Jeremy Pruitt Monday Press Conference Transcript

Vols HC Jeremy Pruitt / Credit: UT Athletics

Opening statement:
“It’s probably a lot easier for our guys to come to practice after they have experienced a win, but I am sure there will be something that we will have to coach around and see how we respond. We have so many things that we need to improve on. We improved on a lot of things this past week, but we still had a lot of errors and made some critical mistakes in the game. We are still looking to play a complete game for 60 minutes. I thought we did eliminate some of our errors from the previous week, offensively. Especially after the lightning delay, we were a lot more efficient. We didn’t turn the ball over which was a plus, and we scored in the red area. Defensively, we minimized the big plays and got off the field on third downs. We created a score on defense and special teams, so that is always good. We had another turnover to set up an offensive touchdown.

“We are excited about this week. It’s another opportunity for us. We have to really improve this week in all phases. Our coaches have to do a good job of developing the team and creating depth. We have to learn exactly what we want to do and how we want to do it. I look at UTEP, and I think they are very similar to us. This is Dana Dimel’s first year. Offensively, if you look at them when they are going in the right direction and everyone is on the same page, they have an opportunity to have success. When they don’t have that, they haven’t had success. Defensively, they play hard, their sound, and you know what they’re trying to do. You can see the Kansas State background there on the defensive side of the ball. They play hard. We will have a tremendous challenge for us. We have to be able to execute, and we need to be able to improve.”

On the errors the team needs to eliminate:
“If you just start on offense, we have had too many negative plays that are zero or less yards. You could start at the quarterback position. We have to make sure we are in the right play and have identified the correct guys up front. We have to throw the ball in the right direction, and the wide receivers have to run the correct routes or block people on the perimeter. The offensive line and tight ends have to be communicating with each other and step in the right direction and block the right folks. We minimized our mistakes from the previous week, but we still aren’t anywhere close to where we need to be. When we do it the right way, we have good plays. When we don’t, we don’t have good plays. We have to improve and get it figured out.”

On his preparation for clock management:
“Being a football coach, you are always aware of the scenarios. It doesn’t matter if you coach the defense, defensive backs or the kickers. A lot of it is common sense. There are some things that you have to study. Maybe you only have three timeouts. Maybe you have two at the end of the game. So when should you take a timeout? Some of that stuff, but none of those scenarios have come up yet.”

On his impressions on Jauan Jennings:
“Jauan is playing really well on special teams. He had been limited in fall camp, but he is starting to get his legs back under him. He is a really good competitor and is instinctive. Sometimes, when you call a pass route, you don’t have any idea as to where it’s going to go because you’re waiting to see what the defense does. With the balls that have been targeted to him, I think he has done a really good job securing the football, which was one thing I was concerned about because he didn’t take many licks during fall camp. He’s ran the ball well after he’s caught it. We probably need to find a way to get him more involved offensively, but right now, I think our quarterbacks are being efficient and putting the ball where it is supposed to be.”

On what he saw out of Emmit Gooden:
“Emmit made some plays. He’s continuing to improve each week. This will be a big week for him. He’s still got a long ways to go, but he does have some ability. He’s worked hard this fall camp. When he practices well, he performs and plays well. He has to continue to do that.”

On rotating the offensive lineman throughout the season:
“I think a lot of that depends on who the guys are. You want to play your best players. If there’s not much difference in the guys out there, then you might as well play multiple guys to keep them fresh. I think were still figuring out who we are up front. We’re making strides in the right direction, but we’ve got to continue to improve.”

On Alontae Taylor’s reaction after not getting to start:
“I think that each week there’ll be different guys that play in the secondary. We’ve got to get everybody to play at a high level, and I think the way you go about your business in practice is very important. I think Theo (Jackson) and Alontae have a lot to learn, and really, they’ve got to take it from the practice field to the playing field. They’re both inexperienced guys that have not played a lot of college football, so hopefully they’ll improve each week.”

On Paul Bain’s hard work and what it means to put him on scholarship and have him as an example:
“I think Paul is a guy that works really hard. We have a lot of walk-ons in our program that work really hard, and they’re all over the country, and I think it builds character. I was a walk-on, so he’s not the first one that’s ever done it. When it comes to playing, he’s got to be consistent and really learn what to do. He has some ability, and I think he’s a very good representative to the University of Tennessee.”

