Knoxville, Tenn. – After the Tennessee football team forced only one turnover in week one, Vols’ head coach Jeremy Pruitt is seeking more takeaways this Saturday against BYU inside Neyland Stadium.
Following Tennessee’s third practice of the week on Haslam Field, Pruitt said the key to creating turnovers is fundamentals.
“The first way to create turnovers is to hit people,” Pruitt said. “There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned hit. We’ve all seen it. We probably saw some on Saturday. We need more old-fashioned hits — legal, good, clean football where you knock the ball off somebody. And then when you get a bunch of people to the ball, you knock the ball off, you rip the ball off. It’s awareness. And then when the ball is in the air, whether it’s getting your hands up and tipping some balls or finishing in the back end, when you effect the quarterback it seems like there’s more turnovers there, so we need to be more aggressive, play aggressive, tackle aggressive in our approach.”
Pruitt liked what he saw in the midweek practice, noting high energy and competition he felt throughout the afternoon.
“We had a pretty good practice out there today, had a lot of energy,” Pruitt said. “Both sides of the ball, a lot of competition, so that’s good. I said it before between the first week and the second week is when you usually have your most improvement as a football team and we certainly have a lot of areas that we can improve at. Our guys are kind of sticking their noses to the ground and going at it as hard as they can. That’s what they’ve got to do and that’s what everybody’s got to do.”
The Vols are only looking forward, not back. Pruitt added that round one is over, and the team is looking towards round two.
“Everybody has gone back to work,” Pruitt said. “It wasn’t like we went into last week and didn’t have good practices. We’ve had good practices all camp. I’m talking about effort, trying to do it the right way.”
New Guys Make Impact
Pruitt noted that newcomers had an impact in Saturday’s game against Georgia State. Six Vols made their first career starts in the opener: freshman cornerback Warren Burrell, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Greg Emerson, freshman linebacker Henry To’o To’o, junior defensive lineman Darel Middleton, freshman offensive lineman Wanya Morris and junior defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon.
“Several guys played for the first time,” Pruitt said. “A lot of those guys played better than their peers. We have War Daddy boards and several of those guys were on there. They played pretty well.”
To’o To’o recorded four solo stops and ended the game with seven total tackles and half a tackle for loss. Solomon racked up six tackles and a quarterback hit. Emerson’s stat line included five total tackles and a half tackle for loss. Burrell and Middleton both recorded three tackles.
Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Post-Practice Press Conference Transcript – Sept. 4, 2019
“We had a pretty good practice out there today, had a lot of energy. Both sides of the ball, a lot of competition, so that’s good. Said before between the first week and the second week is when you usually have your most improvement as a football team and we certainly have a lot of areas that we can improve at. Our guys are kind of sticking their noses to the ground and going at it as hard as they can. That’s what they’ve got to do and that’s what everybody’s got to do.”
On the status of LB Daniel Bituli and his chances of playing this Saturday:
“He was out there today. Done a little bit today, so he’s close. There might be a chance that he could give us some snaps, very similar to Trey (Smith) last week. Trey played 30 snaps, so Daniel will definitely be close.”
On the energy Jauan Jennings brings to practice and if anyone else had shown that this week:
“You know, Jauan has always been a really good practicer. The guy just really loves ball, he really loves ball. Loves to practice, loves to compete. (We) usually have to slow him down at practice, especially when he was injured a little bit. He kind of had a little bit of a measuring stick on yards there from the GPS and he was always way over it every day. I’ve said it before, I wish you could coach a team full of guys like Jauan. I’ve had the opportunity to coach a lot of really good players in my career, and guys that try to do it the right way and Jauan is one of those guys.”
On the team’s response as a whole after last week’s performance:
“Everybody has gone back to work. It wasn’t like we went into last week and didn’t have good practices. We’ve had good practices all camp. I’m talking about effort, trying to do it the right way. We lack some experience at certain positions, turn the ball over – I mean I can go through the whole thing all over again – so it’s not like we didn’t have good practices leading up. We didn’t have good execution on game day and that’s where it counts, it’s those 60 minutes, so it’s what we got to do. We’ve got to take it from the practice field to the game field.”
