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What Jeremy Pruitt said after Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s 2018 football season is over. The Vanderbilt Commodores took their third straight against the Vols on Saturday night in Nashville, closing the Vols’ season at 5-7. Here are the highlights of Jeremy Pruitt’s post-game press conference.

Opening Statement

“It’s pretty simple — the best team won today. You go back and look, they blocked us better than we blocked them. They got off of blocks better than we got off of blocks. They covered better than us, they made better throws. They made better plays at wide receiver. They got off the field on third down, we didn’t. So it’s pretty simple.

Lord knows we got a long ways to go. I think our kids improved as the season went. We had a couple of guys that got injured late that probably didn’t help us offensively. We really struggled to protect the quarterback.”

On Vanderbilt’s offense...

“They got the ball in the flats and we didn’t tackle. (Kyle Shurmur) took what we gave him and allowed his guys to make plays.”

On Tennessee’s offense not attacking the middle of the field...

“We’re banged up at receiver. Jauan Jennings isn’t at full speed and he’s really tried to push through. Marquez Callaway was down a little bit this week. We lost Nathan Niehaus on Tuesday, then lost Jahmir Johnson in the first half. To throw the ball over the middle, you’ve got to be able to protect. We were trying to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand.”

On whether or not his team ran out of gas...

“Call it what you want to, we ain’t finished very well in November in a long time. This is the first year I’ve been here. We competed pretty hard until we had some turnovers against Missouri. Today, we didn’t execute very well defensively. We didn’t tackle very well. I don’t know if it’s being tired or not, but they executed better than we did.”

On how to improve the program...

“We’ve got to take the guys that are in our football program—I thought over the course of the season we learned how to practice. You should have seen us in the spring. Where we were at, there was nowhere to go but up. We made a lot of strides. We still don’t have competition. We don’t have competition at certain positions. You’re either going to play somebody or play nobody. We’ve got to recruit some depth. When we do that, we’ll get better in a hurry. If a young man wants an opportunity to have a chance to play in the SEC really early, this would be a good place to start.”

On missing a bowl...

“The extra practices, obviously you’ll get better if you get the practice. But we’ve got to take what we’ve got. We’ll go back and finish up in the classroom and start our offseason conditioning. I don’t know, this is new for me.”

On this offseason vs. last offseason...

“Last spring, we did the best we possibly could. It was as far away from a real spring practice as it could possibly get. We will have enough bodies this spring to have a full spring practice. That’ll make us better. We’ll have competition. We’ll have to fight.