KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Vols continued to work hard ahead of Saturday’s contest against No. 11 Kentucky as they wrapped up practice on Wednesday night at Haslam Field.
“Our guys have continued to work hard. It’s been several weeks in a row that I feel like we’ve improved at practice,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “There’s been lots of competition, still good on good, which has given us an opportunity to improve.”
For the first time since 1977, the Vols will face a ranked Kentucky team. That year the Wildcats were ranked No. 7 and Tennessee is 3-2 all-time against ranked Kentucky teams.
The Wildcats are the sixth opponent the Vols will face that is currently in the College Football Playoff Top 25 Rankings – the most of any team in the country.
“They’re going to be very well coached and hard-nosed,” said Pruitt. “He (Mark Stoops) does a fantastic job evaluating talent. They have a lot of experience. They start 15 seniors, you can see it on both sides of the ball. They’re tough, they’re physical, they can run the football offensively. They have a very athletic quarterback. It seems like some of these guys have been playing forever. They have playmakers on the outside.”
Wood-Anderson Making Progress
Junior tight-end Dominick Wood-Anderson finished Saturday’s game against Charlotte with three key catches for 53 yards and Pruitt is impressed with his progression.
“He’s improving as a blocker,” said Pruitt. “He’s always had really good skills as a wide receiver, but with all that, there’s a learning curve. I think that the longer he’s here, the more knowledge he’ll get, the more confidence he’ll get, and he’ll probably be able to be more of a weapon for us.”
For the season Wood-Anderson has 10 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. He also sees time at fullback for the Vols.
Salute to Service
This weekend will be Tennessee Athletics “Salute to Service” weekend starting this Friday with the National Gold Memorial through Sunday. The Gold Star Memorial titled, “Remembering Our Fallen,” features 31 towers with more than 5,000 photos and will be on display at the UT pedestrian walkway between Hodges Library and Clarence Brown Theater from this evening until Sunday afternoon. The memorial honors our nation’s fallen since 9/11. There will be a wreath laying ceremony open to the public on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Seats for Service Members
Fans now can team-up with Tennessee Athletics to help East Tennessee service members, veterans and their families enjoy a game in Neyland Stadium by contributing to the purchase of a ticket for a service member. Just $35 purchases a single ticket, and contributions of any amount will be combined to purchase seats. Tennessee Athletics will match every ticket purchased for the Kentucky game, up to 750 tickets. Tickets to the Tennessee-Kentucky football game on Nov. 10 will be donated directly to 10 local and state military and veterans’ organizations that Tennessee Athletics has identified as longstanding partners (the same was done for the UTEP game on Sept. 15). Fans interested in contributing to “Seats for a Service Members” are encouraged to call 1-800-332-VOLS.
Tennessee Athletics does not facilitate individual requests for tickets. Rather, tickets are distributed directly to UTAD partner organizations.
Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Post-Practice Press Conference Transcript (Nov. 7)
“Our guys have continued to work hard. It’s been several weeks in a row that I feel like we’ve improved at practice. There’s been lots of competition, still good on good, which has given us an opportunity to improve. I see guys that have been on the scout team all year and have worked really hard and you can see it. We’ve done a lot of periods in the last couple of weeks with our younger guys at the end of practice, and I think you can see the improvement and development there. Again, we’ve talked about Kentucky. They’re very well-coached, a very good football team, tough, has good experience, so we have to really play well.”
On the timetable for Trey Smith:
“We haven’t even talked about that. Initially, just get the issue under control, and I think our doctors have done a really good job. He spent a couple nights in the hospital and he was out there working out today, so we’re not concerned about that right now.”
On Todd Kelly Jr. working his way back from injury:
“If you go all the way back, I knew Todd when he was in high school, we recruited him some. I was aware of his injuries and really it was kind of a wait and see. He had a significant injury and he worked really hard to give himself a chance to come back and it was late in the summer before he was running around and participating a little bit. And as long as he had been off, it takes a while to get your body back in shape. Todd will be the first to tell you that he’s probably not the same player that he was three years ago because of his leg, but it’s kind of a testament to his character about working hard to be able to get back and give himself an opportunity. He’s a smart guy that has toughness and we’re glad that he has gotten himself able to play.”
