Vols Camp: Pruitt's season-opening fall camp press conference

Vols Camp: Pruitt's season-opening fall camp press conference

Football

Vols Camp: Pruitt's season-opening fall camp press conference

KNOXVILLE — Jeremy Pruitt’s season-opening fall training camp press conference:

Opening Statement:
“I hope everybody is excited as we are. It’s the only time of year where you aren’t in school, so you get a chance to build your football team. We have two weeks now that we don’t have to worry about school, it’s all football. Nowadays, except for the few times during bowl practices, it’s the only time that you get that, so it’s a great opportunity for guys to grow and develop as players. I know our guys have done a really good job this summer. Coach Fitzgerald has done a great job getting these guys in shape, our training staff has got these guys healthy and ready for fall camp. We’re excited about getting going. We’re going to have 109 guys to start off with, we have one that’s not here yet. Everybody in our program will be participating in practice.

“We will have a couple of guys that will be a little bit limited to start with but are building their way into the first scrimmage. We talked about Trey Smith. Trey is going to participate in everything we do, except no-contact, then he’ll be released probably August 19th or 20th, somewhere around that date, so we’ll be excited to have everybody out there and getting going. I know there’s a lot of guys who didn’t participate in spring that were injured that will be out there, that will be available, so I know these guys are hungry and ready to get started. We do have one signee that’s not here yet – he has a couple things that he’s working on – but he’ll be here as soon as he can get it done, so then we’ll have all 110 guys here.

“When you start fall camp, you have to figure out what kind of goals you’re going to get accomplished. I think it’s important that you set goals. For us, the big thing is that we want to learn what to do, we want to learn how to do it, and we want to learn why it’s important to do it that way. I think to have success as a football player and as a football team, you have to have knowledge. Some of that comes with experience, some of it comes in film study and some of it is just getting out there with repetitions every day. We want to be a smart football team. We want to understand what we’re trying to get done and understand what our opponents are trying to do to stop us or to create plays on us. If you’re going to have a good program, you have to have discipline in your program, and there’s no better way to do it then in fall camp. Everybody wants to do it the right way, and lots of folks can do it the right way some of the time, but if you look at the most successful teams, they have discipline and they figure out a way to have discipline all of the time, even in the most adverse situations.

“You have to develop mental and physical toughness. It’s easy to sit here and talk about it, and everybody does, but if you’re going to get it, you have to experience it, and that’s something that we have to do – we have to challenge our guys in camp and get where we understand that. To me, fundamentals, whether it’s stepping with the right foot, having your eyes in the right place, using the right hand placement, running the right routes, the right depth, ball security, all of those things that go into it. There’s things that when you get tired and things get tough, you’re going to go back to the fundamentals and habits that you’ve created, and we have to do a really good job during camp creating that.

“Playing with effort. That has nothing to do with talent, but I think the standard that you set, you’re going to set it early on. It starts in offseason conditioning, through spring ball and I think when you get to fall camp, you’re going to have guys that have not actually participated with the team yet, it’ll be their first practices, so the standard and the expectations of what kind of effort that you’re going to play with, that’s something that you’re going to do early on and it has to continue throughout the year.

“We have to be able to come together as a team. The beauty about this game is that somewhere everybody across the country is sitting in the locker room, getting ready to get started and everybody is 0-0. You have an opportunity to control what happens down the road, so building your identity, creating your identity, figuring out who you are and coming together as a team, that has to be a big focus for us.

“There’s opportunities in fall camp. We’re going to have 25 practices and I think one thing that our guys are fired up about is they have an opportunity. The way we practice, everybody gets the same opportunities to do it and they’ll get a chance to show what they can or cannot do. We tell the guys all the time, ‘you guys control who plays, we don’t.’ How do you perform on the practice field, how do you prepare? How do you work in the offseason, that’s going to dictate who plays, and I feel like everybody here feels like they have an opportunity. We have lots of competition, which is great. We need competition and we’re going to have it this fall camp, so it’ll be exciting for me to see how guys respond and who can be consistent in their performance day in and day out. We’re ready to get going.”