On what Kurott Garland did in his absence to be able to play the amount of snaps he did Saturday:
“He was a guy who played last year in four games. We decided to redshirt him along with several other guys because we felt it was best for the program for the next three to five years. We felt like he played really well last year for a young guy and he can continue to improve. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to go through spring practice with a little medical issue. Coming back from that, there is a lot to it. When he put his name in the portal, I told him that the door was not closed yet. I was in constant communication with his family. The guy is one of our better players and he has a lot of potential. He is a guy that missed all of spring and a lot of fall camp. He has a lot of upside and he works really hard. He is going to continue to improve and get better.”
On the younger guys applying what they learned Saturday to practice:
“Several guys played for the first time. A lot of those guys played better than their peers. We have War Daddy boards and several of those guys were on there. They played pretty well. With freshmen, it’s interesting, when you’re in high school you are usually better your senior year than you are when you are a freshman. When you get to college, you are going to be better your senior year than when you first get to college. Some guys are ready to play faster. It really doesn’t have a lot to do with ability in my opinion. Maybe it depends on the program that you come from and if it prepared you for the daily grind that is going to happen in college. Maybe you went to a school where the academics were really tough, and it prepares you for college and you have an advantage there. I have seen a lot of guys play early on because they were ready. Some of their peers that played the same position and never played as a freshman became the best player. It comes with continuing to coach them up and developing them as football players. These guys are working hard. We have two young outside linebackers in (Quavaris) Crouch and (Roman) Harrison that practice and make plays all over the field. I told those guys that they are a little bit away from being ready completely. They are close and hopefully we get the chance to play those guys more this week.”
On the players-only meeting after Saturday’s game:
“It’s their team. If you’re invested in something and you have passion about something, you confront people. That’s what leaders do. So that’s good to see.”
On finding a set offensive line:
“Well, we’ve only practiced two times since the last time I got this question, so we’ll keep working until we figure out who the five best guys are. We’re going to play as many guys as it takes for us to have success, whether it’s five, it’s 10, it’s eight, that’s what we’re going to do.”
On if he saw opportunities to create turnovers after re-watching Saturday’s game:
“The first way to create turnovers is to hit people. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned hit. We’ve all seen it. We probably saw some on Saturday. We need more old-fashioned hits — legal, good, clean football where you knock the ball off somebody. And then when you get a bunch of people to the ball, you knock the ball off, you rip the ball off. It’s awareness. And then when the ball is in the air, whether it’s getting your hands up and tipping some balls or finishing in the back end, when you effect the quarterback it seems like there’s more turnovers there, so we need to be more aggressive, play aggressive, tackle aggressive in our approach.”
On Aaron Beasley moving to running back and Jerrod Means moving back to wide receiver:
“We have three running backs and Tim Jordan has a turned ankle, so now we have two. Fred Orr and Chip Omer have given us some looks back there and are doing a nice job. There are a couple positions we have where we’re thin, so when we took Jeremy (Banks) and moved him to inside linebacker, it made us thin at that spot, so we lost a guy. Aaron Beasley is a really good football player, that’s why we wanted him here. He’s a team guy, he wants to contribute to the team. He called me and asked to move to running back, so there might be some other guys go there. And because we thought Baylen (Buchanan) wouldn’t be able to play earlier on, so we wanted to give Jerrod (Means) a look to see. We are thin at that position. If we move a few guys around, maybe at wide receiver, it opens some spots there, so we moved him back. He went through the whole summer there, so he is familiar with it.”
On what he wants to see from Jarrett Guarantano on Saturday:
“It is every week. We want to be efficient. The biggest mark of a quarterback is taking his team, whether you start on the 20-yard-line, 50-yard-line, wherever, and where does that position end up? That is what you get measured by. Sometimes it’s by handing the ball off 10 times a possession and sometimes it’s throwing it 10 times a possession. Whatever it is, just being efficient and getting the offense to play at their best.”
On where K’Rojhn Calbert stands in the offensive line rotation:
“He missed some days last week early on at the beginning. He is back in there now and we will see in practice this week.”
On if he expects Trey Smith to play more snaps this week:
“Trey will always be week-by-week to see where he is at and how the other guys are playing. It will be a game-time decision on what we do there.”