Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference Full Transcript (Sept. 2)

Opening statement:

“Just a little bit of recap on this past week’s game, if you look back and look at it offensively, I said after the game that we turned the ball over three times. If you count the two times on fourth down turning the ball over on downs, that’s five turnovers and we only got one, so we’re five to one in the turnover margin. We were two-for-four in the red area on scoring touchdowns. We have to be able to score points in the red area, and if you flip it to the other side, we didn’t make Georgia State kick field goals in the red area. So, we lost the turnover battle and the red area battle. If you look at third downs, there were plenty of opportunities to get off the field on third down defensively and we had a chance to convert some and we didn’t, starting with a third-and-one in the second quarter.

Credit: UT Athletics

“Everybody in the program had to look back in the mirror and say ‘what can I do better.’ It’s what you do after every week and it’s what we’ll continue to do after this week.

“We have a really good opponent coming in here that traditionally is a very tough football team. There’s lots of experience with their coaching staff. They had a game last week where they turned the ball over, they’re in a rivalry game, it was back and forth and they had a few turnovers. Defensively, they’re a team that has lots of experience, an older team. They really played hard, really ran the ball well on their offensive side and to me it starts with their quarterback, a guy that kind of reminds me of Johnny Manziel. He can run around, extend plays and make all of the throws. He turned the ball over a couple of times last week unfortunately, but he’s a guy that we have to find a way to get on the ground. They have a really good tight end, they’re big up front and have good skill players so we’ll have a tremendous challenge. They had some new guys in the kicking game, but their new kickers kicked the ball really well in the last game.”

On addressing the confusion on the defensive side of the ball Saturday:

“We’re going to continue to improve; we have lots of inexperience on that side of the ball. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve lost some key players at all three levels. We’ve had to move some guys around. I said early on that we wanted to keep it simple and we’re keeping it simple so we can execute. When you play a team for the first time with a new coordinator, are they going to do what they did there last year, are they going to do what he did? You’re going to get lots of multiples, so you have to be able to line up and give yourself a chance. We had a lot of alignment issues, but to me it’s not as much communication, I think a lot of it just comes with experience. Being able to set the front and they’re not lined up correctly, I have to move them somewhere and get them lined up. So, it was kind of all three levels of the defense, but it’s something that we can fix.”

On the offensive line rotation:

“All of the guys that played, at times played really well. I think in the first 55 plays of the game, we didn’t give up a sack or a quarterback pressure. The last 20 plays of the game, we gave up four sacks. Not all of that is on the offensive line. I said after the game that with the way the game went, we didn’t really create momentum in the run game. Some of that was because of the scoreboard. We have to be able to do that, we have to be able to run the football consistently to give us a chance to run some play action passes and push the ball down the field.”

On if he expected the missed tackles and on Daniel Bituli’s status:

“Always in the first game, there’s usually missed tackles. There are a few guys on our team that had more than others. It’s pretty simple, you can go back and look when you have missed practice time and the opportunities to do it, it shows up. So, the guys that were injured for whatever reason during fall camp, they have to kind of get their feet under themselves or we have to play somebody else. It’s that simple. Daniel is working hard to get back this week.”

On if he is concerned about his team’s confidence:

“I believe in the guys in our locker room. I’ve said this all along, I really like this team. Just because I like them, doesn’t mean that we’re where we need to be, but I like their work ethic, I like their want-to. When you look at the offensive side, there’s a lot more experience as opposed to the defensive side. As you break it down, the offense is going to look and say they left a lot of plays out there. Defensively, there are lots of guys – you start with Savion Williams, Darel Middleton, Kurott Garland – those guys weren’t here in the spring. So, it’s the first chance that they’ve gotten a chance to get out there with multiples. Same thing with Henry To’o To’o and Warren Burrell. These guys are going to continue to get better and some of those guys played as good as anybody on our team. And we have other guys that didn’t play as much in the game, whether it’s Quavaris Crouch or Roman Harrison, guys that will have an opportunity to kind of increase their load in the game. It takes a little bit of time for guys to understand exactly how to play the game. There’s more to it than just getting lined up and running out there and tackling and hitting people. We have to get those guys an opportunity and they have to prepare themselves so they are ready to play in the game plan.”

