Tennessee Head Coach, Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. The Vols,coming off their big 41-21 win over South Carolina will now be focused on a talented UAB team, led by Pruitt’s friend Bill Clark. Jeremy Pruitt mostly discussed the performance of his players & how they can build upon this win for the future.
Pruitt was also asked about WR Jauan Jennings during the availability, in which he gave an emphatic statement on the progression of the student-athlete. Jeremy Pruitt walked into a messy situation in regards to Jauan, but said he relied on the word of certain people & players within the program that wanted Jennings back on the team.
For the full transcript of the Jeremy Pruitt press conference, read below.
“Going back and reviewing the film, there was a lot of good in the game. There was a lot of things that we need to improve on. To start with, offensively, I felt like our offensive line, especially the interior guys, did a really nice job in the game controlling some dominant football players. There were some really good players there. With South Carolina, I felt like they gave our quarterbacks a pretty clean pocket to have some success there. We had some injuries on the offensive line. We had to play some guys that didn’t know if they were going to be able to play before the game. I felt like we had guys that kind of stepped up there. We played multiple quarterbacks. I felt like both guys did a nice job pushing the ball down the field. They didn’t try to press or do something that they didn’t have to do. They kind of took what the other team gave us. Our wide receivers went up and made some plays. At the tight end position, Dominick Wood-Anderson and Austin Pope continue to do a nice job in there.
“But if you look at (the game) offensively, there are some things that we were disappointed about in the game. We had the ball on the one-yard-line on fourth down and didn’t get the touchdown. We had an opportunity there in the first half with the ball backed up on our own goal line and we got two penalties, which didn’t allow us to make a first down. It gave South Carolina really good field position. Then we had a chance there at the very end of the game, kind of in four minutes to run the game out there and we got another penalty there that put us behind the sticks. So, there are lots of things we need to clean up. We didn’t run the ball as effectively as we probably need to. Some of that has to do with getting the right mic points, which starts at the quarterback position and making sure we are glued together with wide receivers. So, we have to do a lot better job there.
“Defensively, when you watch the tape, we didn’t play very well at all in the first half. There are going to be lots of lessons that we need to learn from this. We didn’t get a whole lot of pass rush up the middle. We didn’t strike the blockers like we need to strike. We had way too many mental errors and the secondary didn’t handle formation into the boundary a couple times there, our orbit motions or rocket motions. We made some adjustments at halftime. I felt like our players responded a little better in the second half. We can’t start a game that way. Unfortunately, we did.
“Special teams-wise, we had one kickoff there that we pinned them back there and had a little bit of momentum. There was nothing in the kickoff return. We blocked the punt and return the punt. Whenever you score in special teams, it is a big deal and we scored twice. When you look at the game, there were lots of positives in the game. Probably more so than any other game that we have had. We still have a long way to go to play our best and that is our goal. We are a long way from that. We have some guys that are banged up. We have been in some physical games in the last several weeks. We have got to get some guys well this week.
“We are playing a UAB team that I personally know a whole lot about starting with the head football coach, and lots of guys on their staff. I know all of them. They are all good football coaches. Some of them I have had an opportunity to work with over the years. Some of them I have been able to coach. So, they are doing a fantastic job. If you look at them they have one of the best defenses in the country, statistically. Putting pressure on the quarterback, I think there have been 26 sacks. They are not allowing a whole lot of points. A lot of pressure. Just really sound and really hard-nose football. Offensively, the guys take care of the football and create explosive plays and have really, really good wide receivers as a group. They look like SEC wide receivers and are probably just as good as any group we have seen. We have a tremendous challenge this week. Our guys have to get in here and get focused. We have to find a way to play our best football on Saturday night and that is what we are going to focus on this week.”
On Daniel Bituli’s blocked punt coming with the defense still on the field:
“We were in punt safe. We did have Bituli firing on that and they didn’t block him, so if they don’t block you it’s not unusual to get a block in that situation. It’s happened before. I’ve coached on a team and seen it happen where we gave up a blocked punt because we were in punt safe and they rushed four guys and somebody relaxes and thinks they’re not going to rush, but then a guy runs back there and blocks the kick. In fact, the last time that happened, Bill Clark was the coach on the other team in the 2006 state championship game and we ended up losing the game by one score. It’s funny how you don’t forget that stuff. But, I’ve seen it happen and it happened Saturday. We had guys like Greg Emerson get good push in there and Aubrey Solomon did what he was supposed to do. They had enough guys in there to block us, but somebody made a mistake.”
On throwing for a combined 351 yards with two quarterbacks, one who was inexperienced:
“Jarrett has a lot of experience. J.T., not so much. I thought Jarrett played his best game of the year. The throw that he made to Jauan Jennings in the endzone; he made great checks, slid the protection. We didn’t have enough to block him, he drifted away from the protection to buy himself some time, stood in the pocket, delivered the ball, and it was as good of a pass as you’ll see. That’s the Jarrett that I had seen in practice most of the year, and it’s good that it showed up. He really did a nice job, made some really good throws, handled the run game, handled the team — it was good to see. And now he needs to build off of it and do it again. Have to have the same prep this week and get ready to do it again. I thought J.T., for a guy that hasn’t played in many games, got better as the game went. He kept his poise and was coachable during the game. I think Coach (Jim) Chaney, Coach (Chris) Weinke, Coach (Tee) Martin, Coach (Brian) Niedermeyer, Coach (Will) Friend, Coach (David) Johnson, all those guys did a fantastic job with our offense this week. We played three quarterbacks in the game and found a way to move the football against a good defense. I know we scored two special-teams touchdowns, but we moved the ball effectively for most of the game, so that was good to see.”
