaps and bounds. I think that there are a lot of guys that can play and are willing to try to play this year. You see the competition level that has raised, and I think going into the season that is good. We are going to need those guys. It is a tough, long season. We play in the SEC and you don’t know what can happen.”

On situations where he feels more comfortable:
“Third and short, third and long. Those type of situations. I think coach Chaney has come with great plans. Going into his game plans and philosophies, you really see what he’s trying to execute and what he’s trying to do. He’s given me the reigns to do my own thing and what I’m comfortable with in those situations. Those are some of the situations I’m starting to enjoy.”

On his responsibilities coaching up the younger QBs in practice:
“A lot. I go back to when I was a freshman and I was redshirted. I was always around Josh Dobbs and whenever I had a question, he was always there with an answer. I want to be that same exact example. I’m an older guy now, so it is kind of weird for me to say it. Every day after practice I’m in there and those guys come in and want to learn something new and want to know what I’m thinking and or just how I feel about a certain play. It’s good to have those guys always asking and always curious trying to get better.”

On what he is looking at with the younger quarterbacks during practice:
“I just want them to compete at a high level. I want them to be able to raise other players’ games. Last week, I was managing the shoulder. Nothing is wrong with it, just a lot of throws during camp. Whenever I’m watching them go with the ones or twos or threes, I just want to see them compete. I want to see them operating at a high level. That’s all we talk about in the quarterback room, just elevating peoples’ games.”

If he likes their competitive nature:
“Yes, I think JT (Shrout) and Brian (Maurer) are really good competitors. They’re getting after each other a little and that’s a really good thing.”

On coach Pruitt saying he’s the only starter and what the dynamic is like:
“Well, it’s a first. Same thing, I come to this every single day and I say, ‘coach Weinke, I need to get a lot better today.’ I have one goal in mind and he knows that goal, but I’m not going to share it with you guys. Every single day I’m trying to get better at something. I want to be the best that I can possibly be. That’s what I go into every day looking at. I don’t want to look left and right. I don’t want to look at any newspapers or articles seeing where I’m ranked. I don’t want to see that stuff. I just want to be the best player in the world and I want to be the best player in the country and that’s my everyday goal.”

On notes he emphases going forward:
“These next two weeks, mesh with the offense. I want to be able to communicate better, hand signals, all those types of things. I want to be able to run the offense smoothly, I want to be able to get us in and out of plays that are going to work. Really just getting the guys a lot better. There are a lot of things that we can get better at, but I want to be able to motivate them and get them to our highest point.”

Senior WR Marquez Callaway

On how the passing game is coming together:
“I think it’s going pretty good. We learn a lot of stuff from coach (Jim) Chaney and Coach Tee (Martin), and I think we’re doing a better job at executing.”

On areas where he feels he can improve:
“On the field and off the field is my leadership. I know I said it a couple weeks ago, but I still think that’s one I need to improve on. Nigel (Warrior) tells me a lot that I need to step up and that’s what I’ve been trying to do and focus on.”

On where the offense needs to improve after Sunday’s scrimmage:
“I think us as an offense, we need to focus more. I think that’s one of our biggest flaws right now. We have too many MAs [missed assignments], so if we just straighten up on the MAs, I think we’ll be a better and more dynamic offense.”

On what Coach Jim Chaney has brought to the offense:
“Up tempo. A lot of speed. He wants execution and he wants us to do it right, so if we’re not doing it right we start it all over until we get it right.”

On what WR Jacquez Jones brings to the receiver group:
“Speed. Coach wants him for his speed. He knows he’s a fast guy, he knows what he can do, and he uses what he does [to his advantage]. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he knows if he gets in the open field or he knows he gets you where he wants, he knows what he can do with you.”

On the emphasis on getting more yards after the catch:
“Coach Tee (Martin) puts us through drills all the time about high pointing it [the ball], catching, ripping it and landing on your feet and running after the catch. Last year coach YAC (David Johnson) – that’s why we called him YAC, because he always wanted yards after catch – and it just kind of rolled over to coach Tee. He always tells us the run after catch and the yards after catch, that’s how you go from catching 400 or 500 [yards] to becoming 1,000-yard receivers.”

Senior LB Daniel Bituli

On his comfort with the defense:
“Very comfortable. The whole unit feels comfortable. Being able to get this work in with these guys this past summer with the 7-on-7s has really helped us this fall.”

