Vols' Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt Stresses Health, Safety In Friday Media Session

Friday, April 3, 2020
Jeremy Pruitt
Jeremy Pruitt
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt met with members of the media on Friday via the Zoom platform as the Volunteers continue to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee student-athletes just completed their second week of online classes.
The Southeastern Conference announced Friday that all in-person athletics activities, including team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings, whether voluntary or required are suspended through at least May 31, based on public health advisories.

Pruitt stressed the importance of focusing on the health and safety of Vol student-athletes and their families during this time.

"My first thoughts are with everybody throughout our country," he said. "I've said this many times. Football is a sport. It's a great game, and it's been really good to a lot of us. It's something that we all love doing. I know it's tough on everybody that's involved right now. There are also bigger issues out there right now that are being addressed obviously daily with our government, people associated with our medical field."

Below are quotes from Pruitt's Friday teleconference:

Opening Statement

"I appreciate you all taking the time today. First off, I hope you and your family are safe now. I know this is unprecedented times. It's affecting everybody in our entire country. It's unfortunate right now, but I do think that we need to think about our countrymen that this is affecting whether it's people the virus is affecting directly, our medical personnel, our folks out there without jobs right now. It's tough times. It's a time that we all have to come together and figure out a way to help solve this crisis."

On life in his household …

"We have school every day. With a 4- and a 2-year-old, school is a little different. My wife is taking charge of that. I am handling the extracurricular activities outside. We are trying to do like everybody else out there and provide opportunities for our children and improve academically. At the same time I am working from home, and we have kind of continued doing the things we would do from the office at this point."

On Jauan Jennings and Nigel Warrior preparing for the NFL Draft …

"These are two guys that over the past year have put a lot of really good play on tape. They are both very consistent. They were both were very, very good playmakers this past year. They were leaders on our team. If you look at the course over the year, they both continued to improve. I think their best football is way ahead of them. I don't think it's going to hurt them. I think teams are going to look and see how they played on tape. If they are going to draft them or bring them into their organization, they are bringing them there to play football, and I think what's on tape over the past year is really good for both of them."

On how much football is being discussed among the team right now …

"We are doing very little. The first priority for us is their health and wellness and not only for them but their family. The next thing for us is the academic piece. Everybody across the country now is doing online classes. We have a schedule every day for each individual player when it comes to classwork and tutors. Joe Scogin and everybody in our Thornton Center have done an outstanding job figuring out a way to be successful academically. Through this process, our staff has been there daily to help support that. Obviously this past week, we have been able to do a little football. From a mental standpoint, it's probably been good for these guys just to get a little bit of normalcy about them and a chance to communicate about something that they love."

On if he expects the season to start on schedule in September …

"My first thoughts are with everybody throughout our country. I've said this many times. Football is a sport. It's a great game, and it's been really good to a lot of us. It's something that we all love doing. I know it's tough on everybody that's involved right now. There are also bigger issues out there right now that are being addressed obviously daily with our government, people associated with our medical field. Whenever that time comes, we'll be ready at Tennessee, but until then we are going to do everything that we can to support the rules and regulations that our university puts in place, our city puts in place, our state, our federal government. That's all we can do."

On if there was an initial meeting with coaching staff when COVID-19 hit …

"We leaned on Dr. Chris Klenck. The first thing that we did was try to educate everybody in our organization about the severity of this virus, how it spreads and how to protect yourself. We did that on two different occasions before we turned them loose for spring break. Not being able to predict the future or what was going to happen, at that time it was the early stages. I think it maybe was March 12. We've adapted as things have changed across our city, state and country."

On having a newborn daughter in the family …

"It's something that I have absolutely tried to take as much advantage of as I can. The opportunity to spend time with her, you don't get these days back. She changes every single day, just growing and developing her own little personality. It's something I'm sure this is my last baby. I am really trying to take advantage of it."

On Coach Craig Fitzgerald accepting the New York Giants job and the status of the strength program …

"First of all, Craig has had the opportunity to take several jobs. It's something I've learned a long time ago, if you embrace the job that you have and you do a really good job at it, opportunities present themselves. The opportunity for Craig and his family to get a little closer to home was something that he wanted to take advantage of. We have really good support within the guys that are on our strength staff right now. They are doing a fantastic job. They are very motivated. There will be a time soon where we will make a move with that position. Just talking to some folks out there and seeing what's the best way that we can make that program better moving forward that fits my vision of where we want this program to be. These guys are doing an outstanding job. Our players are motivated. They are definitely being creative in ways they can sustain and improve their strength and conditioning. They are finding a way."

