Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript (8.28.20)

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media via Zoom on Friday. Below are quotes from the media availability.

Opening Statement…

“We’ve had six really good practices. Obviously, the last couple we’ve had a chance to put pads on. It’s been good for our guys, been good for our coaching staff, so a lot of really good work, lots of competition. When you put pads on you get an opportunity to finish blocks, you get an opportunity to thud guys in practice, lot more emphasis on ball security, getting balls out. (We) had a chance to really work a lot on Wednesday on special teams. Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of rain here for a couple of practices and have not had a chance to get out there and kick balls, operation with the specialists, field balls, so that was really good. We’ve got to continue to be able to do that. We feel like we have really good specialists, guys that can create explosive plays in the return game, so getting a chance to do that has been good to get out there and get going to do it.

Credit: WNML staff photos

“Today, we elected not to practice. As you guys know, we continue to constantly test within our program and we have really had very good results the entire time with the exception of, like I said before, when I gave them eight days off for the Fourth of July. But this week, we had a few more positive tests, so I elected to shut practice down. We retested everybody again this morning to see where we’re at. Our No. 1 priority here is to be able to protect everybody associated with our program and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. As we get the results back, we’ll see exactly where we’re at and we’ll start practice up accordingly.”

On what has impressed him the most so far about QB Jarrett Guarantano and what he’s seen from QB Harrison Bailey…

 “Jarrett has a really good feel for what we’re trying to get done offensively. Not only does he know what he’s supposed to do, he has a good understanding for every position on the field. He can coach the guys. He’s doing a nice job taking care of the football, working on his consistency, his footwork, decision making, so he’s had six really good days.

“Harrison didn’t practice for the first couple of days, but at our last practice I thought he had a period there where he really kind of shined, taking care of the football, getting the ball out of his hands. He’s just like any freshman, he needs tons of reps. He needs it at the speed that the game is in college and the more reps he gets the better he’ll get, just like any other young player, so he’s just got to continue to get opportunities.”

On if there is a threshold for how many positive tests it takes to shut down practice and the status of WR Deangelo Gibbs…

 “We’ve not put a number on the testing. We’ve been very low to zero for the most part of the entire summer with the exception of one week. We weren’t at zero or one this week, so we want to make sure that we figure out why. Obviously, back here in July when we gave the guys off and everybody went their separate ways, the numbers were really high across the country. We came back and had more positive tests. Now we’ve got the student body back on campus and it’s something that our student-athletes are going to have to learn to live with and we’ve got to make good decisions. And again, make sure when it comes to who you’re around you understand that you have to have a mask on at all times. We want to make sure that it’s not spreading within our building because to this point, we’ve had zero spread in the tracing from within our building and that’s just one of the things we wanted to make sure of.

“As far as Deangelo Gibbs, Deangelo has elected not to play this fall. He’s going to focus on his academics. He’s still with our team and he continues to do a really good job academically, but he’s going to sit this fall out.”

On if he is pleased with the turnaround time for COVID testing …

 “Well it’s been easy as far as transmission for the players we’ve had tested positive over the course the last two months. If there has been a spread, whether it is in somebody’s apartment or somebody’s dorm room, that is one of the things that we have been able to figure out. This time, we wanted to take a day or two and go back to make sure that we are very thorough with each one of our players and figure out where the initial COVID came from. If that means we can’t practice tomorrow, we won’t practice tomorrow. This was my decision through our athletic training department, Dr. (Chris) Klenck. Again, it is about protecting everybody in our program. We have 25 practices; we have a bunch of time to get them in and it’s not like we are running out of time or anything like that. We want to make sure that we are protecting or players and reassuring their safety.”

On center Brandon Kennedy …

He’s a smart guy that is very dependable. He brings good leadership, is tough, it’s like having a coach out there on the field. He’s a guy that, unfortunately, because of injury didn’t get to play a whole lot early on in his career. He’s got the opportunity now and continues to work hard to be the best player that he can possibly be.”

On where the positive tests were traced from …

“When you start trying to go back and figure it out, the first thing is that it takes a lot of communication. You want to make sure that it’s not being transmitted within our building, first and foremost. Just going back and gathering the information and figuring out. That is something that we’ve done the last 48 hours and we will continue to do that.”

On tomorrow’s student-athlete led protest and players and the sport world using their platform to promote change…

“We’ll all I can do is comment on our team. This rally has been planned with our players and other student-athletes across our campus for several weeks. We’ve always planned to practice around this, which will be tomorrow night, to allow them to participate in anything they want to participate in when it comes to this. I think, when we talk about platforms, here at Tennessee we’re going to use our platform to help create change and be at the forefront of it. Our players believe in it, our staff believes in it, our administration believes in it. So we’re going to continue to support them in this movement and tomorrow and it’s something we’ll continue for years to come.”

On the benefit of having defensive players that can play multiple positions…

“One thing I say obviously helps in any year is if there’s guys that have knowledge and have experience. So, if you understand the big picture it gives you an opportunity to be your best and help you make the players around you better. It creates value for you as a player to be able to play multiple positions. We have lots of guys within our program that can do that whether it’s playing corner, star, money as a defensive back or safety, star and money. A linebacker that can play inside or outside. A d-lineman that can play all across the front or an offensive lineman that can play two or three positions or a wide receiver that can play multiple positions. It just creates value for them and it’s something we do conceptually and continue to install and teach conceptually so that guys get the big picture.”

On Jaylen McCullough…

“He’s a guy that’s smart, he’s tough. He’s had a little bit of experience in this league now. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s got to continue to improve. He’s got to improve on his man-to-man. He’s got to be more of a playmaker and eraser in the back end. He’s got to be more consistent day to day. He’s a guy that goes out there and works hard to do that every single day.”

On freshmen receivers…

“All of those guys are going to have to play. They all have plenty ability. They run really well. They have instincts. They all have soft hands. It’s a different league. They’re not playing high school ball anymore where they can just run freely and they get free releases. The guys that they’re going against every day or every Saturday are just as good of athletes as they are. They’re going to challenge them at the line of scrimmage. They’re going to challenge them at the top of the breaks and their route progression and they’re going to challenge them for the catches. They’re going to have to be able to make contested catches. When they block on the perimeter, because they are younger guys, maybe they’re not developed physically as much as they will be a couple of years from now, so they’ve got to be strong at the point of attack. They’re all learning. It’s a whole new system for these guys, but the guys are very willing. They’re eager and they come to work hard every single day.”

 

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