The Tennessee Vols are coming off a much needed bye week, especially with the amount of players that were dealing with injuries, With a trip to Missouri on tap for the weekend, the Vols got back onto the practice field Monday, as they prep for the Tigers.
Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media this afternoon, as they prepare for a Missouri team that is currently on a 4-game losing streak. The tigers have been battling the injury bug at QB, as well as a few other spots.
This Tennessee team has also been dealing with a slew of injuries, in key positions. The Vols are hoping to get back a few of these players, especially after a week of healing.
Here is everything Jeremy Pruitt said today during his press conference.
“Our guys are excited to get back into game week. They should be fresh, I know I definitely am, had a good weekend. When you look at Missouri, they’re a team that is 5-1 at home. They lost this past weekend; the game was really close against Florida and a couple of things didn’t go their way down the stretch. They’re a team that’s really kind of dominated this series in the past, so it’ll be a good opportunity for our guys to go on the road and play a good football team that’s very well-coached. When you look at them especially on the defensive side of the ball, they haven’t given up hardly any points, they’re very good against the pass and creating negative plays. They have play-makers and have always had a history of having really good pass rushers.
“Offensively, like a lot of teams in this league, the have had to bounce around a couple of quarterbacks due to injury. I’m very familiar with Kelly Bryant, I coached against him when he was at Clemson. The guy is extremely athletic and can extend plays. He has a big arm. When you look at Missouri offensively, they’re really big and strong and physical up front. To me they have two really unique tight ends that can present a lot of issues. They have multiple guys they play at the running back position and they all are plenty capable, and they have plenty of playmakers on the outside.
“You look in the kicking game, they do a really nice job in punt returns. They present you a lot of different problems on the punt team and with their kickoff cover team their kicker kicks it into the stadium every time, so there are lots of issues there. We have a huge challenge for us and we have to continue to improve as a football team. I’ve said this a bunch of times, we have yet to play our best game, we have yet to, in my opinion, play a complete game. So, we have lots of things as a staff, as individual players, as a team, we have a lot to prove and this is a great opportunity to do it.”
On Missouri’s offensive struggles being attributed to quarterback injuries and differences in Kelly Bryant at Clemson versus Missouri:
“I think when you change quarterbacks it definitely presents some issues. There are very few teams that have multiple quarterbacks that can come in there and run the offense. I’m sure even with the guys that are capable, it’s different. We went through that a little bit ourselves. Probably turning the football over has had something to do with it, as well as creating explosive plays in the throw game. If you look at what (Kelly Bryant) is doing now at Missouri versus what he did at Clemson, they are a bit different offense, but you can see that Missouri has done a few things to cater to what he does best.”
On how Nigel Warrior’s play this season compares to last season:
“Nigel has continued to work hard every day at practice. He’s been a really good leader for us. He has improved tremendously from last year to this year and he continues to get better. He’s playing his best football right now. He’s kind of turning into a complete player, whether it’s playing the ball, playing man-to-man, or tackling in space, he has improved and continues to improve in all of those areas. Like everybody else, he wants to play his best game this next week. So, he’s going to work hard to do it this week.”
On Daniel Bituli being on pace to lead the team in tackles for a third straight year and what his return has meant to the defense this season:
“Obviously, he’s one of our better players. So, when you have one of your better players not playing, there’s a drop off. He’s a guy that, to me, has worked extremely hard to learn the ins and outs of what we’re trying to do on the defensive side of the ball. He’s an instinctive guy, he’s a tough guy, he works hard at it to be a good player. So, we’re glad he’s back and I’m glad to see that he’s having the success that he’s having.”
On how much you can use the experience of going against players at a different school, like Kelly Bryant:
“I think you always have to take in the whole body of work. I think it’s an advantage, playing against somebody for us, where at least we’ve prepared against him before and probably have a good idea of their skillset. The offenses are different, but there are some things that they do that are similar, so you probably would draw on some of the past to kind of help create a plan.”
On players being healthy after bye week and what he wants to see from team in practice to know they are back and ready to go:
“I saw the team last night and I think the guys are excited about getting going today; the clock is ticking on the 2019 team. I’ve said all along this group of guys enjoys being around each other, we enjoy being around them and we still as a team have a lot to prove and our guys are looking forward to having the opportunity to try being our best on Saturday. For injuries, we’re probably as healthy as we’ve been in a long time.”
On why he likes to be aggressive at the end of the first half and how important the middle eight minutes are:
“I feel like in the last five games we’ve improved in the middle eight minutes, it probably cost us a chance to win some football games early in the season, whether it was not capitalizing on touchdowns, or turning the football over, or letting someone score at the end of the half so we’ve tried to focus on improving there. On being aggressive, you’re probably not supposed to do that but sometimes you just take a chance, sometimes it might work out sometimes it might not.”
On Baylen Buchanan’s outlook for the rest of the season:
“He’s not going to play the rest of the year. He’ll continue to work on his rehab and hopefully we will get him back soon.”
On if there is any change in Jarrett Guarantano’s hand and how they are handling the quarterback position this week:
“He has been able to do everything except maybe clap his hand to take the snap. We probably cut down the reps to eliminate the contact there so it would reduce the swelling, so we would have a better opportunity on Saturday. We will see these guys out here today and the way we practice, they all get the same amount of reps. We will see as the week goes, we will narrow it down a little bit and probably focus on two guys.”
On if they players understand that they have not played their best for a complete game yet this year or if winning four of the last five games means they have played the best football:
“If they think that, then they are walking around with blinders on. I mean, we have showed them lots of ways we can improve offensively, defensively and on special teams. I am pretty sure our guys understand that. I think that is one of the things we have improved on as a football team is just self-awareness. We know our limitations, our strengths, where we are at and where we are not. If you know those things, you can fix things.”
On Nigel Warrior having a light come on and what process it took for him to get it to:
“Well I didn’t say a light came on, you did. I said he has continued to improve and he does that because he works hard every day at practice. He is a very gifted athlete that has ball skills. He can play man-to-man, he can tackle in space, he has toughness and he has instincts. He wants to be really good. He has taken to the coaching that he has received. He has improved tremendously in the last 18 months. Probably just as much as any player that I have ever been around. I have really seen him hitting his stride and hopefully he will continue to work hard and he will continue to improve.”