Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the local media over zoom on Thursday. The zoom call was the first time Pruitt has met with the media in over two months as he discussed players returning to campus, black uniforms for the Kentucky game and Tim Jordan’s removal from the team.
Here are three takeaways.
Players return to campus, coaches prepare for different fall camp
Tennessee’s players started arriving back on campus on June 6 with voluntary workouts beginning on the eighth. It was just under three months after players were sent home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Every player was tested upon their return to campus with no players testing positive for the coronavirus and one graduate assistant testing positive. Pruitt didn’t go into detail about how testing will be conducted going forward, saying that would be decided by the medical staff.
Tennessee’s plan for getting back into the swing of things included an easing back into workouts.
“We started really slowly and leaned on our medical staff on how to get our guys going,” Pruitt said. “March 12th to June 8th, that’s a very long period of time without instruction and a lot of these guys come from different parts of the country and maybe where they were they were able to participate in workouts and maybe some weren’t, so we were very cautious with how they’ve gotten started.”
Wednesday, the NCAA approved a six-week preseason practice schedule due to most school’s having to cancel spring practice. Walkthrough practices and team meetings can begin on July 24 with fall practice beginning on Aug. 7.
“We got the information today,” Pruitt said. “There have been a little bit of tweaks there so there will be a process as we move closer to what’s considered ‘summer access’ with walk throughs and meetings like that, but we have not formulated a final plan yet. … We’ll probably solidify something in the next 10 days.”
Vols taking steps to support Black Lives Matter movement
The killings of Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor has sparked protests and outraged throughout the United States and the world over the past weeks. While people have spoken out about police brutality and the injustices facing African Americans in our country the Tennessee football team hasn’t stayed silent, including their leader.
Earlier this month, Pruitt and players took part in a peaceful protest in Knoxville with multiple players including Trey Smith and K’Rojhn Calbert speaking at the event. For Pruitt, everything started with listening to his players as they talked about their experiences.
“We started with really just sitting down with our team and really talking about it,” Pruitt said. “Giving the floor to a lot of our players to share experiences so everybody in our program will have a better understanding.”
“From a communications standpoint, I think this is the first time in my lifetime that I can remember the things go on in our country and really our world, there’s conversation about how to put measures in to create change. Absolutely, I want to be an advocate for that, and support our players and use our platform at Tennessee to help create that.”
Pruitt tasked wide receiver coach Tee Martin with forming a culture committee to help give players a voice about the best ways to create change.
“It’s been really good,” Pruitt said of the Vols’ culture committee. “It’s something Tee has done a fantastic job of heading up and getting our players involved and getting feedback. Once he’s getting the feedback, it’s us acting upon it. We’re in the process now, we started today, of getting our players registered to vote.”
An idea that’s come to life from the culture committee involves the Vols’ wearing alternate uniforms for this year’s matchup with Kentucky.
“One of the things we want to do is when we play the Kentucky game, we want to wear black jerseys and when the game is over with, find a way to auction the jerseys and raise money for Black Lives Matter,” Pruitt said. “That’s just one thing our kids have talked about, but it’s something that’s going to continue to be stressed to our staff.”
The game will be the second time ever that the Vols’ have worn black uniforms. The Vols also wore them on Halloween night in 2009 against South Carolina. Ironically, the Vols also play on Halloween in 2020, a road game at Arkansas.
What’s next for the culture committee? Pruitt believes it’s about listening to his players and implementing their ideas.
“There’s lots of really good ideas and ways we can use our platform to create change,” Pruitt said.
Tim Jordan no longer a member of Vols’ program
Last month, senior tailback Tim Jordan was arrested on his home state of Florida on marijuana and gun possession charges. Pruitt stated Thursday that Jordan was no longer a member of the Vols’ program.
Jordan was one of the Vols’ three running backs that earned quality playing time in 2019 with his role expected to be similar in 2020. Jordan recorded 1,002 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his career in Knoxville.
While underclassmen Eric Gray is a more talented runner than Jordan, he will be missed in the passing game where he was the Vols’ best pass blocker and a reliable pass catcher.
The move wasn’t shocking with Tennessee currently being over the 85-scholarship limit. The Vols have to be under that number by August and Pruitt stated that no other players were no longer on the team at this time.
With Jordan’s departure the Vols’ running back room consists of seniors Ty Chandler and Carlin Fils-Aime, sophomore Eric Gray and freshmen Tee Hodge, Len’Neth Whitehead and Jabari Small.