Vol Report: Offense Building Confidence Early in Camp

Credit: UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee football team was all smiles on Sunday morning at Neyland Stadium for the Vols’ annual photo day held a few hours before the third practice of fall camp and Fan Day.

Tennessee wore shells after just helmets for the first two practices of fall camp on Friday and Saturday.

The coaching staff has been stressing effort, toughness and fundamentals until the Vols put on full pads on Wednesday.

“If you’re not playing with the right effort, it is tough to be a good football player,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Can you push through, can you handle adversity, can you handle the multiples whether it is offense, defense or special teams? And as you put on pads, you start working a little more fundamentals from a contact standpoint.

We can do a lot of fundamentals. We can do everything; team, blitz, two-minute, whatever, all of it without pads on. You know, when you start running around hitting each other sometimes it changes a little bit.”

Fan Day Moved Indoors
Fan day and practice was moved indoors to the Anderson Training Center due to weather. Coach Pruitt and the team welcomed fans inside following practice for an autograph session.

Chaney Giving Offense Confidence 
Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney returned to Tennessee this offseason after coaching on Rocky Top from 2009-12. Chaney has led prolific offenses at UT, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Arkansas and Georgia as well as coached in the NFL.

“I think everybody has immense trust and immense respect for him,” redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said. “Going back to that whenever we signed him, everybody was very excited because they knew his track record. They knew the type of things that he’s done in the past. The past two days everybody’s hooting and hollering, everybody’s very excited. Just having that guy around, he exudes confidence in himself and in us.”

The Tennessee offense returns its leading passer (Guarantano), rusher (Ty Chandler,) and receiver (Marquez Callaway) for the first time since 1995 when Peyton Manning, Jay Graham and Joey Kent accomplished the same feat.

Kennedy Feeling Great 
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy missed the final 11 games of the 2018 season after suffering a season-ending injury in the season-opener nearly a year ago. The graduate transfer, who played three seasons lineman for Alabama, is full-go this camp.

“I feel completely comfortable,” Kennedy said. “I had the summertime to get adjusted with the workouts we had. So just the contact is a normal thing to me.”

Tennessee Football Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Photo Day Quotes | Aug. 4, 2019
On the young guys who have impressed him mentally:

“We just practiced two days. We start putting on shells today so we start playing a little more football like, a little more physical. There have been lots of guys out there that have done a good job. I think the freshmen class has worked really hard this summer, and I think the older guys have done a nice job of coaching them along. I am not really ready to single anybody out yet, but a lot of them have had really good practices.”

On freshman cornerback Warren Burrell:

“You know, Warren (Burrell) is a smart guy. Football is very important to him, he is very conscientious, works hard in the weight room, has put on some weight this summer in the offseason. He is a guy that competed really well in the spring and we expect him to continue to do that.”

On what coach thinks the guys learn about themselves during fall camp:

“You are trying to build a team. All over the country it is hot somewhere. People get sore. These guys, or I guess this generation, is not used to the way it used to be. You used to practice three times a day and do it for two or three weeks. Now, we practice once a day. I think just instilling a little mental and physical toughness to them. The guys that have it always show up during fall camp and the ones that don’t, it also shows up.”

On what he evaluates when the team is not in pads:

“If you’re not playing with the right effort, it is tough to be a good football player,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Can you push through, can you handle adversity, can you handle the multiples whether it is offense, defense or special teams? And as you put on pads, you start working a little more fundamentals from a contact standpoint.

We can do a lot of fundamentals. We can do everything; team, blitz, two-minute, whatever, all of it without pads on. You know, when you start running around hitting each other sometimes it changes a little bit.”

On how much better he knows the team and about their comfort level:

“The guys we recruited, we obviously had some long relationships with which is really probably the same amount of time that we had the guys on our team. We learn something about each other every day, whether it is coaching staff or players. That is part of building a team in camp, and that is what we are working really hard to do.”

Redshirt Junior QB Jarrett Guarantano
On how camp is going after the first two days:

“Excellent. Camp is always the start of everything. The first few days we got after it pretty well and we’re going into today and it’s fan day, we’re going to have a great atmosphere and we’re ready to show up.”

On his excitement level with the receiving core:

“I think that they’re actually progressing. We have a lot of older guys, but there are some young guys that are stepping up and I’m happy with the progression from them and there’s a lot of new installs and we’re starting to grasp it pretty well.”

On learning from other quarterbacks:

“Probably this year, honestly, when I came into this offseason, I started looking at quarterbacks that had some different success. I looked at if they had better deep ball accuracy and quick game. I was looking at different NFL quarterbacks and different college quarterbacks that had success. That was part of the maturation process, just saying, ‘there are some things that I want to get better at and how do I do so, how do I become more cerebral?’”

On the confidence Coach Chaney has instilled going into the season:

“Everybody has immense trust and immense respect for him. Going back to that whenever we signed him, everybody was very excited because they knew his track record. They knew the type of things that he’s done in the past. The past two days everybody’s hooting and hollering, everybody’s very excited. Just having that guy around, he exudes confidence in himself and in us. I think that our offense is much more confident and we know our jobs better.”

