KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt, along with coordinators Tyson Helton, Kevin Sherrer and Chris Rumph met with the media on Thursday for the first time this fall. The Volunteers officially begin fall practice on Friday afternoon at Haslam Field.
Pruitt and staff touched on a variety of topics, including the progress made throughout the summer, team goals and coming together as a unit as well as some new and old faces returning to the program.
Knowledge, Discipline, Team Unity Among Current Goals for Fall Camp
One of the first things Pruitt mentioned during his press conference was for the team to set goals and not just to learn how to do things, but to also understand the reasoning behind doing them.
“For us, the big thing is that we want to learn what to do, we want to learn how to do it, and we want to learn why it’s important to do it that way,” Pruitt said. “We want to be a smart football team. We want to understand what we’re trying to get done and understand what our opponents are trying to do to stop us or to create plays on us.”
Pruitt also harped on the importance that individual and team discipline plays in a successful football program, and how that can be built during fall camp.
“If you’re going to have a good program, you have to have discipline in your program, and there’s no better way to do it then in fall camp,” Pruitt said. “Everybody wants to do it the right way, and lots of folks can do it the right way some of the time, but if you look at the most successful teams, they have discipline and they figure out a way to have discipline all of the time, even in the most adverse situations.”
Team unity was another important area that Pruitt said the team will need to focus on during camp.
“We have to be able to come together as a team,” Pruitt said. “The beauty about this game is that somewhere everybody across the country is sitting in the locker room, getting ready to get started and everybody is 0-0.
“You have an opportunity to control what happens down the road, so building your identity, creating your identity, figuring out who you are and coming together as a team, that has to be a big focus for us.”
Hall and Jennings Back to Start Fall Camp
The Vols will welcome back two familiar faces for the start of fall camp with the duo of offensive lineman Chance Hall and wide receiver Jauan Jennings set to make their returns to the field.
Hall missed all of last season after sustaining a season-ending injury while Jennings was injured in the first quarter of UT’s season opener against Georgia Tech and missed the remainder of the year.
Since both players were unable to participate during the spring, Pruitt said they will be limited when camp begins on Friday.
“He (Chance Hall) started this summer working and has progressed his way into being able to practice,” Pruitt said. “I think it wouldn’t be smart of us to just throw him out there every day, so we’re going to work our way in and we have a plan with our training staff for the reps that he’ll take, and I know he’s really itching to get going, so we have a plan and we’re going to execute the plan.”
“Jauan will be one of the guys that is limited,” Pruitt said. “He’s cleared for practice but has not participated in any football activity since last fall, so he’s ready to go but we’re going to limit his reps as far as fall camp goes.”
Pruitt said redshirt senior defensive back Todd Kelly, Jr., will also be back at practice after missing most of last season and the spring following a knee injury.
Freshman All-America offensive lineman Trey Smith is cleared to practice this fall after missing the spring. Blood clots in Smith’s lungs were discovered in February, and the Jackson, Tenn., native has been cleared by doctors to return to football following treatment. He is expected to be cleared for contact later this month.
“Trey is going to participate in everything we do, except no-contact, then he’ll be released probably August 19 or 20, somewhere around that date, so we’ll be excited to have everybody out there and getting going,” Pruitt said.
Smith played the majority of the 2016 season at guard, but also became the first Vol true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years. Pruitt said he will find a spot for the versatile Smith after evaluating the offensive line options during the early part of fall camp.
“The one thing about Trey is that he can play multiple positions, he did that last year,” Pruitt said. “We’d like to get him in a position and leave him there where he can find success and gain confidence.”