On work at the outside linebacker position: 
“On third downs, I’ll be in a pass-rushing position. I enjoy it, trying to get to the quarterback. I don’t really get to him much on first or second down, so I have to get to him somehow.”

On Henry To’o To’o  and the other freshmen linebackers:
“He’s (Henry To’o To’o) eager to play. He loves the game, so do all of these young guys and it shows each and every time we go onto the field. Like I said from the get-go, their eagerness to learn, eagerness to go out and help the team any way that they can, that’s what we need on the team and that’s what we have right now.”

On the linebacker group’s chemistry and team bonding:
“The LB group started a whole group chat before (Henry) even got here, but him having a feel for the defense before he was able to step on campus has really helped him out and some of the other guys that were here before he came. It was actually their [the freshmen’s] idea. They brought it up to the coaches and Coach (Kevin) Sherrer brought it up to us and we talked about it. We were able to build some chemistry before they even got here. We talk about ball a lot, obviously. We hang out. We go out to eat. We ask personal questions to get to know each other. We’re not just a unit, we’re a family. These are my brothers that I’m going to war with, so being able to build that bond has really helped us out. [It’s like that with] the entire defense. We were 16-deep on Fortnite the other day. We had a mixed setup going on. We were having a good time after going through all of this football. [The best Fortnite player] is between me, Bump (LaTrell Bumphus) and Elijah (Simmons), that boy’s good.”

On freshman DL Elijah Simmons:
“Passion. He’s real strong. I’ve never seen a freshman come in and lift as much as he has. He’s real strong, wants to go out there and make plays and is going to toughen this defense up, but so are all of these young guys. I’m really excited for these guys. I’m really excited.”

On defensive line:
“I’ve seen good. I see guys really trying to go out there and make some plays. We all have to work as a unit and understand that I have to do my job in order for someone else to succeed. That’s what football is. Everybody has to do their job for the whole unit to succeed.”

On Derrick Ansley making calls this year:
“[It’ll be] no different than last year. These coaches all bring a knowledge to the game that makes them better together. They all think the same way as far as the philosophy of the defense. Coach Ansley has helped this defense out in a lot of ways and we’re glad to have him here. Being extra, his play calling, he explains to you how he wants to go about making plays. Us understanding that, we know how we want to go out there and make the plays.”

On what will make 2019 a successful season:
“Win each and every day. That all starts with practice. We know what we need to do this upcoming fall. If we want to win those games, we have to win each and every practice, so win each and every day.”

On if the new defense is complicated:
“Not anymore. After learning it, you’re just like ‘Man, all these words that are tied in mean the same thing.’ That takes some time to understand, but right now, no I don’t think it’s that complicated. It eventually just clicks. It took me through the [2018] season. Being able to have the extra meeting time with the coaches. These coaches really hone in on coming in and meeting with them as much as we can.”

Redshirt Senior OL Brandon Kennedy

On practice dynamic with no clear starting offensive line:
“Iron sharpens iron. We definitely want to get better. Having multiple guys that can play multiple positions is really helpful once you get into the season.”

On the feeling during Sunday’s scrimmage after missing most of last year with an injury:
“It was great. Just having the opportunity to be out there with my guys and being able to compete was great. It’s what I love, and I was just happy to be back out there.”

On his own performance during the scrimmage:
“I’m definitely not where I want to be. This week I just want to focus on being consistent and being able to put everyone on the same page.”

On what is holding the o-line back from tapping into that consistency they’re looking for:
“I can’t think of anything specifically. I would have to say it’s getting everyone on the same page. As an offensive line, one person can’t shine, it’s an entire unit, so we have to make sure we’re on the same page before every snap.”

On being cautious when coming back from last year’s injury:
“No. I don’t want to be cautious, because these opportunities only come once in a lifetime. I just try to push myself as hard as I can so I can give myself more opportunities.”

On having everyone on the same page with guys moving around positions all the time:
“It helps everyone know not only their own stuff, but everyone else’s as well. Me being the center and me being the leader, it’s my job to make sure everyone knows what to do and is studying and learning their plays.”

On his opportunity going into his last year:
“One thing I’ve told myself is that these opportunities only come once in a lifetime. You only have a three to five-year window playing football, so I just know I can’t take this for granted and I need to keep going every day.”

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