Tennessee enters a critical week in the first season of the Jeremy Pruitt era as the Vols will travel to South Carolina in a game that could determine the bowl fate of both programs. Tennessee enters the game at 3-4, while the Gamecocks are 3-3.

Jeremy Pruitt held his weekly press conference from the Ray & Lucy Hand Digital Studio on Monday, here are the highlights from his latest media availability:

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  • on the slow starts: It’s usually when you start the game, you’ve had a whole week to prep. For whatever reason, our execution has picked up as the game has gone on. We’ve been discussing it as a staff… some of it has to do with who we have played. We have to figure out how to score points in the first quarter. We’ve been behind in almost every game.
  • on issues running the ball: We have to be able to block the guys up front. We have way too many mental errors on the offensive line, the quarterback, receivers and tight ends. You should know what do to. There are many things to running the football.
  • on Jarrett Guarantano: I think he is going to be fine. He took a pretty good shot, I expect him to be out there (against South Carolina).
  • on Micah Abernathy: He’s day-to-day. He wants to play, it’s obviously his last year. We’ll know more as the week goes on.
  • on what stood out on his rewatch of the game: We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of unforced errors. We had several guys competing and doing things the right way but there are 11 out there and they weren’t all doing it. Even the guys that are doing it the right way, they aren’t going to win every play, that’s just the way it is.
  • on who isn’t buying in on the team: I’m talking about mental errors, I said maybe the moment was too big. I think it affected guys in our program, which was unfortunate. When you play a team of that caliber, it takes all 11. It takes everyone.
  • on the lessons he’s trying to teach his team: Most of the time, not all of the time. To me, this is about building the program, I’ve said it a few times. We have a young, inexperienced team. We only have four seniors (that are playing). Most of these guys will be back. Trust me, these guys didn’t wake up and say, ‘I’m not going to be at my best’ I think that came when the other team came out. We want to be at our best, if we get beat that way than we get beat but at least we tried our best. I don’t think we did that on Saturday. I’m frustrated for the guys that are doing it the right way, they deserve a chance.
  • on the level of leadership from his players: I do think we are getting close, because you can sense frustration with guys that aren’t playing well. As the season goes along, I see more and more of it, which is positive.
  • on the play of his secondary: We didn’t play well. We gave them too many easy plays. There was lots of mistakes that were made. We will work hard to correct that.
  • on Jake Bentley in high school: We recruited him. His dad Bobby used to be a coach down there (in Alabama). He’s tough, he gets the ball out of his hands, he can make all the throws. We will have to find ways to affect him Saturday.