The Tennessee football team didn’t have much time to dwell on a 44-21 loss to Georgia over the weekend. After returning home on Saturday night, the Volunteers hit the field once again on Sunday for a scrimmage. The event was planned before the loss to Georgia, designed to get some younger players and guys that haven’t been able to practice some extra reps.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, spring practices were cancelled and much of the summer work was done virtually. For freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey, it was a big blow. The former five-star quarterback prospect enrolled early at Tennessee with hopes of diving into the playbook and potentially pushing for early playing time.
Bailey was then forced to miss much of fall camp due to contact tracing and quarantining. All of that to say, his freshman season hasn’t gone as planned — as is the case for players all over the country. It’s one of the main reasons why eligibility won’t count this season, per an NCAA ruling.
With Bailey out of the picture, it’s still important to find time for him to get reps. That’s exactly what the Tennessee coaching staff did on Sunday.
“It was really good,” Pruitt told reporters via Zoom on Monday. “I think we took like 49 snaps and Harrison (Bailey) took every one of them. For him, that was really good because based off the way our fall camp went, he didn’t get a lot of live action. We just didn’t have enough plays for him to get in there and get going. So, it was good for him.”
Bailey was a long time Tennessee commitment, choosing the Volunteers over Michigan in late 2018. The 6-5, 225 pound passer was the second-rated quarterback in the 2020 class, according to Rivals. With Tennessee’s clear weakness at the position, a path to playing time seemed to exist, but without the ability to have a spring session, Jarrett Guarantano had a clear advantage.
Other young players that haven’t been able to practice also got reps in the scrimmage, including freshman linebacker Tamarion McDonald, who has been battling back from injury.
“It was good for a lot of players,” Pruitt said. “A lot of energy. There were a lot of guys that, to me, that kind of stuck out, so we got to continue to do this and give these guys an opportunity to develop.”
Again, with eligibility frozen for 2020, you could see a number of younger players find playing time over the next several weeks. Will that be Harrison Bailey? At this point it would be very surprising with the limited amount of action that he’s seen on the practice field. Another factor in this is an all-SEC schedule without many chances to breathe.
Odds are, it’ll be next year’s Orange and White Game before we see Bailey taking live reps, but for now, Jeremy Pruitt is manufacturing ways for him to at least take some snaps.