KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jeremy Pruitt, offering a brutally honest assessment of his first spring football game as Tennessee‘s head coach, didn’t hold back Saturday on some of his players or some of the fans.
Pruitt praised those players whom he said did their best to compete, but lamented that others “flat-out quit.”
And while he said the Vol Walk prior to the game was “spectacular,” he wondered aloud why there weren’t more people in Neyland Stadium than the announced crowd of 65,000, which was a generous estimate.
“I don’t know how many fans we had. What was it? Anybody know the number?” Pruitt asked.
When told it was 65,000, he said, “To me, it’s kind of like our football team for the fans. The ones who were here, I’m proud they were here. They’re fired up. They’re ready to get going. Then there were some people who weren’t here that had legitimate reasons. They couldn’t be here. And then there were some people that (weren’t) here … why (weren’t) they here?
“It’s kind of like our football team. I think we all need to look in the mirror and see who we want to be.”
Pruitt earlier in the week had asked the fans to show up in force for the spring game and noted that it was going to “take everybody to get Tennessee football back to the way it’s supposed to be.”
Pruitt, taking over a Tennessee team that was 0-8 in the SEC for the first time in history last season, emphasized several times that he was looking for more competitors and that nobody on the team was entitled to anything.
“Some guys went out there and competed and tried to do it to the best of their ability, and then we had some guys … that ain’t what they did,” Pruitt said. “You can look at it all the way down — total yardage, third-down conversions. After 15 days, to me, with some of the guys, that’s very disappointing, but it’s probably a good indication of who they are. … It doesn’t say much for them.
“The good thing is that in a couple of weeks, we’ll have a bunch of guys who aren’t on the injury report anymore. We’ll have 14 new guys here and maybe more. Some of these guys who don’t want to do it and don’t want to do it right all the time, then they’re just going to be watching. There’s nothing any better than peer pressure. It’s easy to stand out there with your chest stuck out and pretend you’re somebody that you’re not. It’s easy to do, but the film don’t lie.”
Pruitt did not make any players available to the media after the game.
The Orange team (consisting of the first-team offense and second-team defense) defeated the White team (consisting of the first-team defense and second-team offense) 34-7 with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Guarantano was named the MVP of the game by the media, but Pruitt made it clear that the Vols’ quarterback situation is a long way from being settled, especially with Stanford transfer Keller Chryst arriving this summer.
“We’ll know who our quarterback is probably when we go to Charlotte (in the season opener against West Virginia) about halfway through the fourth quarter,” Pruitt said.
Overall, Pruitt said he would give his team a grade of D in terms of having a grasp of the new offensive and defensive schemes.
“We’d be about a D, which is not their fault,” Pruitt said. “There are lots of things we’re coaching. Not only are we installing an offense and a defense, but we’re teaching them how to practice, teaching them how to compete, teaching them how to lift (weights). I could fill up a wall with things we’re teaching them here. There’s lots of things to learn. I think our guys have learned enough this spring that they will do a good job this summer when the other guys get in here.”