Jeremy Pruitt Postgame Quotes After UAB

Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt

Opening Statement:

Vols HC Jeremy Pruitt / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal

“That was a really hard-fought game. Those guys, especially on defense, played an outstanding game. You can see why they (UAB) are one of the top-ranked defenses in the country. They have good players and good schemes. They did a good job executing. I thought, defensively, (we) really changed the game with the turnovers in the first half. It gave us an opportunity to put some alley-oops as far as score on the board. We were short field position. I felt like we won the field position battle there in the first half, which really helped. I wasn’t very pleased with the last drive of the half and the defense of the second half. We gave some young guys an opportunity there. We didn’t execute very well and we have to improve.

 

“Offensively, we didn’t really start very fast. We kind of played behind the chains and had too many negative plays. You run for six yards and the next one is minus three where you throw an incomplete pass and didn’t protect very well at all. We probably had a couple of throws out there that we had a chance to make and didn’t hit the guys there. I was very disappointed with the turnover at the end of the first half. We had a good drive going on there and had some good plays and made a poor decision. You never take points off the board, and that is what we did there. We can’t make those mistakes moving forward. We had some guys out tonight and hopefully will be able to get those guys back. They are getting closer and closer. It looked like we got out of this game pretty clean. We have a big challenge next week, and we have to get focused on that.”

 

On what his thought process was with playing the quarterbacks:

“I thought it gave us the best chance to win. One guy had surgery on Sunday. It is cold out there, and he has a cast on his hand. First time getting out there, you see him in warm ups and he practiced most of the week, but the ball was pretty slick there the way the air was tonight. If J.T. (Shrout) doesn’t run across the field or throw across his body, back over there when we were in field goal range, he might have kept playing. There are some mistakes as the quarterback that you can’t make. You might miss a throw. You might not check the ball to the proper side. You can’t let go of the football in the red zone. We can’t make those mistakes.”

 

On how he felt the defensive line played tonight:

“I felt like we kept them behind the chains. They do a lot of seven-man protecting, which is what they do. That is one of the reasons why they don’t give up a lot of sacks, because they are in seven-man protect all the time. But we did get a little bit of pressure. I thought we guarded them in the back end. I thought our defensive staff did a really nice job getting our guys ready to play. I thought our defensive players practiced well all week, so it was not surprising how they played. So it was good when they made mistakes, we made them pay. Bryce (Thompson) made three interceptions. Darel Middleton caused a fumble that Aubrey Solomon recovered. We should’ve had that pick at the end, but it was dropped out there in the middle of the field. But when they make mistakes, you’ve got to make them pay, and we did that tonight.”

 

On what makes the offensive stall in the red zone:

“There are lots of things. It really helps you a lot by using formations. Whether it is formations, movements, motions and other stuff to create soft edges on the defense to make the defense have to adjust. But when you do that, the look also changes on the defensive side. You’ve got to do a nice job making sure that everybody knows who you are pushing to – who’s the linebacker, who’s working with who, taking the correct steps. Sometimes in all of that, it takes the quarterback to glue that together and sometimes it takes the front. You have to work hand-in-hand. We made some mistakes from just not blocking the right folks or just maybe not stepping with the right foot or the proper angle or maybe not straining enough. There are lots of things that go in there that go into it. And as a play caller, you have to have confidence in throwing the football in the red zone. We made some plays throughout the year where we have turned the ball over, which we can’t do. We have to get better there. We know that. We have to address it. We have got to do it on Saturdays.”

 

On if he considered playing Brian Maurer tonight and how he can explain the improvement on the team in the last few weeks:

“We worked Brian to be ready to play. But with three quarterbacks, it was hard to get Brian as many reps as he probably needed to be ready. So we elected to go with the other guys today. He will have an opportunity to get more reps as we get into it. We are still kind of seeing where we are at there.

