Most coaches would be proud of the showing Tennessee’s first team offense and defense put up in its spring game on Saturday afternoon. Not Jeremy Pruitt, who was the designated head coach of the ‘Orange Team’, which went on to win the scrimmage, 34-7.
In front of an announced crowd of 65,098, the championship-pedigree coach had more negative things to say than positive.
Pruitt was on the field the entirety of the game, standing behind whichever team was on offense, examining his Orange Team’s offense and defense.
“I saw a couple of guys out there today just flat out quit.” Pruitt said. “After 15 days, to me, for some of the guys that’s disappointing … but it probably tells you who they are. It probably is a good indication of who they are.”
Pruitt’s starting quarterback, returning redshirt-sophomore Jarrett Guarantano, threw for 226 yards in the game, going 15-for-27 with two touchdowns, winning MVP of the spring game.
Pretty good statistics for a guy that had very little success in last seasons stint under center, but Pruitt made it clear there is no starter yet.
“You look at one day’s work out there, and that’s not a true indication of how spring actually went.” Pruitt said. “We’ll know who our quarterback is probably when we go to Charlotte. About halfway through the fourth quarter.”
Tennessee fans are not used to how blunt the new head coach can be, but they will have to start getting used to it. Pruitt is looking to change the atmosphere around Knoxville, on and off the field.
“I thought the Vol Walk was spectacular. To me, it’s kind of like our football team for the fans. The ones that were here, I’m proud they were here.” Pruitt said. “There were some people that weren’t here, and why weren’t they here? … I think we all need to look in the mirror and see who we want to be.”
Tennessee hasn’t sustained any injuries to this point due to spring practice, which is something the team hasn’t been used to the past couple years. Pruitt made strength and conditioning the top priority when he arrived on campus.
“We had 12 guys that didn’t play today, and only four of them have been injured from the previous deal, and they’ll be back.” Pruitt said.
“If we played a game today, there’s probably a couple of those guys that would have been able to play … they’ve been released, but there was no need to do that today. We got enough out of them the last few days to see who they are.” Pruitt added.
There was some high praise from several players this spring from the head coach, as Pruitt made sure to give credit to Eli Wolf and Kyle Phillips, who earned most improved offensive and defensive players through spring practice.
“Kyle to me has always had great body language since we’ve been here, he’s had straight A’s in every academic report. He’s never late. He never misses anything.” Pruitt said. “He has really improved this spring.”
For Eli Wolf, Pruitt’s ‘never satisfied’ mantra held stiff. Pruitt quickly followed a compliment with some constructive criticism.
“Eli is very competitive. He needs to put on weight … he’s probably had to play out of position based off of what we asked him to do, but he has gone out there and strained and competed and fought every day.” Pruitt said. “That’s why he was the most improved.”
As far as the Orange Team, Pruitt made sure to get the stars involved on offense, as Tim Jordan, Ty Chandler and Marquez Callaway all showed out on offense for Tennessee, each scoring touchdowns.
Callaway started the scoring for the Orange Team, catching a fade pass in the left corner of the end zone, making it 7-0, and the only score of the first quarter.
Sophomore kicker Brent Cimaglia was a bright spot for the Tennessee special teams, connecting on two plus-40-yard field goals in the game.
The ground game was hot for the Orange Team, as Tim Jordan rushed for 57 yards on nine carries, scoring a touchdown. Ty Chandler rushed for 53 yards behind 11 carries, also scoring a touchdown.
The White Team, unfortunately, only mustered up 16 yards with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Sophomore quarterback Will McBride decided to change that around when he hit redshirt-sophomore Latrell Williams on a 35-yard dart to cap off an 85-yard scoring drive.
The Orange Team quickly responded, going into two-minute drill mode with Guarantano, as he drove the offense down on a 53-yard drive, which was capped off by a 29-yard strike to Eli Wolf to cap the scoring on the day.
Pruitt finished the press conference talking about coveted athlete Alontae Taylor and his transition to defense in the spring.
“Alontae (Taylor) is learning how to play the position. He really wants to be a wide receiver … but I wanted to work him in at corner for three practices then reevaluate.” Pruitt said. “We are going to see … if we decide to move him (to defense) in the fall … he would have an idea; we could have him ready in a couple of weeks.”
Written by: Caleb Souders
Edited by: Colin Castleberry