After seven practices through fall camp, the Tennessee football team is getting geared up for their first scrimmage.
On Saturday, Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media following the Vols seventh practice. According to the Tennessee head man, he’s ready for his team to ‘turn loose’ for Sunday’s scrimmage.
“They need to be turned out there and turned loose and see what they’re going to do,” Pruitt said. “You don’t know what you got until you go out there and do it. The way the rules are now, you don’t get an opportunity to take them to the ground in a full-scale practice.
“Coaches won’t be out there with them. When things don’t go the right way, how’s the team going to respond? Is anyone going to be a positive influence around them?”
After the most recent practices on Friday and Saturday, Pruitt felt as if the Vols’ energy and focus was in the right place on both days, particularly from the players with in-game experience, something Tennessee is currently short on.
“We had two really good back-to-back practices the last couple of days,” Pruitt said. “It seems like the energy is there. We’ve kind of got three groups of players. We’ve got guys that know what to do, they have experience and know what to do. It’ll be interesting tomorrow when we scrimmage to see where some guys are at.”
While there are some positions on the field where starting jobs are all but locked up-most notably at quarterback-there have still be position battles going on during camp. Among those battles is determining who will back up redshirt-junior signal caller Jarrett Guarantano.
Right now, it’s most likely between redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout and true freshman Brian Maurer. On Thursday, Pruitt discussed their progression through fall camp.
“I think both guys need experience,” Pruitt. “They’ve got really good arm talent. Brian (Maurer) can run around really well, probably when plays break down he can extend and hurt you a little bit with his feet there. They’ve got to quit throwing the ball to the other team. They’ve got to take command of the offense when they’re out there.
“We’re throwing a lot at them and both of them are doing a really good job competing everyday, and they’ve created a lot of plays.”
Extending plays is a feature Tennessee quarterbacks have had to have the last few seasons, mostly because of injury, inconsistency and youth along the offensive line.
That offensive line will once again be untested by the time the Vols kickoff their season in three weeks. Right now, Pruitt doesn’t feel the coaching staff is close to deciding who will start in week one.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere close to finding the first group of five,” Pruitt said. “I think we’ve got an idea of 10 or 11 guys that we’re working. We’ve worked several combinations and it’s been good for the group. We’re looking for consistency with the entire group, but the competition had been good there.”
The offensive line in a game-like setting, among other areas, is something Pruitt will be paying attention to at the scrimmage inside Neyland Stadium on Sunday.
“To start with, offensively it starts up front,” Pruitt said. “We’re looking for guys that don’t make mental mistakes and don’t beat themselves-guys that know what they’re supposed to say. We’re going to keep the calls simple on both sides of the ball to give the guys a chance to have success playing with the right temperament, playing until the whistle blows, being consistent.”