On confidence level of the team:

“We have to go out there and continue to work hard. If you do things over and over and over, you start to build confidence. We’ll watch the film today and see where we can improve. Everywhere I’ve ever coached, when the game is over with it’s about what you did or didn’t do and it’ll be the same today, it’ll be the same next week and the following week.”

On what he saw from the offensive and defensive lines against Georgia State compared to in camp:

“I felt like offensively we had a lot of competition throughout camp. I felt like Jameer Johnson, Darnell Wright and Brandon Kennedy probably played the best, but a lot of the other guys had a lot of good moments and they’re going to continue to improve and get better. The thing that we need to do is eliminate mistakes. You can have ten guys do it right, but if one guy does it wrong sometimes it can create a negative play. The crazy thing about defense is that you can have no one do it right, but you have one guy that’s an eraser and he can cover for everyone else. But we’re not that way we have to have everyone do it right for us to have success.”

On redshirt junior linebacker Jordan Allen’s status:

“You talk about Jordan. He’s a guy that’s been sick the last week. They ran some tests on him and they’ll continue to do that, but he should be back at practice today. We just need to get his weight back up.”

On what he saw when he looked in the mirror:

“I told myself the same thing I told the players, everyone in the room has Tennessee on their chest, so what can we all do to improve to be at our best. It all starts with me. Obviously, on the defensive side, we’ve got to improve. We’ve got to be able to execute. We’ve got to be able to make adjustments in the game, and if you look at it, they convert a third-and-ten. We have ten guys that did it right, but one guy that doesn’t, that’s where the ball gets completed. There’s another third-and-nine; we have ten guys doing it right (and) the one that doesn’t. The quarterback scrambles out there for a first-down. There was a lot of that in the game, so we need to eliminate those mistakes.”

On positives from both sides of the ball:

“I think there’s a lot of positives on both sides of the ball. We’ll start with the kicking game. I think our kickers kicked the ball really well, the operation, the holders, we covered the ball well. We got a few returns going. On the defensive side of the ball, there were several guys that played pretty good football. There are lots of guys that are right there in that 75-80 percent, but it doesn’t take, but one mistake to extend a drive and we did that. We didn’t get many turnovers. We had one, had an opportunity to get a few more, but against a quarterback like that, and a quarterback we’ll see this week and mostly in the SEC – because most quarterbacks are athletes – we have to control the quarterback rush. You have to push the pocket. You have to make them throw from the pocket. You can’t give them lanes to where they can scramble up and get easy throws and we didn’t do a good job of that in our pass rush lanes. There were also a few chances on third down where we had a chance to get off the field and we didn’t and we have to get off the field on third down and not give them extra opportunities.”

On Ty Chandler being featured in the first half, but not the second:

“You have to be able to secure the football. There were a couple of them on the ground and we went with Eric (Gray), because we felt like he had the hot hand.”

On keeping players motivated after an upset:

“When you look at the teams that win, a lot of people talk about talent. There’s probably something to that; it helps to have lots of talent. But if you look at good football teams, they create the right habits, they make few mistakes, they play the right way, they don’t beat themselves and when things aren’t going their way they find a way to change the momentum of the game. That’s what good football teams do. It’s not a type of dust that you sprinkle out there. Since I’ve been here, there’s been a few games where we’ve played pretty well. The reason we played well is because we focused on the details, we executed, we didn’t beat ourselves and we continued to do that until the other team made mistakes. That’s what you have to do, that’s what we’ll focus on and that’s what you always have to focus on.”

On progression of Eric Gray:

“He wants to play. He did make some guys miss. He probably needs to put a foot in the ground and get north and south a little bit more, but he’s a guy that what we saw Saturday is what we’ve seen this entire Fall camp.”

