Transcript: Pruitt and No. 18/17 Vols Remain Positive as Prep for Kentucky Underway

Vol HC Jeremy Pruitt / Credit: UT Athletics

Opening statement …

“You know going back and looking at the game on Saturday, to start offensively, didn’t execute at a very good level at all. Done a very poor job of communicating. Lots of times we had the wrong MIKE spot, who we’re pushing to on our points, running the football in protection – gotta do a much better job of that. It’s hard to have success if you don’t understand who the MIKE is. Gotta play faster on the perimeter, gotta do a better job of protecting the quarterback, gotta establish the run game and obviously gotta take care of the football. Too many penalties on offense, didn’t take care of the football – never got in a rhythm of being good at anything that we wanted to do on Saturday. We threw a couple of balls down the field that created a couple of explosive plays there, but because of the penalties, getting behind the chains really kept us from being able to get in rhythm. You have to give them (Georgia) credit for that. Lots of things we have to improve on there. Defensively, there were a lot of guys that played really hard, but we didn’t always play smart. Made a lot of mistakes on third down – kept them on the field. Had a couple of penalties there that they converted on, but a lot of positives to me there we can clean up and grow on from the game. Special teams had one return there on kickoff that missed a tackle on the 15-yard line. Had a couple of guys who didn’t get off blocks and that was disappointing there. Lots of things we can learn from, from this game that we can improve on. The biggest thing is, it’s no different week in and week out, No. 1 is you have to be able to care of the football. Defensively, we did get two turnovers, a turnover on downs twice. That was much improved there. But, the most penalties we’ve had the entire season, which is disappointing. We’ve got to work hard to improve that and our kids will.

“When you look at Kentucky this week, Coach (Mark) Stoops has done a fantastic job there. They’re one of the best teams in the conference when it comes to running the football. They do a nice job – very creative in the run game. They use their quarterback running the football. They have a stable of running backs and a bunch of guys running the ball well there. They have an experienced offensive line. Defensively, they’ve always created issues in our league the last three or four years. Really good in the red area. A lot of blitzing, varieties in coverages there, so you gotta do a nice job. They’ve always done a nice job at special teams. Just looking at this week, we gotta get back to work. Our kids will have a positive attitude and we’ll go back and do that.”

On senior LB Deandre Johnson’s targeting penalty at Georgia…

“First off, it was a bad decision on his part. He took 2.5 steps. The whole thing about, really any defenseless player, if you can avoid contact and you see that, it’s your job as a defensive player to do that. I always felt like this rule, there’s probably inconsistency in the rule. It’s a good rule though, because it helps our game and it helps protect our players. But, it is a tough rule to kind of enforce. There have probably been some inconsistencies in my opinion over the years. I think that Deandre should’ve avoided the quarterback, it’s pretty simple. He knows that.”

On the issues at the STAR position and what he expects out of that spot…

“Well it starts with we got to play what we call. They converted three third downs probably when we had the best call we could possibly be in. If you said, ‘this is the play they’re going to run’, then we would have said, ‘this is what we want to be in.’ We had that call called, we didn’t execute it. We got to do a better job of communicating and executing. That goes back to the practice habits that we create throughout the week.”

On Sunday’s scrimmage and how freshman QB Harrison Bailey looked…

“It was really good. I think we took like 49 snaps and Harrison (Bailey) took every one of them. For him, that was really good because based off the way our fall camp went, he didn’t get a lot of live action. We just didn’t have enough plays for him to get in there and get going. So, it was good for him. It was good for a lot of players. A lot of energy. There were a lot of guys that, to me, that kind of stuck out, so we got to continue to do this and give these guys an opportunity to develop.”

On why OL Jerome Carvin and some other players didn’t play much against Georgia…

“Jerome (Carvin), Jahmir (Johnson) and Riley Locklear were all banged up. These guys took very little practice reps during the week. He probably could have played, but we just felt like, at the time, it just didn’t really fit in our game plan to get him in. Hopefully, he’ll be back and ready to go this week.”

On the chop block rule and the status of freshman DB Tamarion McDonald…

“They called the (chop black) penalty on Elijah (Simmons). This is a violent game and we have a lot of rules and regulations involved to protect our players who are playing the game. Our officials have a tough job. The speed of the game is really fast. Most of the time, on the quarterback, those things are reviewable so they can see, but some of these other things, it’s hard to see. I think the guys in the SEC do a good job and work hard to be good at what they’re doing.

“Tamarion (McDonald), last night was the first time that he’s really had any contact during fall camp, and I thought he was one of the bright spots of the scrimmage last night, so that was good to see.”