On if he has a good idea of the team’s strengths and weaknesses:
“I think we have an idea of where we need to go from. I think our team has really improved in the last three months in understanding what our expectations are. I think when we first got here, everything’s new, so anytime you do anything is a first time. The more you do something, the more confidence you gain in it, the more familiarity you get, so I look for a lot of improvement from our guys as fall camp goes.”

On what he is most anxious to see during fall practice and Chance Hall’s status:
“Chance has been released, he’s going to be practicing again. But you’re talking about a guy that didn’t play any football last year, didn’t participate in spring. He started this summer working and has progressed his way into being able to practice. I think it wouldn’t be smart of us to just throw him out there every day, so we’re going to work our way in and we have a plan with our training staff for the reps that he’ll take, and I know he’s really itching to get going, so we have a plan and we’re going to execute the plan.”

On if he anticipates position changes to continue in fall camp:
“In spring, we were really trying to figure out who could play what and we had some guys that could potentially play either side of the ball. I think we’ve got that set and we’re going to keep guys moving forward, so that’s a plus. We’ll practice the exact same way, so we’ll two-spot everything and we’ll have four groups going, so everybody will get the same amount of reps.”

On Jauan Jennings and if he is ready to go for fall camp:
“Jauan will be one of the guys that is limited. He’s cleared for practice but has not participated in any football activity since last fall, so he’s ready to go but we’re going to limit his reps as far as fall camp goes.”

On cornerbacks and the most important traits in order to decide prominent roles this fall:
“Well I think with any position you kind of have to know what you’re looking for at corner. To me, the first thing is that you’ve got to be able to play man-to-man and you’ve got to be able to play the ball because there’s lots of balls out on the perimeter. You’ve got to be a good tackler, and I think if you can tackle and play man-to-man, you can play the ball, and then you’ve got to talk about intangibles: Are you a smart football player? Do you know how to use your help? I think those are the most important things.”

On Trey Smith and how much he’ll be able to participate during fall camp:“Trey’s been doing everything for the last three months, so unlike some of these guys who have not participated because of not being cleared to practice yet – so with Chance (Hall), you’ve got a guy that’s not done all of the running, all of the lifting – Trey is not in that boat, he’s done everything, he just can’t have contact.”

On Todd Kelly Jr. and if he’s physically limited or “full go”:
“He’s full go.”

On the offensive line and their strength heading into fall camp:
“Well we’re bringing in 20 offensive linemen in total for fall camp. Obviously, we know the situation with Trey [Smith], so there’ll be 19 guys participating for the first two weeks, a couple of them on a limited basis – they’ll build up as far as this fall camp goes – but we’ve got plenty of competition. We’ve got guys that are capable, and it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.”

On Pruitt’s approach to using the redshirt rule:
“Well, we’re going to worry about winning football games and we’re going to play the guys that can help us win games. I think it’s something that as you look down the road, there’s been times over the years that you’ve been a little bit hesitant about possibly using a guy. Say you get a couple guys hurt at a position and they’re going to be out for a few weeks, do you burn this freshman’s redshirt by playing him in two games, knowing that when these two guys get back they’re going to move back? I think it will give them an opportunity and give you some options down the road. And there’s some things to think about towards the end of the season.”

On Trey Smith and his position this fall, and why Tyson Helton as offensive coordinator:
“Well, the one thing about Trey is that he can play multiple positions, he did that last year. We’d like to get him in a position and leave him there where he can find success and gain confidence. The good thing is, before we insert Trey, we’re going to have two weeks of practice so we’re going to figure out where we need him if that makes sense. I’ve known Tyson Helton for a long time. He was recruiting Hoover High School from Memphis University the first time that I met him. Then he went to UAB which was there in Birmingham and Will Friend was on the staff, so I spent a lot of time over there. I’ve been very impressed with him since that time when he would come to our practices, we’ve always had a lot of talent [and] he seemed to be a very good evaluator to figure out who the right guys were and weren’t, so when you just kind of follow his career – and we’ve been closely connected over the years – he’s done a fantastic job wherever he’s been.”

