Jeremy Pruitt describes his vision for Vols' defensive backs
KNOXVILLE — The Vols are still in the early stages of installing schemes before they go into their first scrimmage, slated for practice No. 9 this spring.
UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt recently discussed his process of installing new schemes and how player meetings with coaches have been a big part of it.
“I think the big thing for our guys is the meetings,” Pruitt said. “I think the meetings are a little different than what they’re accustomed to. I do think the guys are trying hard to grasp it. Obviously it’s a different defense, so there’s not a lot of familiarity when you cross over. It’s a lot of new concepts, but it’s no different in any other place I’ve been.
“When you start in the spring and you start installing for the guys, if you have freshmen out there, which everybody’s like a freshman because it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it, usually it’s the second time through in the second week before they kind of start grasping everything.”
-- Jeremy Pruitt
Pruitt’s background defensively is with the defensive backs after playing in the defensive backfield at Middle Tennessee State and Alabama, then coaching the position at West Alabama, Hoover High School and Alabama.
Pruitt has already laid out in what he wants from his defensive backs at Tennessee; learning concepts is a priority along with the ability to play multiple positions.
“We need all our defensive backs to be able to play more than one position,” he said. “First of all, it helps them create value in themselves. If you’re going to play five defensive backs, you want your sixth best defensive back to be the first guy in the game if one of those five guys gets hurt. So, if your left corner gets hurt, and you got 10 guys, and it just so happens that the backup left corner is the 10th-best player, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to put the 10th-best guy in before you put the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth guy in. We want all our guys to learn multiple positions, and we teach things by concepts, so we’re working a lot of guys there.”
Evaluation is key for Pruitt and the coaching staff to learn and place their personnel in the best position to win. That evaluation began upon Pruitt’s arrival.
“When I watched the film when I first got here, I’m just trying to get an idea, first of all how to kind of go about the recruiting class, to have an idea,” Pruitt said. “Can you move guys around? Can other guys play different positions? Because certain guys that were recruited here might not necessarily fit what I want to do with them. I didn’t really look at it as a group. I just kind of looked at it from an individual basis.”
Pruitt has placed offensive players Tyler Byrd and Carlin Fils-aime in the defensive backfield in part of moving players around and seeing what they can bring scheme-wise as they continue to go through install.
“We will look at their whole body of work. We are still installing,” Pruitt said. “We will install for five days before we really slow it down. We will see after seven days if we want to let those guys scrimmage on the ninth day or if we should go ahead and move them back to their original position. They are learning both right now.”
The big thing that surrounds Pruitt’s install is how the team is picking up things, learning and getting better. For his defense, that goes hand-in-hand with the offense installing Tyson Helton’s system. As Helton coordinates the offense, communication and being on the same page is an area of importance for the defense learning to play together.
“Offenses create a lot of multiples when you talk about the defensive side and the way they move around,” Pruitt said. “That’s the way the game is in college. Everybody is going fast, snapping the ball. You get a lot of rocket motions and unusual formations. You have to recognize formations, splits, backfield locations, whatever it is, so they’re creating multiples. The more multiples you have and the more multiples they have, it just becomes a lot of stuff.
“Communicating is a big deal. You have to be a good communicator if you’re going to play good defense, because the first thing nowadays is you have to get lined up, and everybody has to be on the same page. We’ll tell a lot more off that. There may be guys out here right now that can make the calls, do this and do that, but when we roll out there the first time to scrimmage, they may not be able to do it.
“When we have the Orange and White game, and hopefully we have the crowd that I’m expecting, they may excel or they may not. We’ll see, but we need to know that.”