Vol Camp Report: Pruitt Looking for Aggressive, Ball-Hawking Defense

Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt is looking for a smart, aggressive and ball-hawking defense as he begins year two on Rocky Top.

Pruitt met with the media following Friday’s first practice of fall camp after inclement weather forced the team to leave Haslam Field and go indoors at the Anderson Training Center.

There are things that we want to get accomplished this camp,” Pruitt said. “The first thing is just being a smart football team and not making mistakes, so we have to get more guys that know what to do. The next thing is that we want to be a ball-hawking defense. You have to create turnovers for that. We want to be good fundamentally, and how you do that is practicing well every single day. If you’re going to be a good football player, you have to have some toughness to you. We obviously need to create some more toughness there. It’s the first day. We have a very young football team, a lot of these guys will learn a lot from today, since it was their first day out there with the coaches. We’ll be much improved tomorrow and we’ll continue to improve as camp goes.”

Jennings Ready to Go in Fall Camp
Redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings was on the field Friday to open camp and was healthy and at full speed after being limited during summer conditioning.

“Jauan is ready to go,” Pruitt said. “We’ll probably monitor him a little bit for a week, put him on a pitch count to ease him into it. He’s fine. He’s healthy. He’s full speed. He obviously did miss a little bit of the summer conditioning. We’ll ease him into it. Jauan really likes football. He doesn’t like it. He loves it. He loves football. He loves the University of Tennessee. He likes to practice. He likes to play. He likes to be in the building. You love coaching guys like Jauan.”

Jennings finished 2018 as Tennessee’s second leading receiver with 30 receptions, 438 receiving yards  and hauled in three touchdown passes. The emotional leader of the team, Jennings is back for a fifth season, anchoring a deep and talented wide receiver group.

Darrell Taylor Impresses on Day One
Pruitt spoke on redshirt senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor’s pass rush ability and the hard work he has put in to learn what the coaching staff’s expectations are when it comes to making plays on the defensive side of the ball.

“I think Darrell’s a guy that has really good pass rush ability,” Pruitt said. “He’s worked hard since we’ve been here to learn what to do and how we want it done. It showed last year that he’s got ability to be a playmaker on defense. He’s searching for consistency and with experience, knowledge and understanding, we’ll see that.”

Foregoing the NFL Draft and returning to Tennessee for his senior season, Taylor is the SEC’s returning sack leader from a year ago. He recorded 36 tackles, eight sacks, forced three fumbles and had 11 quarterback hurries in 2018.

Fan Day on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. 
The Tennessee football team invites fans to meet the Vols inside Neyland Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 4, for “Fan Day,” which will feature an open practice followed by an autograph session.

Admission and parking are free for the event.

Gate 21 will open for fans at 1:30 p.m. and the open practice will begin at 2:30 p.m.

The autograph session will begin at the conclusion of practice at approximately 4:30 p.m.

 

Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript

Opening Statement:

“It’s always exciting to get out there and get started. We had a little bit of weather [and] had to come in just for a second, but from an operations standpoint our players did a good job getting ready to go. I thought offensively today, again, I continue to see guys that have worked hard – especially when you talk about a new system – [and] seem to have knowledge [and] understanding to be able to execute, so that’s a really good positive. [We] took care of the football today.

On the defensive side, got a long ways to go. [We’re] throwing a lot at them right now, but we’ll continue to do that. You’re out there with no pads on, so I’m sure there’s some guys out there that looked really good today that probably won’t be a football player. And there’s probably some guys out there that looked really bad, [but] when you put the pads on, they’ll show up. That’s usually how it happens, so it’s hard to tell when you don’t have pads on. You basically can figure out who knows the most, which usually that comes with who’s got the most experience.”

On retention of the defense from the spring:
“I think it’s pretty obvious the ones who have practiced here before and were on last year’s team were much further ahead than the guys that just got here. That’s usually always the case, so the guys that just got here, they got to catch up and catch up in a hurry. We’ve got some guys that have a really good understanding of what we’re trying to get done, and it’ll grow as camp does. We just got to continue to work hard and coach them up and they’ll get there.”

