Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the local media Monday and discussed the Vols' SEC win over South Carolina, this week’s homecoming matchup against UAB, injuries and more.
Here are three takeaways.
Recapping South Carolina
Tennessee’s 41-21 win over South Carolina Saturday was the most complete performance of Jeremy Pruitt’s tenure in Knoxville.
The Vols played complimentary football and had success on offense, defense and special teams.
For the offense, Pruitt credited the line for turning in a good performance against a South Carolina defensive line that Pruitt called “maybe the best we’ve played” a week ago.
“Offensively, I felt like our offensive line, especially the interior guys, did a really nice job in the game controlling some dominant football players,” Pruitt said. “There were some really good players there. With South Carolina, I felt like they gave our quarterbacks a pretty clean pocket to have some success there.”
Despite the win Pruitt saw some areas of concern and needed growth. Especially with the Vols’ defense that gave up all 21 points in the first half.
“Defensively, when you watch the tape, we didn’t play very well at all in the first half,” Pruitt said. “There are going to be lots of lessons that we need to learn from this. We didn’t get a whole lot of pass rush up the middle. We didn’t strike the blockers like we need to strike. We had way too many mental errors… We made some adjustments at halftime.”
Looking ahead to the Blazers
Tennessee will enter this Saturday’s homecoming matchup against UAB as 10-point favorites, but if this season has shown us anything it’s that Tennessee can’t overlook anyone and win.
Additionally, UAB is 6-1 and having a strong season in Conference USA.
“If you look at them they have one of the best defenses in the country, statistically,” Pruitt said. “Putting pressure on the quarterback, I think there have been 26 sacks. They are not allowing a whole lot of points. A lot of pressure. Just really sound and really hard-nose football.”
Pruitt has a lot of ties to the Birmingham program, and its head coach Bill Clark, going back to his time as a high school coach in Alabama.
“Bill (Clark) was coaching at Piedmont High School when I was playing at Plainview for my dad,” Pruitt said. “So, this goes all the way back to late 80s, early 90s. I’ve known Bill and Bill’s father, who was a high school football coach at Old Hatchet High School in North Alabama for a long time; my father still is a high school football coach… I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s done throughout the years; his teams have always been very well-coached, hard-nosed. “
Tennessee had a plethora of players leave Saturday’s game with injuries. While many of them returned others did not.
Darrell Taylor and Darnell Wright were two Tennessee starters who exited the South Carolina game and did not return. Pruitt said both would be day-to-day this week and questionable for UAB.
Brian Maurer didn’t play Saturday after suffering two straight concussions. Pruitt was non-committal about whether Maurer will play against the Blazers but the freshman seems to be moving in the right direction.
“Brian is going to go out there and start practicing this week,” Pruitt said. “So, we’ll see where he’s at, at the end of the week. He’s ready to go.”
Jarrett Guarantano was knocked out of the game of his second touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings. Guarantano had surgery on his left, non-throwing, wrist Sunday but expects to be available for the Vols against UAB.
“Jarrett’s not going to be able to practice,” Pruitt said. “It’ll probably be tomorrow before he jumps back out there so we’ll have two guys today.”