On what he sees in film that explains the lack of consistency in opposing quarterbacks:
“Some of it has to do with the ball coming out fast; some of it could be teams protecting with seven folks. You can affect the quarterback in more than one way. You can get your hands up and bat at balls, which we did. You can disguise. If you do a good job of disguising, maybe the quarterback holds the ball that allows the pass rush to get there. One thing that I’ve noticed that we’ve got to improve on is how many times have we had a defender that’s from here to this bottle that’s a quarterback in the last two games, and you don’t get him on the ground. When we get that close, we need to be getting them on the ground. That’s something we need to improve on.”

On offense’s execution after the weather delay:
“I think if you look at the last two games, I don’t think we’ve started very fast offensively. We’ve not been very efficient. After a couple of series, whether it was the end of the first quarter two weeks ago or it was after the delay this past week, which was really the first quarter, we’ve been much more productive after that. I think we’ve got to find a way to start a little faster and be a little more efficient. Some of that has to do with execution and some of it is how you just start the game with a little bit more fire.”

On how Ryan Johnson did at starting center:
“Ryan’s a guy that the University of Tennessee is very important to him. He takes a lot of pride in being a Tennessee Volunteer. He works really hard at practice. He tries to play with the right toughness that you should play with. He’s still a young guy that’s played lots of positions. He’s moved to center now and is probably still learning exactly everything that he needs to know. He competes hard. Was he perfect? No. It was nowhere close to perfect, but I think he’ll continue to improve there.”

On himself influencing the offense more against ETSU than West Virginia:
“From an influence standpoint, I was talking about if I see something out there, I want to be able to get them the information. I thought our guys were really in tune to what we were trying to get done, and we made corrections as the game went. I didn’t really help them a whole lot. I probably got in their way more than I helped them.”

On what he saw from the young linebackers: 
“I think our guys just need to play. We’ve got so many guys that have never played in a game. Depending on how long they’ve been here, how many reps have they really had? They need to play in games, and they’ll improve by doing that, so I think it’s good for those guys to get an opportunity.”

On his relationship with UTEP quarterback Kai Locksley and his family:
“Mike and Kia Locksley are very good friends to our family. I worked with Mike for two years, and I’ve only been around Kai a couple of times when he came to campus. I love their family and think Mike is a tremendous coach and a good friend. Kai can run, and they’ve had a little bit of a problem with protection just like us. He’s a guy that can get away from it, he can extend plays and has a good arm. He’s their leading rusher and passer, so everything starts with him.”

On the punting competition: 
Joe Doyle and Paxton Brooks has been a really good competition, and we could let both of them kick. SInce Paxton is kicking off, Joe is a little more experienced, so we let him punt. We did get Paxton a punt the other day, and he’s got a really strong leg. Paxton could actually be a field goal kicker, a kickoff guy or a punter. So he can contribute in a lot of areas, but he’s still learning as far as operations and getting the ball off on time. We’ve had to shorten him down because he’s a naturally big guy. He’s really worked hard on improving and I think he has a chance to be a really good punter one day.”

On Quart’e Sapp’s availability:
“He’ll be able to practice today.”

On Dominick Wood-Anderson and his development: 
“He played much better this week around the line of scrimmage, and he blocked really well. That’s something that he’s improving on, and he’s working hard on it in fall camp. I think he’s a guy that can create some plays with us in the passing game. He’s got to be a little more consistent with his route running. There are a lot of guys on our offense that have ability and are improving, and he’s one of those guys.”

On Darrin Kirkland Jr.’s decision to stay at Tennessee: 
“I’ve said this before, if a guy doesn’t want to be here, we want to help give him a chance to go somewhere else. We wanted Darrin here, and we want all of our guys here. I told Darrin and his family that if he wanted to go somewhere we would help him go wherever he wanted to go. We’re proud he decided to stay. He’s a guy that knows how to play, and he’s very instinctive. I’m glad he’s getting a chance to play after sitting out last year.”

On Bryce Thompson and how the defensive backs are progressing in practice:
“Bryce practiced the way you’re supposed to practice, and he played well. So that would be a good lesson for everyone involved, if you practice that way, it gives you a chance to have success on Saturday. We’re young, we’re new, and they’re trying to figure it out. Moving forward, there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from every week. We have to make sure we continue to educate our guys and how we expect things to be done.”


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