The day began with the Tennessee football team stepping foot on Shields-Watkins Field in their classic orange and white uniforms for the first time in nearly nine months.
The team gathered for their official 2019 team photo in the east stands of Neyland Stadium and then the rain came.
The weather, however didn’t keep the fans away. Despite the originally scheduled open practice being closed to the Vol faithful, fans lined up outside of the Anderson Athletic Training Center with helmets, posters and footballs in hand following Tennessee’s third practice of fall camp.
In between the team photo op and the practice, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and several players were available to talk to the media. For the players, it was their first time speaking up about the offseason.
Pruitt looking for toughness ahead of first full contact practice
The first couple of practices in fall camp are meant to help players ease into the physical, more demanding part by going with very minimal contact.
Like they did on Friday and Saturday, Tennessee went without pads on Sunday inside the Anderson Athletic Training Center. That will change on Wednesday with the Vols will don the pads for their first time this season.
While Pruitt has been pleased with what he has seen thus far, he has said that going full contact will reveal a lot more. What he and his coaching staff up to see is toughness.
“If you’re not playing with the right effort, it’s tough to be a good football player,” Pruitt said. “Can you push through, can you handle adversity, can you handle the multiples whether it’s offense, defense or special teams?
“And as you put on the pads, you start working the fundamentals from a contact standpoint. When you start hitting each other, it changes a little bit.”
Taylor more confident after first year at defensive back
Alonte Taylor came into Tennessee’s 2018 signing class as a versatile athlete who could play a number of skill positions on both sides of the ball.
Due to a lack of depth and injuries, Taylor was thrust into a starting role in the Vols’ secondary last season, contributing heavily on Tennessee’s defense.
With a year now under his belt, Taylor is feeling more confident heading into his sophomore season than he did a year ago.
“My confidence level is big,” Taylor said. “Coach (Derrick Ansley), Coach Pruitt and all of the guys have built my confidence by staying on me. I just worked on my technique, maturity and just know what to do on the field.”
Guarantano confident in Chaney running the offense
After SEC Media Days and three days of fall camp, one thing that is certain among players and coaches is a high confidence level in first-year offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
Tennessee is looking for marked improvement in that area after struggling with consistency last season behind a young offensive line.
Despite those struggles, redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano showed his abilities with an improved sophomore season. He’s confident in those abilities only getting better under Chaney.
“I think everybody has immense trust and immense respect for him,” Guarantano said. “Whenever we signed him, everybody was very excited because they knew his track record. They knew the type of thing he’d done in the past.
“Everybody’s very excited. Just having that guy around, he exudes confidence in himself, and us.”