On how Dominick Wood-Anderson has progressed this season:
“Dom is kind of like a lot of the guys in that he didn’t get to participate in the spring. It’s a big deal when you’re not in spring ball, because we (the coaches) get two hours during the summer, but it’s not the same as being on the field with you every day, so there’s a lot to learn in fall camp and he’s continued to improve. Unfortunately, he had a little bit of an injury several weeks ago and he missed a couple of weeks, but he’s improving as a blocker. He’s always had really good skills as a wide receiver, but with all that, there’s a learning curve. I think that the longer he’s here, the more knowledge he’ll get, the more confidence he’ll get, and he’ll probably be able to be more of a weapon for us.”
On how Micah Abernathy has been progressing through injury:
“Micah has practiced this week, he hasn’t taken every rep, but he has practiced, so I think with him it will just be a game-time decision.”
On why the team has struggled at home but had some of their best games on the road:
“Well, the first game we played was ETSU and we played pretty well. The next game we played UTEP, we had a bunch of penalties and some turnovers, I think. The next game we played Florida and we had six turnovers. Then we played Alabama and they probably had as much to do with that as us. Then we played Charlotte and we didn’t execute very well offensively. They had a lot to do with that. Defensively, we played okay, so I don’t know that there’s an answer. That’s the best answer that I could give you.”
On the progression of Josh Palmer:
“Josh is a guy that I don’t think has played a lot of football, so there is a lot to learn every day. He has ability, he runs pretty well, he’s got good size. I think that his best football is in front of him as long as he continues to work hard and compete. I think he’ll continue to improve.”
On where Josh Palmer can improve:
“I think as a wide receiver, probably one of the most important things is that you need to be hard to guard, whether it’s with speed or it’s your body type or maybe you’re instinctive in running routes. You’ve got to have great hands. He’s learning to play the position, probably the instincts, the understanding of what the other team is trying to do to you, and that will come with the more that he plays.”
On keeping players invested when they aren’t playing on Saturdays:
“Well, if we recruited a guy, whether he’s playing on Saturday and he’s not working hard to improve, then we probably recruited the wrong guy. I’ve seen based off maturity sometimes. Guys don’t play for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes, you have a really good football team and maybe they’re not ready yet. If you recruited them, you would think that there’s a reason you did. There’s lots of things, the way you play, you have the intangibles but sometimes when you get away from home and things don’t go your way, guys need to be motivated. Most of the time, the guys who end up being really good players that don’t play early, they create the right habits on the scout team. I can give you a perfect example: No. 92 (Quinnen Williams) that plays at Alabama. He’s probably the hardest defensive lineman to block in the country right now. He was that way on the scout team as a freshman. Everybody has an opportunity to do what they want with it. It’s a choice every day. We have guys that, on our team right now I think are making good choices and trying to improve on the scout team.”
On Trevon Flowers’ status:
“We’ll just wait and see.”
On the offensive line:
“I think lots of times, if you have confidence in what you’re doing you’re never hesitant about doing something, so when looks change or whatever, you have the confidence to make the right calls or to adjust on the move. Some of that comes with playing with the same guys beside you. We went a stretch there where we played a couple of weeks, we had kind of the same guys, but I think the longer the season goes – these guys are young, we’ve got a lot of young guys – they’re going to develop that as they go.”
On how the offensive line has responded this week in practice:
“I think we’ve practiced the right way. You know, we practiced the right way last week too, but it didn’t show up in the game. Lots of times, when things don’t go your way, you kind of got to regroup and you’ve got to respond. You have to do it sometimes during the game, you have to do it after the game, and that’s something that we’ve got to do. We need to play better up front, we need to play better everywhere, not just up front. Hopefully we’ll see that Saturday.”
On the adjust for him as a head coach this season:
“To me it’s about playing your best. There’s been some of those games where we won that we didn’t play very good, and I wasn’t happy about it over the years. Our goal is to get our guys to play at their best all the time. It’s a great opportunity for us as coaches, for us as a team, and we have yet to come close to playing 60 minutes of football the way we want to play them.”