On why he thinks the team committed so many penalties against Georgia…

“Well we talked about Deandre’s (targeting penalty in first quarter). They throw the ball over the middle there – probably wasn’t a very good thrown ball – but Tank (Jaylen McCollough) was playing the ball and as he went to play the ball he did hit the wide receiver about half a count too soon, so they’ll probably call that. I felt like it probably should have been a no call, based off he’s playing the ball, but you know that’s bang bang, it’s judgmental, it’s hard to see right? I mean it happened so fast; I get it. The big thing is, to me, we had an offsides penalty on defense, we had a pass interference call down the field. It’s 2nd and 9, it’s fixing to be 3rd and 9, we’re in three-deep zone and we let a guy get behind us and then don’t play the ball, so there’s a couple of penalties. And then you throw in, on the offensive side I think we had five false starts. So, just communication, got to do a better job of that, obviously. And had a couple of holding calls, so not very good. We’ve got to eliminate those.”

On the pressure from Georgia’s defensive line …

“Well, it’s no different. Everybody in our league stems around a little bit. In my opinion, I feel like they moved based on something they had with our quarterback, as far as the timing of the snap. That’s something that we need to fix.”

On what he means when he says Tennessee needs to be faster on the perimeter …

“To me, playing faster on the perimeter starts with getting off the line of scrimmage. In social media world, everybody loves to go to these camps and watch wide receivers and defensive backs play press man coverage. We see all of these wide receivers that take five seconds to get off the line of scrimmage but they end up making the defensive back look bad. You can’t release like that. You need to release really fast because the other team is rushing. In seven-on-seven, nobody rushes. We’ve got to release, get off the line of scrimmage and play faster out there.”

On offensive communication issues on Saturday …

“It starts up front with the offensive line. Our center declares the MIKE (middle linebacker) through the quarterback. If you want to change the spot, you’ve got to make sure the running back knows. We’ve got to do a better job communicating that. It cost us on probably four plays in that game, that were big plays.”

On preparation for Kentucky …

“They play good defense and probably should be 3-0. They lost a tough one at Ole Miss and I think we all saw what happened down at Auburn on the play that was reviewed there. They very easily could be 3-0. They’ve been one of the better teams in our conference for the last several years. They’re committed to running the football. They believe in their plan. They’re a physical team that’s disciplined. They play well together. It will be a tremendous challenge for us.”

 

On if he is preparing for Kentucky’s Joey Gatewood to play more this week …

“I think they’re similar quarterbacks. He played a little bit this past week, so we have to be ready for everything.”

On if the penalties on Saturday could be attributed to the lack of practices during fall camp for some players on the team …

“We lost the game Saturday because Georgia outplayed us in the second half. That’s the bottom line. There’s been circumstances within our fall camp that we had no control over, but we’ve known that all along. We have to find a way to adapt and improve. Our kids will find a way to get better. This has been three weeks in a row that we’ve had our entire team, starting the week of the South Carolina game, with the exception of a few injuries. We’ll continue to improve in all of these areas. I think on Saturday, offensively with the penalties, we couldn’t overcome the penalties. With the mental mistakes that we made on a couple of plays. We couldn’t overcome that. Then you throw in the turnovers in the second half, it was too much for us to overcome against a really good football team. It’s not what we want to be offensively. Defensively, we’ve got to eliminate mistakes, but we’ll come back and go to work this week. We’ve got a lot of character on our football team and they’ll work hard to improve. We’ll get ready to play Saturday.”

On the defense’s improvement …

“I really thought we improved defensively this week, compared to the week before. There’s still a couple lineman issues that gave them the edge and really easy plays to make. They run reverse and we don’t play cutback through reverse. Our flat corner runs across the field. They gained 43 yards on that one play and they get three points because of it. There’s lots of things in there that Georgia did really well and there’s lots of things we need to improve on and that we could have made tougher for them. We have to fix those. We’ll work hard to do that this week.”

On possibly changing quarterbacks in the coming week …

“Well Jarrett (Guarantano) is our quarterback. He gives us the best opportunity to have success. When you have 1st and 20, it’s tough to make first downs. When you have 2nd and 15, it’s tough to make first downs. We didn’t do a very good job protecting. We didn’t play very fast on the perimeter. It’s the way the game goes. I played quarterback. When you don’t have a lot of success, the quarterback takes too much blame. When you have a lot of success, the quarterback probably gets too much credit. Offensively, our struggle Saturday was not because of one independent person. It was a team effort. We understand that. It starts with us as coaches to put our guys in a better position to have success.”

On wearing black jerseys during the Kentucky game …

“I’ve learned a really good lesson as a head football coach. There are contracts within our organization that are about our apparel and what we’re allowed to wear. It’s something that our players and staff want to do. It’s something that we’re not going to be able to do from the standpoint of our contract. We’re going to find ways within our organization to raise money and support local institutions. We’re not going to be able to do it this game. Nike guaranteed us that from now on we would be able to have black jerseys. It’s something we’ve worked hard on within our administration to get done.”

On being creative in the run game and Elijah Simmons’ performance …

“When you look at Kentucky, they use their quarterbacks in the run game a lot. If you’re not going to do that, your quarterback has got to be a guy that can get the ball out of his hands and get it to the playmakers. To do that, it takes all eleven guys working together. When you’re talking about Elijah (Simmons), he continues to improve. I think he’s a guy that the more he plays, the better he’s going to get. He really has to work hard about keeping his weight where it needs to be so he can play more downs.”

-UT Athletics

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