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Pruitt's Presser for Monday 11-4-19

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All three Tennessee football quarterbacks returning to health leads our takeaways from the Volunteers media session for Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.

As they continue trying to turn the corner, Tennessee football now looks ahead to its road showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats. There was very little time for them to celebrate their 30-7 win over the UAB Blazers.

Winning Saturday could get the Vols to 5-5 and 3-3 in the SEC. They either have to beat UK or the Missouri Tigers on Nov. 23 on the road if they want to have a shot at a bowl game when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores at the end of the year.

So Jeremy Pruitt is already focused and talked about his connection to Mark Stoops, whom he succeeded as defensive coordinator of the Florida State Seminoles, and preparing for them to play a receiver at quarterback. Here are some key takeaways from what he said about Tennessee football at his media session. You can see the full press conference by clicking on the video above.

1. All three quarterbacks good to go

Apparently, Brian Maurer was full-go against UAB. Pruitt said that he, JT Shrout and Jarrett Guarantano are all healthy again this week. That leaves things open again since Maurer didn’t play, Shrout got the start and Guarantano got the bulk of the action. This week, Pruitt is once again leaving things wide open.

“We’ll look and see where we’re at and who gives us the best opportunity to have success, and we’ll play those guys,” he said. “It might be one of them, it might be two of them, it might be three of them.”

2. Competition for starting punter remains open.

After Joe Doyle’s struggles early on, the Vols went to Paxton Brooks last weekend, and he had a great game. Jeremy Pruitt said that the decision was performance-based, so Brooks remains the favorite to start again. But he noted it could change. He added that they are fortunate to have two punters who are talented.

“Paxton’s done a good job in practice to earn these opportunities,” he said. “It could change this week, so we’ll see.”

3. Offense still has too many negative plays

Despite touting the positive running plays of four to six yards and the few big ones broken, Jeremy Pruitt criticized all of the negative plays on offense. That started with Tennessee football’s running game having too many loss of yardage plays. He also slammed the red zone turnover by Jarrett Guarantano, noting that there were two “ill-advised” throws in the game.

“We’ve got to put back to back plays together, and we didn’t do a good job of doing that,” he said.

4. Health, development, turnovers named as reasons for turnaround

For Jeremy Pruitt, the turnaround to get to 4-5 was more about the issues that caused the slow start than what the Vols did to correct things. He boiled it down to turning the football over and not forcing enough turnovers.

However, he added that missing four of their best defenders, Emmit Gooden, Baylen Buchanan, Bryce Thompson and Daniel Bituli, in a year in which his team didn’t have a lot of depth also didn’t help matters. Then there was the season-ending injury to Trevon Flowers.

Returning Bitulli and Thompson, improving on the turnovers and seeing the young players develop were all reasons he brought up for the improvement. He also emphasized leadership, touting the players for staying focused.

“They believe in what we’re doing here,” he said. “It’s amazing. When you believe in something, you kind of stay the course.”

5. Jauan Jennings’s leadership brought up again

Clearly, Jeremy Pruitt can’t say enough about Jauan Jennings. When asked about how a wide receiver could be such a leader, Pruitt brought up the age and the wisdom developed by the fifth-year senior on Rocky Top. 

“Jauan’s a passionate guy,” he said. “He’s probably the oldest guy on our team, so, you know he’s been through the wars a little bit.”

 

Pruitt noted that Jennings is a guy who wants to finish the season the right way. The play of a guy like him is a big reason Tennessee football stayed the course through a rough start to the season, so it’s clear the coaches have lots of respect for him. It came out again Monday.

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