On Brian Maurer’s status:
“Brian is going to go out there and start practicing this week. So, we’ll see where he’s at, at the end of the week. He’s ready to go.”
On Jarrett Guarantano’s status and the team handling success:
“To start with, with Jarrett, I just saw him up there watching film. I’m sure he’ll be limited for a day or two here. He has to take some mental reps and he’ll do that; he’s in here watching film. He’ll be ready to go unless something happens that I don’t know about. And as far as the other question, we have four games left. We work really hard for the opportunity to do this. I don’t know why anybody would not take advantage of the opportunity. As much time and effort you put in to something that you love to do, it would be shame on us to not be ready to play on Saturday against a really good football team and a great opportunity for us to continue to improve as a football team. We haven’t done anything yet. We have to continue to work hard, learn how to sustain and do it for multiple weeks at a time. We learned how to finish one game, but we need to learn how to finish two games.”
On what he thought about Jauan Jennings from when he first met him to now:
“Well, it’s interesting, I didn’t know anything about Jauan Jennings. I knew him as an opposing player on another team. When I got the job, there were some details about what all happened here, and I asked a lot of people in the building what they thought, and most of them that said they wouldn’t let him come back, they don’t work here anymore. The people that said to let him come back; they all work here. When you start talking to the players that played on the team, the Trey Smiths, the Daniel Bitulis, and they say, ‘Coach, we want this guy on our team.’ So, I knew enough about those guys in recruiting to know that they knew what was right and what was wrong, so then we gave him an opportunity, we set out some things there that we required him to do, and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. It goes to show you that when you get second chances, sometimes people make the most of them, and Jauan Jennings has made the most of his chances here this second time around. I said it after the game, he’s going to graduate in December, so good for him. He’s had a great senior year, I know he wants to finish it on a positive note, and he’s going to leave his mark at the University Of Tennessee, not only as a football player, but as a person, a person with character who’s a leader and has given his all for the University Of Tennessee.”
On the status of Darrell Taylor and Darnell Wright and Pruitt’s postgame trip to Gus’s on Saturday:
“Darnell has an ankle (injury), I think that was obvious to everybody when he came off the field, and he’ll be day to day – we’ll see where he’s at. Darrell had a contusion there on his knee, he’s another guy that’ll be day to day. And your last question, I had it last night too. I’m leaving here and my wife asked me to stop and get her something to eat, so at 11:30, there’s not a whole lot of spots open, so I got her some French fries.”
On Bill Clark and rebuilding a program at UAB:
“I’m not really familiar with the whole process and what all took place there. Bill was coaching at Piedmont High School when I was playing at Plainview for my dad. So, this goes all the way back to late 80s, early 90s. I’ve known Bill and Bill’s father, who was a high school football coach at Old Hatchet High School in North Alabama for a long time; my father still is a high school football coach. Bill was a defensive coordinator at Hoover at one time, before he got the Prattville job, so we played each other along the way. We’ve known each other. We’ve never worked together, but have obviously been friends over the years; I’m very familiar with a lot of the guys on his staff. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s done throughout the years; his teams have always been very well-coached, hard-nosed. The first thing they said in there from the offensive side is, ‘Man, these guys play hard.’ They’re going to play hard, and all of his teams do. So, the guy has done a fantastic job at UAB, where there’s not ever been a whole lot of success there, and he’s done a really nice job, he won the conference last year, they have one loss this year, and they’ve got a really good football team. They’ve done a nice job in recruiting, they’ve got the guys playing extremely hard, so we’ve got to be at our best on Saturday night.”
On if other player’s opinions would have kept him from allowing Jauan Jennings to return to the program:
“Well, there was a trial period there that we worked through with Jauan. Again, he’s done everything we asked him to do. To me, that’s old news. The news now is, what a leader, what an ambassador he’s been for the university. He’s getting his degree, the passion that he plays with on Saturdays, the toughness, and I’ve seen it every day at practice. What you all see on Saturdays is what we see every day so we need a team full of Jauan’s. He’s helping to shape a lot of other guys on our football team by how he goes about his business, how he competes, because it’s contagious. It’s great having him here, and I’m thankful that I’ve had a chance to coach him for the last two years.”
On how he plans to manage the reps for all three quarterbacks this week:
It’s easy today. Jarrett’s not going to be able to practice. It’ll probably be tomorrow before he jumps back out there so we’ll have two guys today. We’ll have to see as we move through the week here and get a good idea of what we want to do. We might play all three, and we might just run them in and out, just run the plays. We won’t have to signal, we can do it like we did when I played for my dad. He whispers the play, you run out there and whisper to the quarterback, we break the huddle. I kind of like that, so I might play them all that way. “
On the staff and the passion from the players:
“I think it says a lot about our assistant coaches and the time and effort that they put in. The relationships: somewhere along the way, there has to be trust. When things don’t go the way that you expect them to go, you get all kinds of outside noise, you have all kinds of clutter. I think it says a lot about our staff, and keeping their players focused to buy in and to believe in what we’re working on. We’ve got to continue to do that. Our football team is continuing to improve from the start of the season. We’ve created some self-inflicting wounds along the way that have not helped us, but they’ve not flinched, they’ve stayed together and we continue to work hard and improve, and we have to finish the season the right way. This kind of reminds me a little bit of last year. Some of the things we did, and got to the point in the middle of the year, and we didn’t finish. We have an opportunity this week to start to learn how to finish. It starts with practice today. We have to get ready to have high energy in the meetings so we can correct the mistakes that we made, and we’ve made plenty of them. We’re still searching for that perfect game, and we have a routine we go through on Mondays. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, we have to go through it, get going, and know our opponent, know what we’re trying to accomplish, know why we’re doing it and create the right habits to get it done this week.”