Week 1: Jeremy Pruitt press conference

Week 1: Jeremy Pruitt press conference

Football

Week 1: Jeremy Pruitt press conference

KNOXVILLE — Jeremy Pruitt kicked off West Virginia game week by meeting with the media for his weekly press conference.

Pruitt opened his press conference by saying that “West Virginia is a very talented team” and that “you work so hard in January and February all the way through spring training and summer conditioning, then it’s game week and you do all that for one guaranteed opportunity.”

Pruitt then fielded questions from the media.

On the differences between the SAM and JACK linebacker positions:

“They’re really the same position. If you looked at it, you would like to recruit two guys that are basically interchangeable. You can play them SAM and JACK, left and right or field and boundary. If you have one guy that is a better rusher, then you let him be the rusher and the other guy will be the dropper. For us, they will probably be the same guy.”

On Jahmir Johnson’s progression during camp:

“He wasn’t here during spring. He got here during the summer, but we aren’t allowed to be out there during the summer. We get to fall camp and he missed the first six to eight practices. We were moving him back and forth from different positions. For the last two weeks, he has been out there every single day. He can really play all five spots on the offensive line. He’s learning the system and our expectations of how to practice and how we want things done. He does have some good upside about him. He’s a good competitor.”

On putting pressure on Will Grier:
“Talking about pressure, the quarterback – with the way they play – there is a lot of pressure on him, which a lot of people do now with everyone spread out and you have RPOs, whether you’re running zone reads or power lines. So he has to do a lot, but I think the guy does a fantastic job. He’s got a lot of experience, which helps him. As far as putting pressure on him, there are a lot of different ways to affect the quarterback. It could be by pressure disguises. It could be getting your hands up and staying in pass rush lanes or pushing the pocket up the middle. I think you have to pick and choose you spots. Anytime you bring pressure, it puts pressure on the back end in the secondary. As I have said all along, the defensive backs place the limitations on your defense.”

On the new kickoff rules:
“I can see why they implemented the rule. They are probably trying to eliminate some of the kickoff returns. I think there is a philosophical thought about how exactly you want to go about kickoff returns, but I don’t know that I want to share exactly what ours is right now.”

On coming from a championship program:
“I could talk about a lot of things. When it comes to game week, the most important thing is to do what your players can do. Don’t ask them to do something they’re not capable of doing. It doesn’t matter what we know as coaches, it’s important what the players know. If you can go out there and you knew nobody would make a mistake on either side of the ball or in the kicking game and that nobody would make a mental mistake, then you would definitely have an advantage. I think it is going to be important for us to do things that our kids can execute.”

On the starting quarterback position:
“With all the positions that we have, we still have competition. The best teams that I have ever been a part of, there’s lots of times that guys may start the first game, but don’t start the fifth game or the eighth game. There’s been lots of guys that didn’t even play in the first game that might have been the MVP in the last game. Football is a developmental game. You have guys that have been in the program longer than others, that have a little better understanding of what we are trying to get done. You have guys who may have more ability that don’t understand just yet. It happens everywhere, and as they get more opportunities, they might get a chance, and when they get a chance, they have to make the most of it. With every position, it’s really fluid.”

On evaluating the punters:
“I think both of our punters have done a really good job this fall camp. They get the ball off really fast, and they’ve been pretty accurate and consistent on what we’re trying to get done. It’s really good competition, and it has made both of them better. I think we’ll probably make a decision on that later on in the week. I could see both of these guys kicking for us this fall.”

On the players on the roster that faced Florida and Will Grier in 2015 and if that gives them an advantage against West Virginia:
“I don’t think anybody would have an advantage, whether it is him or the guys that have been here. That was a long time ago and a lot has changed since then.”

On who he feels comfortable with returning kicks and punts:
“We worked several guys back there, trying to create some depth. You have guys who have experience doing it in a college game, and you have guys who don’t. The only way to do that is you have to put them out there. We have guys back there, and I think as this week goes, we’ll have it narrowed down by Thursday or Friday.”