On strategy when team activities resume …

"I think from my experience, and I can really go back to when I was a high school coach. There are different circumstances for every student-athlete. It's hard to predict what's going to happen, especially with this virus. Going back and drawing on my experiences from high school, you get creative and you find a way. Whatever the outcome is whenever we do start back, it's going to be the same for everybody. It's something you have to think a little bit outside of the box and figure out a way to be efficient with your time. You have to understand having a really good teaching progression with your players. Every team is going to be different. Every player is going to be different. Some are going to have lots of experience and some are going to have absolutely none. You have to find a way to figure out who the guys are that can help you have success. That's something that we talk about every single day as a staff whether it comes in strength and conditioning whenever that starts back, recruiting, installs, offense, defense and special teams. It's something that we don't know when it is going to start back, but it's something that we have to be ready for when it does happen. We are working on it every single day."

From a safety standpoint on how much time is needed for players to get ready to go into training camp …

"You can look over the years, it's obviously changed. My freshman year when I was in college, we didn't report until Aug. 1. That's the way it was for a very long time. You reported Aug. 1. You had two or three weeks of two-a-days then you played the first Saturday of September. Over the years it changed to where guys reported during the summer and you had summer conditioning. We've been doing this a long time. I'm sure everybody is going to lean first off on our athletic trainers and strength and conditioning folks to figure out the right timeline. I believe in the people that make these decisions. Whenever everybody comes to a decision and they finalize and say this is what we are going to do, I think it's going to be important for each staff to have a really good feel. Every kid is not going to be the same. Everyone's conditioning is not going to be the same. You have to use good judgement and just common sense as you continue to grow and develop your team whenever this time comes."

On adapting to recruiting during this time 

"When it comes to social media, it gives you a really good opportunity to communicate with this class. Where there are really restrictions is the next class because you can't contact them with social media right now or text. It's actually pretty easy to get (in touch with) this next class. It's what you have to do. You have to kind of take the University of Tennessee to them. There's obviously when it comes to recruiting there's been lots of guys that have been on our campus and some that have not. We have to do a really good job for them to get a good feel for what it's like on game day at Tennessee, what it's like in the classroom, who are the people that are going to be able to help them grow and develop on and off the field throughout their four years at Tennessee."

On the coaching staff's daily schedule …

"For us, we have a staff meeting every day at 8 o'clock. It's just to get the day started. We go back over recruiting calls and any issues from the day before when it comes to school. We know exactly what they are supposed to get done every day academically. We follow up and make sure there aren't any issues because we have guys all over the country. When people start working from home, sometimes there's only one computer in the household. Being able to access that and being able to get what they need to get done. Maybe some guys, their Internet service is not as good so just making sure that we are on top of it, that we are proactive and not reactive in the academic piece. Also the part about rehab. There are several guys who were not participating in spring ball for whatever reason in we're they are at. Some of the guys are still in Knoxville and they are able to do that. Some of them have to do it FaceTime or whatever the circumstance is. Some cities are locked down now and they don't have the resources to get some rehab. That's something that we have really been working hard to make sure that our guys are going to be well whenever they come back whenever that is."

On the possibility that there may not be summer high school camps …

"It's very similar to what's going on in the NFL. I don't know how many prospects go to the NFL Combine. Some of them workout. Some of them don't. Some of them do some things and don't do others. They really probably have to go back and have to look at what's on tape. They have to go back and trust their scouts, their scouting department from their evals for when they saw practice. Very similar to us. We have to gather as much information as we can so we can move forward. You have to have a board. We have a plan of how we stack our boards and how we evaluate the things that we are looking for. We have to do a really good job to gather the information and make good decisions and trust our evals."

On how this has impacted grad transfers …

"It's definitely unusual circumstances. I know for us, we have a team full of guys that want to be here, and I am excited about that. From a grad transfer standpoint, most of these guys probably know where they are going before they even enter the portal. I don't know how much of an effect it will have on that."

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