Pruitt likes Vols start, talks facility upgrades and Kirkland's return
Any head coach — whether he's a first-year guy or a Hall of Fame coach — will tell you that football is played in pads, thus any judgement on a season on the first day of workouts is premature.
However, there are things you can learn about a team on the first day of workouts in shorts and helmets. For head coach Jeremy Pruitt, Day 1 was a success because of how he saw his team improve on from the end of spring practice to now.
“Just like the first day of any practice there’s things that really excite you,” Pruitt said. “You see some guys flash for the first time. But we had a lot of guys out there for the first time, or the first time that they’re together.
“To me one of the positives was on the offense: Huddle organization, getting in and out of the huddle, getting the plays run. We didn’t seem to have any problem with the verbiage, which is good because there’s two new quarterbacks out there.
“I felt like with the communication on the defensive side you can definitely see that there’s a lot of carry-over from the spring until now. And you can see that a lot of our young guys have worked this summer. It looks like that with the few meetings we get to have in the summer our older guys have done a good job of trying to help prepare the young guys.
Senior linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr. was nearly not a part of fall practice for the Vols as the Indianapolis native decided to transfer back in May — only to change his mind a few days later. On Friday, Kirkland was on the practice field and was full speed for the first time in the Jeremy Pruitt era after battling knee problems in the spring.
How the knee holds up in contact is still a question, but the head coach believes the experienced Kirkland will be an asset to his defense.
“I think Darrin is a fast learner. He didn’t participate very much in the spring but he picks things up really fast,” Pruitt said.
“Today is really the first day that I saw him out there in practice. I think the guy has instincts. I’ve watched him play on old film.
“You don’t play in this league as a true freshman unless you’ve got something about you and he did. I think he has a chance to really help us.”
Earlier this week, sod went down completing the expansion of the Vols practice field to some six acres of working space. That's a far cry from the 2.5 the Vols had in their 45-5 run in the 90's. The practice field expansion was a priority for former Vol AD Dave Hart who bumped it up the facilities to-do list. Pruitt said the added space is vital to helping his team practice as two fields now run side by side making things more productive and better organized.
“It was good to get out there on the grass today. Probably one of the big things I was excited about was the extra practice field. It’s a lot easier to practice,” he said.
“With the way we want to do our drills I think it will help our football team over the course of the season. That’s a big positive to be able to practice exactly how we want to practice.”