Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke with the media on Wednesday following the Vols' practice.
As Tennessee prepares for their third game of the season against Chattanooga on Saturday, Pruitt discussed the reinstatement of defensive back Bryce Thompson, creating turnovers on defense and fixing depth issues.
Here are the takeaways:
Thompson allowed to practice, unlikely to play Saturday
A week before their season opener versus Georgia State, 2018 Freshman All-American Bryce Thompson was suspended due to a pending domestic assault investigation that occurred on Aug. 26.
At the time, Pruitt announced that the sophomore was suspended indefinitely from team activities.
Ahead of his meeting with the media on Wednesday, Pruitt announced that Thompson has returned to the team and will practice, although he probably won’t see the field against Chattanooga.
“He’s been away from the team for three weeks,” Pruitt said. “There’s still a lot of things that have to go on here with this situation. He obviously made a mistake, but he needs to be around the football team. He needs to practice, it’s good for him.
“It’s hard to play when you haven’t been practicing, right? It’s hard to get in shape, so we’ve got to build up to that.”
In their two losses to Georgia State and BYU, the Tennessee defense was able to only record one turnover combined.
Pruitt believes that, that trend has gone a long way in the Vols 0-2 start to the 2019 season, and it’s something they’ll have to change against Chattanooga.
“We obviously haven’t gotten any (turnovers),” Pruitt said. “The big thing to me is that you have to recruit guys that are used to handling the ball. To me, it seems like it gets contagious. When every play ends, the defense needs to have the ball.
“We haven’t seen the dividends on gameday, but that’s how we practice, so we’ve got to take the practice part into the game.”
Finding depth, creating experience
A look at Tennessee’s lineup week in and week out reveals that the Vols have had to play a plethora of young and inexperienced players who are playing in a college football game for the first time.
With that, the coaching staff has also had to move players around from different positions to create depth in certain spots.
One of those positions that is having depth issues due to some injuries is running back.
In their first game, Tennessee’s run game featured three backs in juniors Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan, as well as true freshman Eric Gray. After Jordan injured his foot, the Vols were forced to play just Chandler and Gray in the BYU game.
Senior Carlin Fils-aime is one of those players that has played at defensive back as well as running back, but has had to practice in the offensive backfield this week to add another member into the rotation.
“Carlin (Fils-aime) has actually taken some reps this week with the ones and twos,” Pruitt said. “He’s probably one more week away, but last week he worked on the scout team, so he’s just been building himself up. He needs to be knocked around some with the ball in his hand.
“Tim (Jordan) has practiced all three days and has improved every single day, so I would expect him to be ready on Saturday.”