On Jerrod Means working with the cornerbacks during practice:

“We’re just making sure we can get the best players on the field. We have guys with experience on the offensive side at wide receiver. We have four senior wide receivers and Josh Palmer and Jordan Murphy have played a good amount of football, so you’re taking about six guys there. Jerrod is a really good athlete and we want to make sure that we have the best 22 guys on the field, so we’re giving him a look. He played wide receiver the first month of the summer, but we’re not really out there so there isn’t much feedback. He played the last half of the summer at defensive back. We’re going to work him this camp at corner to give him an opportunity to contribute.”

On Derrick Ansley taking over defensive play-calling duties:

“I think my name is all over this program, so if I feel like I need to give some input in any area of the program, I obviously will. But I have confidence in the guys we have on defense. I’ve said that in every defensive meeting with the players and the coaches, so it’d really no different from last year in that aspect.”

On what the defense needs to improve on: 

There are things that we want to get accomplished this camp. The first thing is just being a smart football team and not making mistakes, so we have to get more guys that know what to do. The next thing is that we want to be a ball-hawking defense. You have to create turnovers for that. We want to be good fundamentally, and how you do that is practicing well every single day. If you’re going to be a good football player, you have to have some toughness to you. We obviously need to create some more toughness there. It’s the first day. We have a very young football team, a lot of these guys will learn a lot from today, since it was their first day out there with the coaches. We’ll be much improved tomorrow and we’ll continue to improve as camp goes.”

On the challenge of the uncertainty around Aubrey Solomon’s eligibility:

“There’s no challenge. We’re not coaching Aubrey any different than we would if we knew his status. We coach every player in our program every single day. Everybody gets the same amount of reps. That’s why, if you come to Tennessee, you’re going to have an opportunity to develop as a football player because you’re going to get to practice. Some of those guys out there today practiced a lot more than they were expecting. It’s not going to change how we approach it. When the season gets here, it obviously would, when you start game planning. In fall camp, we’re coaching everybody the same way. Deangelo Gibbs is not going to play. He took the same amount of reps as Marquez Callaway.”

On Darrell Taylor’s development:

“I think Darrell’s a guy that has really good pass rush ability. He’s worked hard since we’ve been here to learn what to do and how we want it done. It showed last year that he’s got ability to be a playmaker on defense. He’s searching for consistency and with experience, knowledge and understanding, we’ll see that.”

On Jauan Jennings’ performance in today’s practice:

“Jauan is ready to go. We’ll probably monitor him a little bit for a week, put him on a pitch count to ease him into it. He’s fine. He’s healthy. He’s full speed. He obviously did miss a little bit of the summer conditioning. We’ll ease him into it. Jauan really likes football. He doesn’t like it. He loves it. He loves football. He loves the University of Tennessee. He likes to practice. He likes to play. He likes to be in the building. You love coaching guys like Jauan.”

On the added benefit of freshmen being able to practice with Trey Smith:

“Well, I think everybody is really excited for Trey (Smith). Trey, first of all, is a great person, he comes from a great family. When you talk about representing the University of Tennessee the right way, that is Trey Smith. I think we all realize that one of these days football is going to be taken away from us, and for Trey last year, it happened a little sooner than he expected. Our training staff and doctors have worked extremely hard to get the correct information to give Trey an opportunity and Trey has worked probably as hard as anybody on our football program this offseason. So if he had an opportunity, he didn’t know if he was going to have an opportunity, but if he was going to have an opportunity he was going to be ready. We still have a ways to go with that, Trey knows that. We are just taking it one day at a time.”

On having the indoor space & adjusting practice:

“We have practiced in here before. It didn’t hamper us. We got plenty of room to do exactly what we wanted done today and we got it done.”

On second-year defensive line:

“Most of the time out there I am watching the defensive backs or the linebackers or maybe the offensive skills. I usually wait and watch the o-line and d-line when we get to film so I haven’t had a chance to do that. So, I don’t know what any of those guys look like today.”

On Trey Smith:

“Right now, he is going to stay in the same protocol. He is doing everything but full contact until our doctors come up with a plan.”

 

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