 

With the improvement, our guys work really hard at practice. They work hard to prepare and to give themselves a chance to have success. They are a fun group to be around. We have had to execute at a little higher level in all three phases of our team, but you can see some of the guys are gaining confidence, with the fact they have been around and have been in the system a little longer. The younger guys are gaining confidence and some of the guys that have been here. It just comes from doing the same stuff over and over again. We just have to improve this week.”

 

On what the plan was to start the second half at the QB position:

“Well, we were going to go back with J.T. (Shrout) at some point, just kind of with the way the game kept going there. We kept getting turnovers that created a short field, so we were going to give Jarrett (Guarantano) those opportunities, and when halftime was over, we decided to go back the other way, but the interception absolutely doesn’t help.”

 

On what he saw out of Bryce Thompson tonight:

“He really just did what he was supposed to do. One time, we’re playing cut, and he splits the zone and the quarterback stares down when they run four verticals, makes a poor throw, and he breaks on the ball. One time, they ran a deep comeback and we’re playing two man, and the ball really shouldn’t be thrown that way, it was, and he made them pay there. The last time, he was playing the money position. Theo Jackson didn’t play tonight, so Bryce moved inside and played money, which is where we were going to play him all year until he was out for a few weeks and didn’t get as many reps, so there are a lot of balls that go to the fourth receiver on the other team on third down. You’ve got two guys outside, and you’ve got the guy that your star is on and our money guy, two and three, lots of balls go to them, so he made a good play and undercut the guy.”

 

On how Bryce Thompson has improved since returning to the team:

“It obviously hurt that he wasn’t practicing, but he’s improving. He’s been banged up for a couple of weeks now, he’s a tough kid that really wants to play and likes to play. He’s continued to improve, and he should. He’s playing more ball, he’s older, he’s maturing, he’s getting stronger, he’s been in the system a little longer. He needs to continue to do that.”

 

On how Derrick Ansley has helped the secondary this season:

“I can tell you this, I love coaching defensive backs. If I can’t coach defensive backs, I’m not going to coach anymore. Derrick Ansley is a guy that, for me, I don’t have to be in the room. I know what’s being said. I know how the room is prepared. I know how his meetings are run; he’s going to say exactly what I would say to him. He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve ever been around. It’s been great to watch him grow and develop over the years. At one time, he was my graduate assistant, and then the last couple of years, he’s been a defensive backs coach at places that I’ve been at, and he does a phenomenal job. He’s improving as a play caller; he does a really nice job with that. He commands attention. He’s done a great job coaching the guys up on the sideline, and he gets the information from the guys upstairs who do a really nice job, Kevin (Sherrer) and the other guys up there. Tracy Rocker and Chris Rumph do a nice job, too, so it’s a really good group to work with. We don’t have any secrets in our room. We say what we think to each other, which is the way I like to work. It’s fun being around them, and they do a really nice job, and I think the kids like being around them, too.”

 

On what the team needs to do to keep momentum defensively:

“We have to practice it. There’s no secret, we keep a tab up every week of caused fumbles, interceptions, shots on the ball. It might not be a fumble, but who took a shot on the ball, batted balls for passes? And the weeks that we do it in practice, it shows up in the game. The weeks that it doesn’t show up on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, it doesn’t show up here on Saturday. It seems, pretty simple, right? If you just create the right habits in practice, it shows up on Saturdays. So, those are the things that we’ve been trying to stress to our players, and it’s the truth.”

On depending on Brent Cimaglia:

“He’s a guy that’s always working. He has talent, it’s obvious when you’re out there. The thing I like about him is that I think he could play middle linebacker, too. I like that guy. If he misses one, he jumps up there and wants to hit another one, and he doesn’t go and try to hide somewhere. He wants to get up there and do it again. I think he has a really good makeup about him. He’s a great competitor. We do our offseason conditioning and he’s an athlete. I don’t know what else he played besides kicker before he got here; he was probably a soccer player, but he might’ve been a defensive player. I don’t know, the way he acts, he gets out there and competes his tail off, and I’m glad we’ve got him.”

-UT Athletics

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