KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team jumps right back into SEC play this weekend following a productive bye week that featured a lot of work on fundamentals.
“We had a really good off week last week,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “We had a good opportunity to get back to a lot of fundamentals, which was good for a lot of our guys.
“I was thinking about it over the weekend, I think there’s probably 10 guys that have started for us at some point in time this season that weren’t here during the spring, and there’s probably another eight to 10 guys that play a lot that weren’t here. It was good to go back and get some fundamental work and go back to some foundations on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game.”
The Vols will face their second straight ranked opponent as they travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on No. 21/21 Auburn on Saturday at noon ET. The game will air live on the SEC Network.
Tennessee returns to practice on Monday afternoon at Haslam Field after getting three practices in last week ahead of the open date.
Pruitt was very complementary of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and the entire Tigers’ coaching staff during his press conference, referring to the staff as one of the best in the country.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he has done and the people on his staff,” Pruitt said. “They have one of the best coaching staffs in the country. They do a fantastic job. Every year that we have played them, it’s always been a battle. Hopefully, it will be the same way this year.”
Pruitt has faced Auburn every year of his coaching career and has a 6-2 record since becoming an assistant coach in 2010, including a 4-1 record as a defensive coordinator.
There are quite a few connections between the two coaching staffs this weekend. Tennessee has two assistants that played for the Tigers in defensive line coach Tracy Rocker (1985-88) and special teams coordinator/safeties coach Charles Kelly (1986-89), while Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is a 1979 UT graduate and a former assistant coach for the Vols.
Rocker was one of the greatest defensive players in Auburn history, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in addition to winning the Outland and Lombardi Trophies as a senior in 1988. The Atlanta native also spent time as the Tigers’ defensive line coach from 2009-10. Kelly played defensive back under former Tigers’ coach Pat Dye. His senior class put together a four-year record of 39-7-2 while participating in four bowl games.
UT co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer coached alongside Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey at Hoover High School in 2007, and both head coaches in this weekend’s contest were prominent high school coaches before making the jump to the collegiate coaching ranks.
Game Time and Broadcast info for Tennessee-Alabama Set
Tennessee and Alabama’s annual rivalry game on The Third Saturday in October will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET and be televised nationally as the SEC on CBS Game of the Week on Oct. 20 at Neyland Stadium.
Tickets are still available for the game at AllVols.com or by calling 1-800-332-VOLS.
Fans Are Reminded to go ALL IN Against Alzheimer’s Disease against Alabama
Vol fans can go ALL IN to boost Alzheimer’s research at The Pat Summitt Clinic at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. Tennessee Athletics and the Vol Network are joining forces with the medical center and asking fans to join them in ALL IN, a program where everyone with the Volunteer spirit can help tackle major diseases that impact Tennesseans.
The inaugural effort is ALL IN Against Alzheimer’s and will benefit the Alzheimer’s Research Initiative, a fundraising endeavor to increase research capabilities by the medical center’s team at The Pat Summitt Clinic. Fans can pick up an official ALL IN shaker for just $5 at several retailers throughout the state of Tennessee, including: Pilot, Food City, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Kubota, Kroger, Long’s Drug Store, Orange Mountain Designs, Alumni Hall, HoundDogs, the gift shop at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the Vol Shop (and Tennessee Team Shops inside Neyland Stadium), and VolWallArt.com.
Every shaker purchase includes a free 20-ounce fountain drink at any home football game this season at Neyland Stadium. ALL IN Against Alzheimer’s culminates at the home game against Alabama game on Saturday, Oct. 20, with the goal of every fan having a shaker and joining together to shake down Alzheimer’s disease.
Player Quotes form Monday Media Availability
Sophomore OL Trey Smith
On what the team did during the bye week:
“We focused on the basic fundamentals. We just want to improve everything this week, get a lot more physical, and get better as a team.”
On his leadership role on the team:
“I think I need to do a better job in aspect of how I lead, but I also believe I need to do better on the field before I tell people what to do.”
On the offensive line’s improvements:
“I think our physicality has improved, also executing our assignments. We have had a lot better execution than we usually do.”
Senior DB Micah Abernathy
On the younger players getting playing time and their performances:
“They’re doing well. Our other nickels are Baylen Buchanan and Shawn Shamburger. They’re both doing a very good job and the fact that we can move people around just shows the depth of our defensive backfield.”
On the improvements the defense has made since the first game:
“Obviously we need to get better since the West Virginia game, but I do think we have improved individually and as a unit. I think we’re playing a lot faster. People are grasping the defense a lot more, knowing where your help is and understanding the defense.”
On the coverage sacks the defense recorded against Georgia:
“A coverage sack, you don’t really get the notoriety like it’s your sack, but the big guys know it, so we just help them out. It’s helping the whole team.”