On if it’s concerning to hear Darrell Taylor admit that the team didn’t study enough film:

“As far as knowing enough, when you look at our game plan, it was pretty simple. I’m satisfied that our guys understood it and what we’re doing. But the offense creates the multiples for the defense. That’s one of the things early in the year, as a defensive coach, you’re like, ‘How far do you actually go back and look? What could they pull out?’ They completed a pass on third down that they ran against us when I coached at Georgia in 2014 in the red area, against South Carolina. When you pull things out, how far do you go back? You can’t cover it all. There comes a point where you just have to play by principles and concepts. Especially early on, it’s smart to keep it simple so the kids can do that and play fast. We’ll continue to do that. That’s what I believe in until you get a whole body of work where you can see where a team has created an identity through three, four, or five games in a season.”

On what his message would be to disappointed Vol fans:

“I hope they are disappointed because I know everybody in this building is disappointed. For us, we’ve got to go back and go to work. We’ve got to go back and practice the right way, work on creating the right habits. I’ll say it again. We’re young and inexperienced and we’ve got to continue to grow. The most you improve is from the first week to the second week. We’ve got a great opportunity, starting today, to do that. If we’re made the right way, and I’m talking about what’s inside of us, about wanting to go back and having a little bit of pride about who you represent and who you play for, then you go back and you dig a little deeper, try a little harder, and maybe watch a little more film here, or do a little extra in the weight room. Whatever it is, look in the mirror and figure out what we’ve got to do, each and every one of us, to get better and that’s what we’ve got to do in this building.”

On what he would like to see from Jarrett Guarantano from week one to week two, in terms of improvement:

“We’ve got to be able to manage the offense. Jarrett put a lot of good plays together. Unfortunately, at that position, the ball goes through your hand every snap. There’s plays that he probably left out there on the field. He could’ve changed protections a couple of times and didn’t. He can do that. He’s got that capability. He needs to be efficient and stay within the offense.”

On if the linebackers should take responsibility in terms of ensuring that the defense is lined up correctly:

“I don’t know if you watched the game, as far as the rewind of it, but these guys got in big splits by the guards, big splits by the tackles. They take the tight end and he plays like a guard and he plays like a tackle, if that makes sense. All are things that we’ve covered because they’ve done it in the past a little bit. When you start talking about, they shift and move the tackle in and the guard out. It’s really simple adjustments that, as these guys get a little more experience under their belt, won’t be hard. It really falls on nobody but me. It doesn’t fall on the linebackers. It doesn’t fall on the D-line. It falls on me to prepare them and be ready to handle those situations.”

On if, after looking back, the defensive line performed better or worse than he initially thought and what corrections need to be made:

“We had a couple of guys, I thought, that played pretty well over there. That’s the thing about defense, unless you’ve got a bunch of erasers that fly around out there and cover for everybody else, you’ve got to play team defense. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to play team defense. We’ve got to play together, play hard, be smart, and we’ll work hard to do that.”

On the chemistry of Tennessee’s coaching staff and executing the game plan:

“Before the half there, we had an opportunity to score a touchdown. I think there were three minutes and 20 seconds left when we got the ball. The number one thing, two minutes before the half, is don’t give it to the other team. We’ve got a 17-14 lead there. We got in field goal position and went to the two-minute drill. We got the ball down there and got three shots inside the five-yard line and came away with a field goal. We probably had an opportunity, if we worked a certain side of the field, to get a touchdown. We had a substitution error on defense and that was me. I can fix that. The coaching staff did a good job, in my opinion, as far as in-game adjustments and coaching the guys. There are things that we can do that we’ve obviously got to do better. Our guys will get better. The more you do it, the better you get at it and we’ve got a great opportunity this week.”

On if the team has a leader:

“We have some good leaders on this team. Here’s the thing about leadership: it’s easy to be the leader after the game. It’s easy to be the leader in a meeting before practice. But when the bullets start flying and things don’t go your way, that’s when you need good leadership. We have plenty of guys capable of doing that. I believe we have good leaders on this team. We have a lot of guys that are younger and they respond to the leadership. There’s no secret to why we lost this game. I said it after the game. They did a better job coaching than we did. They executed better than we did. It’s not because we lacked leadership. It’s not because we lacked effort. It’s because we lacked execution. They executed better than we did. We turned the ball over five times and only got one turnover. It’s hard to beat anybody that way.”

 

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