KNOXVILLE – Tennessee held a football scrimmage Wednesday night at Neyland Stadium. Well, Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt conceded, the practice session amounted to “somewhat of a scrimmage.”
“It was good to do,” Pruitt said of the 40-to-44 plays of situational football. “It was pretty sloppy to be honest with you.
Lots of penalties, especially on the offensive side – false starts, which goes back to team take-off, not having some guys in there, being consistence with cadence.”
“Not having some guys in there” is part of the new normal for the Vols during the COVID-19 pandemic. UT was missing 44 players for practice last Saturday, which caused Pruitt to forgo a scheduled scrimmage. He said that “seven or eight” players were out then with active cases of COVID-19. More than two dozen other Vols were unable to practice because of contact tracing protocol, which requires them to quarantine. As a result, only 30 offensive players were available for practice last Saturday.
During a Zoom teleconference on Thursday, Pruitt didn’t say whether any of the quarantined players had returned to practice.
“Well, we’ve had so many guys out, I can’t keep up with who’s available and who’s not available,” he said. “And it changes by the day. So, to be specific on names, my days really run together when it comes to that, so I probably wouldn’t be much good.”
Pruitt said earlier that Tennessee has had 48 total players who, at some point, have had to quarantine because of contact tracing. Of those players, Pruitt said three had tested positive.
“We take who’s there each day and we work hard to make them be the best players they possibly can be,” Pruitt said. “Our No. 1 thing here is to protect our players – that’s the No. 1 thing.
“…I realize we’re getting ready to start a football season and we’re working hard to put the best product that we can out there on the field. We’ve tried to follow the rules exactly as they’ve been presented to us and we’ll continue to do that.”
Tennessee opens at South Carolina on Sept. 26. In the meantime, Pruitt said the Vols probably won’t use all of the allotted 25 preseason practice sessions that are available to them.
“I think it’s important that we’re efficient with our practice time,” he said. “From a numbers standpoint, I’m not sure that we’re ready to go fall camp, back-to-back-to-back days. That probably would do more harm that good. We want to make sure we’re efficient so we can keep guys healthy and continue to improve as a football team.”
In some related matters:
-Pruitt said the Vols are not working players on both sides of the football as a means of creating depth. “We’ve really been trying to stick to the fundamentals; keep our schemes very simple,” he said.
-Pruitt said that assistant head coach Tee Martin would take over for him if Pruitt had to quarantine.
Pruitt referenced offensive coordinator Jim Chaney in saying, “I think he’s the winningest head coach in the history of Tennessee football at 1-0 so I know he would not want that. He is going to take that mark with him for rest of his life so he would absolutely be out.”
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.