Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media on Wednesday following the Vols' midweek preparation for Kentucky on Saturday.
Pruitt addressed injuries heading into an important final stretch for Tennessee, the Vols tough day at practice and preparing for Wildcats' wide receiver-turned quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr.
Here are the takeaways:
Vols have ‘energy’ problem at Wednesday practice
Even when the Vols were struggling earlier this season, Pruitt never missed an opportunity to talk about his team’s energy at practice.
He changed that tune in his opening statement on Wednesday, just minutes after leaving the practice field and walking to the podium at the Hand Digital Studio.
“You know, probably for the first time in a very long time, practice wasn’t what I wanted it to be today,” Pruitt said. “It’s something we can’t let happen. It’s like I told the kids; there’s a reason why there’s one team that stands up there at the end of the year.
“Everybody can work, or get it right for one Saturday, but being able to sustain, we didn’t do that today.”
Preparing for Bowden
Kentucky has featured three different players at the quarterback position this season.
On Saturday, they may play two of them.
Earlier in the year, starting quarterback Terry Wilson suffered a season-ending injury that forced the Wildcats to play Troy transfer Sawyer Smith. But Smith also got banged up, which move Lynn Bowden from wide receiver to signal caller a few weeks ago.
Smith may play versus Tennessee, but Bowden has carried Kentucky for the last three games, a stretch the Wildcats have gone 2-1 in with wins over Arkansas and Missouri.
Bowden is currently the team’s leading rusher and passer with 598 yards and 188 yards, respectively.
Pruitt said Wednesday that the Vols’ defense has prepared to see both this week.
“We work on it in practice,” Pruitt said. “We go against our guys. Going against Jauan (Jennings), or Tim (Jordan) or Eric (Gray) playing quarterback, we work it. I believe that their quarterback, Bowden, can throw the football. It’s not like he’s a one-dimensional guy that does throw the ball. They’ve got playmakers on the outside.”
Guarantano continues to adjust with limited hand
Following the win over UAB last week, a game that redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano started in the absence of Brian Maurer, Pruitt said that the sudden colder weather might have played a factor in Guarantano’s ability to throw the ball.
The week before against South Carolina, Guarantano suffered an injury on his non-throwing hand and had a procedure done the following Sunday. That procedure left Guarantano’s hand in a splint.
The weather could possibly be an issue again with temperatures falling below 40 degrees by kickoff in Lexington on Saturday night.
“I don’t know about the splint,” Pruitt said when asked how long Guarantano was going to have to wear it. “I don’t think that was an issue Saturday. It was a little warmer last week and the first time that it got cool was after the front came through. After playing that game, we should have a much better idea of what we’re going to get.”
Pruitt didn’t offer much in the way of explaining the coaching staff’s plan if Guarantano’s s handicapped hand is going to have an affect on not being able to clap for the snap in a loud road environment other than saying that they had just that-a plan.
“We have a plan.”
The two-game win streak has come at some cost for Tennessee, as the Vols head to Lexington with some lingering health issues.
Pruitt addressed those on Wednesday.
“We’ve got several guys that are banged up unfortunately,” Pruitt said of the offensive line. “Against South Carolina, we had several guys go down and we kind of limped to the finish line in that game.
“Some of those guys couldn’t play last week, but they are much better this week. Where are they? Are they 100 percent? Probably not, but most of them are close enough to be ready to play.”