UT Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Transcript

 Opening statement:

“There’s definitely a lot of carry over defensively from last fall. We have a lot of guys who are back, so you could obviously see a comfort zone there. I thought that our offense did a really good job today. It was probably the first time all year that we finished practice early. The offense sets the tempo for the practice, so I thought that was really positive. We have a few guys that aren’t participating in the spring. Darrin Kirkland is getting some work done on his knee, just from a rehab standpoint, and Eric Gray had shoulder surgery. Tyus Fields had a little procedure done back during Christmas. He could possibly be back. Chris Akporoghene is going to miss the first couple of days of spring practice. Kurott Garland will be back out there soon. So, we’ve got a few guys out, but not as many as we had last year. I thought the tempo was good today. With the first day of practice, we’ve got new guys out there and we have to teach them how to practice. We’ve got to stay off the ground. The ball for the first day is probably on the ground too many times, with just simple quarterback center exchanges. We need to be able to fix that, and offensively it starts with the snap, and if you can’t do that, it’s hard to have success. I thought for the first day, there was some juice out there, and our guys competed pretty well, and I’m excited about that. I think there’s some guys that changed positions that have done a nice job in the offseason learning a new position. So, we’ll watch the film, and we’ve got a bunch of high school coaches in here, we’re excited about that. With our coach’s clinic, it’s an opportunity for us to spend time with people that came to our clinic. It’s a big deal for us, so we’ll work on our corrections tomorrow and we’ll go back at it on Saturday and hopefully we’ll improve.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On the difference from spring practice last year to spring practice this year:

“I can’t remember what I ate last week for breakfast, so I sure can’t remember last spring’s first day of practice. We’ve practiced 300 times since then. So, we were better today than we were last year because mostly everybody on the team has been through the system one time, as opposed to last year when nobody knew the system. So now, there’s probably ten guys that are here for the first time, and at least the other guys have an idea of what they’re supposed to do. Last year, nobody knew what to do. So, it obviously should be better.”

On the smoothness of the offense today despite new coaches:

“I think from an experience standpoint with Jim (Chaney) coming in here, I think he’s done a really nice job with our staff. He’s very efficient with his time. He’s a very good teacher. I’ve sat in lots of meetings, and he’s simple to understand. There are a lot of similarities, and we’ve kept a lot of things, from a conceptional standpoint, that are probably very similar. So, I think our guys have done a really good job with working hard to figure out what they’re supposed to do. The guys come here for two reasons: to get a degree and to play football. So, some of it is on them to learn what to do on their own, and I think our guys, for the first day, have done a really good job. Now, you install the first day for probably two weeks, and now you’re fixing to start the second practice and you install one time and here we go. Are we willing to spend that much time and be able to balance everything that goes in with that and retain the same knowledge as the first practice? I don’t know, we’ll see.”

On responding from last season:

“We had our shots last year, that’s over with. There’s nothing we can do about it, so I’m not going to talk about it anymore. We’re worried about next year. That’s the only thing that we have control over and everybody on our football team has a plan to improve as a player this spring and as a unit, and I think our guys are going to start working hard to do that. We’ve done a good job so far, we had a good first day of practice and we’ll see where it goes tomorrow.”

On Quavaris Crouch starting the spring at inside linebacker:

“Inside linebacker, first of all we have a lack of depth there with Darrin Kirkland Jr. not going through the spring. JJ Peterson is a little banged up, he should be back probably next week. So, we have a depth issue there. It’s also from a standpoint of having a better understanding of the defense, it’s easier to learn it from inside out instead of outside in. I think he’s a guy that can play all four positions, so we started him there.”

On Jeremy Banks’ position during the spring:

“Jeremy is going to start off at running back. If you look at our running back with Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Carlin Fils-aime, even Eric Gray, they’re all probably between the 195 and 205 range. We need a big back, that’s why we moved Princeton Fant there. We’re gonna keep Jeremy on offense, we have to have a 225-plus pound guy in there, at least one guy. We’re going to keep them over there and see how they work for the first six to eight days, let coach Chaney and David Johnson get a good look at them and then make a decision from there. They both can play multiple positions and they’re learning the offense conceptually, so I think they’re both doing a good job as far as offseason conditioning, I don’t know about today’s practice.”

On Alontae Taylor’s growth as a defensive back in the past year:

“For one, he wants to be a defensive back now. When we moved him last spring, he probably didn’t. When you want to do something, you put more time into it. I think that he’s probably done that, he’s put a lot of time in in the offseason with coach Ansley. I see those guys watching tape a lot. So, I think that there will be improvement just with being comfortable with the position. He’s never played corner, he played defensive back, but he really went back there and stood and played safety during high school. He didn’t get up there and play the different techniques that you have to play at corner in this league. Him along with the rest of the guys, they all should improve now that they have a year under their belt.”

On Brandon Kennedy’s recovery:

“Brandon would be clear to go if we were playing right now, but there’s no need to rush him back. He’s going to do some things this spring and it’ll be day-by-day, but if we were playing a game right now, he could play.”

On the progress through the offseason:

“I think with the offseason it takes everybody in the program, it starts with our weight room staff with Coach Fitz and all his guys. They have done a really nice job training and our nutrition staff has done a great job. Rachel (Pfister) and everybody associated with her, the people in Smokey’s where our guys eat every day, working with Rachel and her crew. Getting the guys on a good diet and I think the guys have done a nice job of getting some rest and I think it takes a little of that too. Nathan Niehaus has gained 40 pounds in a year, Riley Locklear has probably gained 25 or 30 pounds and Marcus Tatum has gained 25 or 30 pounds. They need it and some of them could gain 25 more but I think it will help them and offensive line is a developmental position so when you sign a scholarship to play offensive line in the SEC and you weigh 260 pounds, it’s probably going to take you three years before you can actually play. A lot of these guys are in their third year or starting their fourth and they are big enough now to be effective I think.”

On what the staff needs to see from the defensive line this spring:

“There’s not many guys that have played a lot of ball, I think as a group the guys have worked hard in the offseason but until you learn how to go out there and strain and do it over and over again and not make mental errors and learn how to play, how to practice and do it the right way, we have very few guys that have done much of that. Emmitt Gooden played more than the rest of them, John Mincy was getting an opportunity to play and he got injured last year. Kurott Grarland played four games, Kingston Harris played in four, so they played enough to be redshirted. I think that was good for them, good experience but we’ve got a long way to go there.”

On the early enrollees:

“I think these guys have done a really nice job in the classroom. Lots of times when you go to college everybody gets overwhelmed, there is so much thrown at them. I haven’t seen that with them, I think these guys come from really good football programs and good schools. I think they have been prepared academically, athletically and programs that have worked really hard and have had a lot of success. They have jumped right in and fit right in, they haven’t looked like freshman which is a good thing. Obviously, they are mid-year guys so they have to be pretty strong academically. I saw more of the defensive guys but I thought they had a good understanding of what we were tying to do for the first day so it was really positive.”

On what appealed to him the most about Jim Chaney:

“He’s done it a bunch of different ways and has had a bunch of success in this league which I think is important. Unless you’ve coached in this league against some of these guys that you’re going to go against, it takes a little while to get used to what they’re going to do on defense. He’s done it throwing it a bunch of times in a game, he’s done it with balance and run oriented. He figures out who his best players are and finds ways to get them the ball. I think he’s a very good evaluator and coaching against him, he’s very hard to defend.”


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