Tennessee’s unimpressive 24-0 win over UTEP didn’t draw rave reviews from head coach Jeremy Pruitt, as you may have expected. One thing the Vols did have going for them on Saturday at Neyland Stadium was a lights out defense, which pitched a shutout.
“Defensively, we didn’t start the game the right way,” Pruitt said. “Way too many runners that are falling forward. To me, I thought we controlled the quarterback a little bit better as the game went.”
But then Pruitt changed his tone and pointed towards a key stat that he says has to change for the Vols to be successful.
“No turnovers on defense,” Pruitt said. “It’s going to be hard to win in the SEC moving forward not creating any turnovers. We’re going to have to be a team that creates a lot of turnovers. We have balls that are hitting us all over, in the head, in the hands. We have to find guys that can play the ball, finish on the ball and get to the quarterback.”
Pruitt was also upset with the other side of the equation. Freshman running back Jeremy Banks fumbled as he was trying to get across the goal line, while Marquez Callaway muffed a punt. Those were Tennessee’s first two turnovers of the season. According to Pruitt, it was a trend that continued from practice this week.
“On Wednesday we had two balls on the ground. Two more today. So that’s a lesson for all involved.” Pruitt went on to harp on how his team performed in practice this week.
“Most places I’ve been, the way you practice is the way you play,” Pruitt said. “You didn’t practice bad on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then play good on Saturday. It doesn’t happen. We have to improve practicing. We have to understand our expectations in practice.”
Pruitt’s defenses at Alabama were among the nation’s best at creating and scoring off of turnovers. He knows there’s a formula there and he was clearly frustrated with Tennessee’s lack of execution on Saturday, despite the shut out.
With a daunting schedule about to begin with an inconsistent offense, he’s absolutely right about having to create turnovers. The only problem is, Tennessee just might not have the right players in place just yet.