On having 11 newcomers or true freshman on the two-deep depth chart:
“I don’t know if we could have predicted exactly how it turned out, and moving forward, we can’t predict how these guys will play Saturday. All we can do is go based off how they have performed since they have been here. We have lots of competition at every position, which is good. It’s making us improve and making guys prepare every day. Learning to compete, and they know if they’re not playing at their best then somebody else is trying to (compete for their spot). I think it has improved our football team just because the competition.”

On Trey Smith’s versatility and the decision to play him at left tackle:
“We’ve got several guys that are competing up front. When you are looking at everybody, you want to get an idea of exactly what is your best five. We are still working on that. We’ve got lots of guys that are running with the (starters). We have different combinations, which is important because you need depth. We’ll play a lot of guys in the game. We feel like there are guys who deserve to play. We’ll see how the game goes, but I think he is a guy that is a pretty good pass protector, has good size and is a solid run blocker. To me, if you want to play who think might be your best pass protector, it would be at the left tackle.”

On emotions from being a head coach:
“My emotions are probably the same way before I tee off on the golf course. If you’re going to play, you’re going to win. That’s why we do what we do. I’m excited to have an opportunity to see what our team is going to be like because it really doesn’t matter what has been done in the past anywhere. You hit the reset button each year, and what you have put on the field as a coach is really who you are right now. This is a really great challenge for us, our staff and everybody associated with our program. We are really looking forward to it.”

On having success this year:
“I think we have to take care of the football. If you look at all the Power Five games last year, probably the two most important stats are turnovers and explosive plays. If you take that into account, offensively, you need to find a way to create explosive plays, and you need to find a way to take care of the football. Defensively, you need to eliminate explosive plays and get turnovers.”

On Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor:
“I think our guys guard pretty good receivers everyday. I think these guys are competitive, but they are still learning the position. They do not have a whole lot of experience playing the position, but all across the country this week there will be guys playing something for the first time in college football. To me, I look at it as an opportunity, that’s why they came to the University of Tennessee. They want to play in big games like this. They want to play on the biggest stage, and if you are made the right way, that’s what they want to do, and they will be ready for it.”

On confidence level of offensive line since early August:
“Compared to August 2nd, it’s got to be a lot better because we have practiced 24 times. We have improved, which we should. We have got some guys back, by getting Chance Hall back, by getting Trey Smith back, guys getting healthy. This has created competition on the offensive line. It has allowed us to move some guys around to create some depth. I will say they are working extremely hard to master their position. We are a lot better than we were the first day that’s for sure.”

On options at safety:
“You all must have more knowledge than I’ve got, because I know who practices out there everyday, and you all seem to think you know more than I do. We have a bunch of guys playing safety. I don’t know who will be back there, we will have to see how they practice this week.”

On mental toughness:
“I think it is any team that you play. If you’re going to play football there better be some mental toughness. Things are not going to go your way all the time, it’s going to be loud, it’s going to hot, and all these external factors that really don’t have anything to do with the game. If guys have mental toughness, then they can block it out, but if they don’t, they let external factors affect them. You’re playing corner and you give up a 60-yard touchdown, you’re playing left tackle and give up a sack, or if you’re a quarterback and throw it the wrong spot. Is that one play going to affect the next 35 plays? I think it is important to have mental toughness so you can overcome when things aren’t going exactly the way you want it.”

On starting freshman:
“I think back to that first game, and we did play a lot of young guys. We try to play the best players. If you play the best players, sometimes it is freshman and by us playing them, it shows we do have confidence in their ability to play. They’re going to make mistakes; everybody is going to make mistakes, but the key of the drill is to play the next play, keeping poise, playing with confidence and believing on what you’re trying to get done. I think the guys we put on the field Saturday will play that way.”

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