Tennessee Football Camp Report: Pruitt Has Confidence in Team, Staff

Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt officially kicked off his second season at the helm of the Volunteers’ football program as UT opened fall camp on Thursday ahead of this fall’s first practice.

Pruitt expects his squad to be much improved when the players take Haslam Field on Friday afternoon in part because the Vols have one of the nation’s best coaching staffs.

Tennessee’s on-field coaching staff has been a part of 16 national championships and directly coached over 200 NFL Draft selections. The Vols added offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley and assistant head coach Tee Martin, who led Tennessee to the 1998 national championship and will also coach wide receivers and serve as passing game coordinator.  

“A lot of people say ‘I’ve got the best coaching staff in the country,'” Pruitt said. “Most of the people that say it, haven’t been a part of the staffs that I’ve been a part of which have been some really good ones over the years. I truly believe with them on our staff and I told them this morning, when you talk about teaching, recruiting, relationships, character, all the intangibles that come with being a football coach, I truly believe that we do have the best staff in the country.”

Pruitt is impressed with the hard work the Vols have put in the offseason by changing their bodies with Director of Football Sports Performance Craig Fitzgerald as well as Director of Sports Nutrition Rachel Pfister. Tennessee has an experienced team with 18 returning starters, but also has an influx of talent ready to compete. That all mixes together to give Pruitt confidence heading into fall camp.

“I have confidence in our football team,” Pruitt said. “I have confidence in our coaches, the plan that we have, the way I’ve seen our guys work in the offseason to either change their bodies, eat what they’re supposed to and be in the classroom.”

Pruitt has never shied away from expectations as the head coach of the Vols, consistently recognizing the proud history of a program that has won six national championships and 16 conference titles.

He said to meet the expectations, the Vols will need to focus on fundamentals in fall camp and specifically brought up taking care of the football.

“When you talk about winning football games, the first thing that have to be able to do is not beat yourself,” Pruitt said. “General Neyland’s Maxims – ‘the team that makes us the fewest mistakes will win,’ right? So something that we really have to focus on is we have to be a smart football team. We have to know what to do and be able to do it, and be able to execute consistently and then be able to do it over and over again, which goes back to practice habits. That’s something that we really have to focus on in this fall camp.”

Fan Day on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. 
The Tennessee football team invites fans to meet the Vols inside Neyland Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 4, for “Fan Day,” which will feature an open practice followed by an autograph session.

Admission and parking are free for the event.

Gate 21 will open for fans at 1:30 p.m. and the open practice will begin at 2:30 p.m.

The autograph session will begin at the conclusion of practice at approximately 4:30 p.m.

More information can be found HERE.

A parking map can be found HERE (PDF)

Sherrer Agrees with Pruitt’s Staff Assessment
Special Teams Coordinator and Inside Linebackers Coach Kevin Sherrer agreed with Pruitt’s assessment that the Vols have one of the country’s best coaching staffs. Sherrer previously coached with Pruitt at Alabama and Georgia, and helped lead the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff Championship Game two years ago.

“There is no doubt this is (one of the nation’s best staffs),” Sherrer said. “There are a lot of really good men, first off, great coaches and a lot have track records at the places they have been as recruiters and coaches, so I agree with that. It’s a good thing to sometimes hear that from your head coach.”

Ansley Cites Staff as Reason he came to Rocky Top
Ansley, the Vols’ new defensive coordinator, coached with Pruitt during two different stints at Alabama before coaching the defensive backs for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders last year. He echoed Pruitt’s praise for the staff and said that is what drew him to Big Orange Country for a second time after he coached defensive backs for UT in 2012.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That was one of the draws for me to come take this job. It was very glamorous because the staff did have a lot of experience and they know how to do it in this league. They’ve done it before. They’re proven veterans and they’re good men. So that was very attractive for me when I decided to take the job.”

Chaney’s Offense will not be One-Dimensional and it will be Physical 
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has as great a track record as any college play caller. Chaney said he has found success at every stop because he is willing to evolve. Chaney coached Drew Brees and aired it out in offenses at Purdue as well as his first stint with the Vols from 2009 to 2012. Chaney has also coached in the NFL and recently led some of the nation’s top rushing offenses at Georgia and Arkansas.

“I think my stay in the National Football League helped me understand the importance of winning situational football,” Chaney said. “To do that you have to win short yardage, you have to win in the tight red zone, you have to be able to run the ball out in the four minute drill. To do that, you have to have a physical mindset. Philosophical change from Purdue through the NFL years to here is that you have to be able to do a little bit of everything to be successful. You can’t be one dimensional. I hang my hat on if you’re the most physical team on the football field, you have a chance. We’ll continue to try to do that.”

Martin Can’t Wait to Step Inside Neyland on Aug. 31
Martin returning to Tennessee after serving as offensive coordinator and an assistant coach at Southern California and Kentucky excited the Tennessee fanbase this offseason, but it also juiced the former Vol quarterback who has a street named after him right next to the stadium.

“I get fired up,” Martin said. “You saw how fired up I was when I walked in here and I had to calm down a little bit. It’s here and it has been 20 years since I have been in front of you guys and speaking to fans that I actually know and have a relationship with and not at some place where I didn’t come from. That part of it in and of itself is special to me. There have not been many guys in the past that have come back to coach here….The way it worked out and the timing of it was great. I am just as excited to get started as our fanbase is.”

Rumph Ready for a Fun Camp
Co-Defensive Coordinator and Outside Linebackers Coach Chris Rumph said he is excited about finding edge players opposite redshirt senior Darrell Taylor – the SEC’s returning leader in sacks (8.0 in 2018) and Tennessee’s Team MVP last fall.

“It should be fun. Like I said the guys should be more comfortable this year. Last year having a new staff and a new defense, every day was new for our guys. This year, they feel better as players, better about their bodies and they’re more confident. It should be interesting and it’s going to be a fun camp.”