Junior WR Josh Palmer
On his personal goals for this season:

“Just getting better as a team. That’s what this fall is for is to come together as one, which coach Pruitt really emphasizes. Day in and day out we’ll just look to become closer as a team and closer as a unit.”

On who his best friend on the team is:

“I’m real close with Alontae Taylor. Since he came in as a freshman we’ve been real close. Brandon Johnson hosted me [on my recruiting visit], but I’m pretty close with all of the receivers mainly.”

On his relationship with Taylor during camp since they’re on different sides of the ball:
“We battle a lot on the field.”

Redshirt Junior Marcus Tatum
On Trey Smith and what he does for the offensive line as a whole:

“Trey is one of my best friends and just to see him continue working hard and just keep pushing through his situation, it’s just [creates] a very positive vibe because if he can go through that and keep grinding and keep trying to be a leader and keep trying to stay positive, why can’t we?”

On if there is any concern about what he’s going through:

“It’s all his decision. It’s out of our hands [and] it’s in God’s hands. We can’t do nothing about that, so whatever happens, happens.”

On if he has any extra motivation with all the talented newcomers on the offensive line:

“I mean I love them both. I’ve been in the SEC, so I know people go down all the time. I’m just bringing them along, teaching them like they’re my little brothers and continue just working as a unit.”

On talking about the new guys staying ready:

“I remember Jashon (Robertson) told me that anything can happen, so I just tell them every day – it’s the SEC, it’s a physical game and no matter what happens you just have to stay ready.”

On seeing himself in the mirror after putting on so much weight:

“Yeah, it’s very weird but I’m glad I got to trust this staff and put it on the right way, so I didn’t really change much. I still feel just as fast. I feel a lot stronger, but I don’t feel like fat and flubbery.”

On what strength coach Craig Fitzgerald has meant to him:

“Yeah he got me past that point where it’s make or break and you’ve got to start pushing and pushing. It’s just consistency, it’s working with me after practice, before practice, extra lifts in, meal plan. Really just [being] on me all the time about it.”

Redshirt Senior OL Brandon Kennedy
On how he’s progressing back from his injury:

“I feel completely comfortable. I had the summertime to get adjusted with the workouts we had. And so just the contact is a normal thing to me.”

On the most difficult thing about coming back from injury:

“The hardest thing will be the mental aspect, and the sports psychology program I was talking about has really helped me out a lot.”

On how he feels like the offensive line has progressed:

“I’m very excited. We’re very confident in the weight room and bring lots of energy every day.”

Sophomore CB Bryce Thompson
On how he feels he has progressed from before last season:

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, more mature and can see the game from a different perspective. Last year was kind of just getting my feet wet and just getting out there and playing, but now I feel like it’s more technical.”

On playing alongside Alontae Taylor:

“It makes it a lot easier. If we have questions, we both talk to each other, and that’s really just the whole defensive back group itself. We communicate so well and we’re really close to each other.”

Junior RB Ty Chandler
On the running back position group as a whole:

“Everybody is able to do a lot of stuff. All of us can catch the ball out of the backfield, all of us can run the ball downhill, so you never know what you’re going to get. Everyone can continue to the game in a bunch of different ways.”

On Jarrett Guarantano’s leadership during the offseason:

“Jarrett’s been on us more than ever. He’s been more vocal, and that’s what we need. We need him to lead us in the right direction and I know he’s going to get that done.”

On being one of the team’s playmakers:

“I just like going out and being able to help my team in any way that I can. That’s what I want to do. If coach puts me in the position to make a play, that’s what I want to be able to do.”

Sophomore Alontae Taylor
On motivation in the offseason:

“Being a team player, being consistent, being aggressive, working my craft and just bringing the DB unit together.”

On changing mindset now as a defender:

“My mindset has always been do whatever it takes to help the team and Pruitt’s always told us to be aggressive and consistent. So, it wasn’t hard to change my mindset to a defensive mindset from an offensive one.”

On the younger guys on the team:

“All the young guys are working, there’s a lot of competition in our DB room now. You have to be consistent with what you do and you have to bring it every single day, because no spots are guaranteed.”

On getting better:

“I feel like every part of my game needed to get better. I didn’t think any part of my game was perfect or where I wanted it to be. I sat down with Coach Pruitt and picked his brain about what I needed to improve on coming into the spring and then into Fall Camp.”

On this year’s camp vs. last year:

“This year has been very competitive, with a lot more competition than last year for sure. Every day I have to bring it, because no spots are guaranteed. I’m just trying to help the younger guys as much as I can.

Senior Marquez Callaway

On adversity the last few years has helped the team moving forward:

“Adversity happens everywhere. Whether it be in practice, especially in games. It’s how you bounce back and react to it. Over the last couple of seasons, things have been good and things have been bad it’s just how you react to it. You can’t look back on it, you can’t dwell on it, you have to take it, learn from it and move on.”

On going up against Bryce and Alontae everyday:

“They’re competitors. They want to learn. They want to compete and that’s what we do. Whoever is up, if it’s the starters they’re the first ones up, if we’re not in then they don’t want to be in. They want to compete and they want to learn and we just make each other better.”

On excitement of having two young corners ready to go:

“I think it’s good for everybody. With us being older and having a lot more experience than they do, there’s no fall off. I know that we’re getting them better and they’re making us better.”

 

UT Athletics

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