On Emmit Gooden and Dominick Wood-Anderson on their performance this summer:
“Well they’re big men. They’re going to be a couple years older than the freshmen coming in, so they do have some experience. I think they have the opportunity to contribute, and for them they’ll be learning: what’s the system, what’s the expectations? So I think having a little bit of experience in junior college will help them there with the transition. But both of those guys are talented and they kind of meet the size and speed criteria that we were looking for.”

On Bryce Thompson and his potential impact:
“To me, one thing that you need to be able to figure out is how to get your best players on the field. When you have 120 guys and you have guys like Bryce and like Alontae [Taylor] that have played both sides of the ball, they could play wide receiver, they could play tailback and they could play anywhere in the secondary. I’m trying to figure out the best combination to produce the best team. We felt like with where we were at it would be best to start him off at corner and then go from there.”

On the decision to not make assistant coaches available to the media during the season:
“Most everywhere that I’ve worked, it’s been that way. And I’ve appreciated it as an assistant coach, so I could focus on our opponents and not come out here and hang out with you guys, so with that experience I think that that’s good. Also, I think that it’s important that when you’re talking, you want one message, and I think that if you have one message, at least you know what the message will exactly be.”

On Alontae Taylor playing on both sides of the ball:
“We are going to start him off at defensive back, but he has the ability to play wide receiver. He can play either side of the ball. When you look at trying to get the best guys on the field and creating the best team, we decided to start him out at cornerback. I think that will create a lot of competition. He is a big guy who can play the ball, run and is instinctive. We talked a lot about it and looked at him on both sides. We just thought the best place for him to start off this fall would be on defensive.”

On the timeline for choosing a starting quarterback:
“The quarterbacks are no different than any other position. You have the same amount of competition. We have four guys who will be competing and they will all have the same opportunity. It’s the same as outside linebacker. If you have two guys that are about the same, then you play them both. If one is a little better than the other, then you play him and bring the other one in when the first gets tired. I think the same thing at quarterback. If we have somebody that asserts himself, it might be three days into fall camp or six weeks into the season. We have to figure out who gives us the best opportunity and they will control that. Not us.”

On how Tennessee compares to Alabama in 2007 when he first got there:
“There are probably some similarities. We have a very hungry fan base and we are starting over. I can draw on experiences looking back at it. We have some guys here who have experiences, but we also have a lot of guys who don’t. We are starting over and everything is new. I think everybody that is involved in the program is excited about it. I think we are heading in the right direction. It starts with the administration and we have administrators who have given us everything we need to have success. We are ready to get started, and I think over the next couple of years, you will see vast improvement.”

On the determining factors in picking a quarterback:
“To me, the most important thing is when you get the ball it is about what you do with it. Are you giving it to the other team? Are you staying in the right play? Are you ending every possession with a kick? Are you impacting your teammates? It’s interesting because quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. It’s about taking your team and being able to move the ball, being productive and rallying everyone around you. To do that you have to have competitive situations and we have to put them in those situations to have an opportunity to separate themselves.”

On what he has seen from his defensive line this offseason:
“Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle, Paul Bain and Alexis Johnson are going to need to play well. If you look at the teams that have age on them, sometimes it equals success. Those four guys are the only seniors we have up front with the exception of Jonathan Kongbo, so we need them to play well.”

On what he attributes the offseason success to:
“I would say the familiarity with the coaches and players. When you talk about messages from the top down, anywhere you go in our program, the players are hearing the same stuff over and over again. I think that breeds confidence. As you get to know people, some trustworthiness comes into it a little bit. For me, it’s hard to walk into a team room full of guys, and you don’t know any of them and try to figure out who they are. I’m sure the same goes for us. I think our guys have bought in. They have done a fantastic job in the classroom and the weight room. They have been eating and growing, so our nutritionist is doing a great job. I think they are a little bit more confident in the direction we are going.”

On his decision to move Jonathan Kongbo from defensive end to linebacker:
“I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as people have made it out to be. When we play 4-3, we will play defensive end. If we play 3-4, we will move a few feet and play linebacker. There’s not that much difference in it. It’s all about figuring out how to get your best combination of guys on the field. He’s done a really good job of learning the position. He’s smart and worked hard and we will see how he does in camp.”

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