As fall camp comes closer to merging into regular season preparation, the Tennessee football team held their second and final scrimmage on Saturday afternoon inside Neyland Stadium.
Second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt came away more pleased than he did following last week's scrimmage, particularly with the speed and competition that his team showcased across the board.
“We really have more speed on our team this year,” Pruitt said. “You know, we got a lot of really good work out there today. With the one’s, two’s and three’s. Lots of competition.”
Throughout fall camp, Pruitt pointed out the lack of experience at many positions on the team and how he would like to see more consistency out of younger players. As fall camp closed and the Vols turn their attention to the regular season, Pruitt still wants more consistency out of that mix of maturity and youth.
“The guys who have more experience seem to have a better understanding of how to prepare,” Pruitt said. “When you get into the second or third week of (fall) camp, that maturity starts to show up. That’s why in this league it helps to have an older team, mature team.
“Usually the younger guys who can do it on a consistent basis are few and far between. We’ve got some guys who are physically ready. For whatever reason, when it comes to consistency, they’re not there yet.”
But there is one area that Pruitt seems to have seen more consistency, especially during Saturday’s scrimmage: special teams.
Tennessee could feature a staple of dangerous returners on punt and kickoff returns. They could also pose a threat for opposing teams in the kicking game.
“(Speed) has enabled us to create some depth on special teams,” Pruitt said. “I feel our kickers have continued to kick the ball extremely well in camp. We are much closer to figuring out who our return guys are going to be.”
The defensive front, however, might be a different story for the Vols. Due to some injuries, a plethora of inexperience and the status of Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon in limbo, questions have abounded during fall camp as far as the defensive line is concerned.
But those questions haven’t stopped Pruitt from noticing who could step up into a key role this season for the unit, despite them struggling with the consistency Pruitt has been so adamant about.
“I see guys that have some ability,” Pruitt said. “They have to learn how to play and learn how we want them to play. There are several guys who have improved upfront and we still have a long ways to go there. They have to continue to work hard every single day. They can’t take a day off.”
As the coaching staff looks for answers in those areas, the team will start to shift their focus to their season-opening opponent, the Georgia State Panthers, who travel to Knoxville on Aug. 31.
Pruitt says that regular season game preparation begins Thursday.
“We’ll start for the next three days and take some opponents we have early in the season and spend a day on each one of them,” Pruitt said. “We will probably start getting into our game prep on Thursday and spend three days on that.
“We’ll work on early-season opponents this week, and we have done that all fall camp. Since day six, we’ve been working on some component of somebody.”