Growing pains are expected. They’re actually mandatory, in this case. Those teachable moments were always going to happen with these 2018 Volunteers, and there are plenty more to come. It’s what you do with those mistakes that determines whether or not you improve as a player.
The best example we have of that so far is freshman cornerback Bryce Thompson. The 2018 four-star recruit took his lumps against West Virginia, but Jeremy Pruitt was impressed with how Thompson responded.
“I think Bryce would be the first one to tell you that he didn’t play very well against West Virginia,” Pruitt said on Wednesday after practice. “But he came back and practiced extremely hard and it showed the way he played on Saturday. Was he perfect? No, but he played much better.”
Thompson took an interception back to the one yard line and made two tackles for losses against ETSU. He was around the football a lot, nearly getting his hands on another pick.
“I think that’s a good lesson for all the players on our team. Out of all of the defensive backs during our first game, (Thompson) probably played the worst. But because of how he practiced and went about his business the next week, he got to start and he played extremely well. I think that’s good for our entire team.”
Just a hunch here — there will be plenty more examples of this going forward. Tennessee is relying on youth in several key areas, so the bumps in the road are going to be normal. It’s just about how you respond on the practice field the next week.
Pruitt has said before that there are no set starters. That’s going to be determined each week during those practice sessions. Thompson took advantage of that this week, earning the start and doing something with it.
“We’re a young football team that has to do that,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to have to be very productive with every opportunity that we have.”