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Pruitt goes back to the basics during bye week, looking to get Trey Smith settled in

It was a timely bye week.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The rebuilding Tennessee Volunteers are halfway the brutal Florida-Georgia-Auburn-Alabama stretch. Thankfully for everyone involved, a bye week split up that little stretch of hell.

Tennessee needed it for a breather — and to get back to the basics.

“We worked really hard on tackling,” Pruitt said when asked about the bye week. “We worked really hard on the fundamentals of blocking and block protection. We went back to the A, B, Cs that you do during spring ball and fall camp, which we need. We had a lot of guys who didn’t get to do that during camp. We have guys that are inexperienced and we have guys that have experience but maybe aren’t doing it at the highest level. It’s good for everybody. It’s good competition. The only way I know how to get better at something is to go do it, and that is what we did this past week.”

Those comments immediately make you think of guys like JJ Peterson and Trey Smith. Peterson is still a ways from playing, according to Pruitt. But Smith didn’t have a choice. He was tossed into the fire without too much preparation in camp, coming off of a blood clot issue.

“Trey was here but he didn’t get to participate so he started basically two weeks before JJ,” Pruitt said. “Trey’s played one year of football. I said it when he came back, we shouldn’t put unrealistic expectations on him and I think this off week was good for him. He needs to gain confidence.”

Fans and analysts alike probably just thought Smith would pick up where he left off last year, but that hasn’t been the case. The sophomore has moved outside to left tackle and is still working to find his groove.

“I think if you look back last year, (Smith) played a lot of different spots on the offensive line,” Pruitt said. “We’ve kind of put him at one spot to leave him there, let him get good at it, gain confidence. I think he will do that over the rest of the season. I think if you talk to Trey, he’ll be another guy to tell you that he’s not played his best game yet, but he’s working hard to do that.”

This bye week came at a great time for Tennessee, giving them a chance to iron out some of the kinks that they really haven’t been able to address since camp. They’ve got a shot to make a statement against a struggling Auburn team this week, before taking on Alabama the week after.

The final stretch of South Carolina, Kentucky, Charlotte, Missouri and Vanderbilt should tell us a lot more about exactly where this team is at.