Transcript: Midweek Jeremy Pruitt Press Conference

Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt is seen during the third quarter of a game between Tennessee and Missouri at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

Opening Statement

“When you look at this game this week, it’s a great opportunity for us playing against a really good football team. When you look at Kentucky, to me I’m looking at them over the last four or five years, they continue to get better every year. They’re a physical team. They’re very well coached. They play together. They’ve played in a lot of close games and won a lot of close games over the last couple of years. It’ll be a tremendous challenge for us to find out a little bit about who we are. We’ve had a couple of good days of practice here. It’s going to be a fast turnaround with an early kick on Saturday and we’re looking forward to it. We need to play a clean game. We need to play together, and we need to bring a lot of fight and perseverance with us because it’ll be one of those games.”

On other SEC games being postponed and Alabama head coach Nick Saban testing positive for COVID-19…

“It’s the reality. I don’t think there’s probably not any family across our country that has not been affected during this pandemic. Whether it’s somebody losing a family member or somebody getting COVID and missing work and going through the anxiety and trying to get well. We see it every day with our players, with our staff. I send my kids to school. I send them to school because they need it, and I also know that there’s a risk with that, so I get it. I hate it for anybody that has suffered through this. It’s tough times. But, one thing I will say, with the leadership of Greg Sankey and everybody at the SEC office, we’ve continued since March to find solutions, to find the answers to the problems and to give these student-athletes an opportunity to do something that they love to do and try to do it in the safest way possible. Obviously, it has been a tough day.”

On if he feels they’ve been able to fix a lot of the issues that happened in the Georgia game…

“I need to take about 15 of those players over there on Georgia’s defense and put them over here to work against our offense every day to try to fix some of those problems. We made some mistakes in the game, but I’ve talked about this before, they had a lot to do with that. We got whipped in the second half. We admit that and we got to find a way to fix it. I feel like we got people in our program that are trying to find the solutions to our issues and we’re going to work hard to fix them.”

On how much he can sense how well his team will perform in a given week given the unique circumstances of this season…

“The reality of it is, we take a test tomorrow, which will be our third one of the week, and the kids work really hard to get prepared all during the week, at every school. But, until that third test comes back negative, these guys don’t know if they’re going to be able to play or not. There’s just a lot of anxiety, not only through our program but every program. It’s something that we understand. I feel like our team has handled it in a very positive way and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

On the play of freshman OLB Tyler Baron…

“Tyler’s a smart kid, has really good size, has good athleticism, he works hard at practice, he’s got some toughness to him. He’s a guy that got to practice most of fall camp, so he took advantage of it. He knows that he’s got to continue to work hard to improve and he’s working hard to do that every day.”

On the COVID-19 situation at Tennessee …

“We’ve had no positive tests for I think three weeks now. As you can see, it can change in one day. I think our players and our staff and everyone in our program is working hard to follow the CDC guidelines and wear your mask. Again, when you go home at night, I have a three and a five-year-old that are in school. They are wearing their masks, but they also possibly take it off some during the day too. For me, I understand that, but it is something that I think all of us have to make a choice and decide what is best moving forward.”

On J.J. Peterson’s progression…

“J.J. is taking a couple weeks away from the team. He’s not been with us for a couple of weeks.”

On Kentucky’s Eddie Gran’s offense…

“The first thing that you look at in an Eddie Gran offense is their physicality. They’re committed to running the football, and they’ve had success running it against everybody. The creativity that he does each week and how he does it is very impressive to me from a conceptual standpoint, just watching them and studying them. It’s a huge challenge for us, but I think Eddie does a phenomenal job.”

On the challenge Kentucky’s defense brings…

“They play hard. I said this earlier in the day that I had the opportunity follow coach (Mark) Stoops at Florida State, so a lot of those guys that I coached, he recruited. I didn’t have to teach them how to practice. I didn’t have to teach them how to play hard. They were tough. They were physical. They were really good at the fundamentals. You can see it with his Kentucky teams. They give you a lot of different looks. They’ve recruited big, long athletes, guys that have really good ball skills. They play together, give you a lot of different looks, so they create issues.”

On Cade Mays development…

“Cade is really a guy that can play every position on the offensive line. He played right tackle against Missouri and a little bit of right guard. Obviously, we’ve had a little bit of the injury bug up front on the offensive line, so to get the right combination up there he played right guard against Georgia. We’ll continue to work him at right tackle and right guard as we go through the season.”

-UT Athletics

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